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Swiss made watch: what's it mean?

Swiss made. It sounds as simple as it should and in the world of timepieces this designation holds a bit of weight. Many are aware of the historical and innovative importance of the region of Switzerland and the continued high standard of excellence it exudes, so one can be sure that when their favorite wrist piece they wear says “Swiss Made” on the dial it’s been manufactured to a certain quality than others that don’t. But what constitutes a Swiss-made watch? Surely in this era of outsourcing and automation there must be standards set that define the difference between a Patek Philippe and an Invicta.

Recently, I helped a client with a seemingly simple watch repair: an external issue, the crown wouldn’t stay affixed to it’s threaded stem. “But it’s a Swiss-made watch”, my client offered, “it should be built better than this”. This got me thinking that while I’ve understood some of the basic and obvious differences between tiers of manufacture, what really constituted the “Swiss Made” designation when there was such a glaring difference in quality?

A watch is considered “Swiss” if:

1. The movement is deemed Swiss (definition of Swiss movement below)

2. The movement was cased in Switzerland and

3. The final inspection was carried out in Switzerland

A watch movement is considered “Swiss” if:

1. The movement was assembled in Switzerland

2. The movement was inspected in Switzerland and

3. At least 60% of the total cost of the movement, not including assembly labor, is derived from Swiss-manufactured components.

So, by these legal trade regulations, your Swiss Made watch movement is likely comprised of 30-40% non-Swiss components. This percentage doesn’t take into consideration the Chinese-made cases/crystals/crowns, Taiwanese-made dials/bracelets and Japanese-made hands. Not to say the timepiece won’t function correctly nor that it’s sold at an unfair price, but probably don’t expect the same performance from a GMC as you would a Bentley. Keep on time, folks!

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