Swiss Made - What Does It Mean?


‘Swiss Made’ is Switzerland Personified

Quality. Precision. Innovation. Reliability. There are few things that better denote those fine attributes than the words ‘Swiss Made’. Those two simple words, one syllable each, carry the weight of Switzerland and Swiss pride on their shoulders. It is pride that is well earned, as any person who has ever owned Swiss Made watches will know. And there is no Swiss industry that better exemplifies what it means to be ‘Swiss Made’ than the time-honoured, prestigious watchmaking industry.

Switzerland is known to be the epicentre, the very heart and soul, of the fine art and industry that is horology. Little wonder, as the Swiss are renowned for their work ethic and thoroughness, with the ability to manufacture products of perfection and unmatched quality, accuracy, reliability and durability. Today, the Swiss command a hugely dominant role in the global luxury watch industry. It’s amazing to think that tiny Switzerland, with merely 8 million inhabitants, in fact makes about 50% of the world’s watches!

The Swiss have a well-earned reputation for finest quality and outstanding attention to detail in everything that they do. It is a national trait that has stood them well and has stood the test of time. That is why, for many people around the world, a watch that is ‘Swiss Made’ is respected, even, sometimes, revered. Such is the power of brand Switzerland. Because it is known that a Swiss Made watch is a watch that is unrivalled in terms of technical know-how and innovation, impeccable quality and unparalleled design aesthetic.

That is why the two words ‘Swiss Made’ have such intrinsic value.

Our lives are Swiss, so coolEmily Dickinson, author

‘Swiss Made’ Doesn’t Come Easy

But to declare something as ‘Swiss Made’ does not come easy. The gatekeeper and guardian for the Swiss watch industry is the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH). The Federation itself says this about protecting the integrity of the Swiss Made label: “Firstly because the Swiss made label is the only true reference in the world of watchmaking, but also because customer satisfaction is at stake”. The FH protects the names ‘Swiss Made’ and ‘Swiss’ fiercely, which explains why the words have been registered as certification marks in the United States and Hong Kong.

The Swiss have done much to protect their integrity in watchmaking. An Ordinance was passed in 1971 regarding use of the appellation ‘Switzerland’ or ‘Swiss’ for watches. As per Article 1a of the Ordinance, a watch is considered to be Swiss if:

  1. its movement is Swiss;
  2. its movement is cased up in Switzerland and
  3. the manufacturer carries out the final inspection in Switzerland

Hence, it should be noted that:

  • ‘Swiss movement’ = the movement itself has Swiss origins
  • ‘Swiss Parts’ = only parts of the watch or the movement have Swiss origins.
  • ‘Swiss Made’ = both the movement and the timepiece are a genuine Swiss product.

Therefore, ‘Swiss movement’ and ‘Swiss Made’ are not the same. It’s very important to differentiate between the two terms.

The FH also issues and oversees the sign of identification of the producer (SIP), which is a compulsory marking stipulated by the 1971 Ordinance regarding the protection of marks. The SIP allows the FH to monitor usage of the words ‘Swiss Made’ and ‘Swiss’ and also helps in the fight against counterfeiting.

It is worth noting here that watchmaking remains the only Swiss industry sector to have such an ordinance with regard to the designation ‘Swiss Made’.

But many in the Swiss watch industry did not feel that this was enough to protect the Swiss Made brand and label…

‘Swissness’ To The Fore

Studies by researchers at St Gallen University found that the Swiss-made label or the Swiss cross contribute up to 20 per cent to consumer prices for not only typical products such as jewelry, watches, cheese and chocolate but also industrial products, ranging from machines to pocket knives.

No wonder that the luxury watchmaking brands in Switzerland were particularly concerned about the viability and global respect for the ‘Swiss Made’ brand, with mounting resentment against certain watchmakers who were circumventing the 1971 requirements with much cheaper (and less quality) parts from the Far East and still being able to have their watches designated as being Swiss.

By 2007 the majority of Swiss watchmakers were clamouring for changes to the Swiss Made designation criteria. There was an initiative for a stricter designation regime which had three main objectives for ‘Swiss Made’ so as to:

  1. guarantee the label’s long-term credibility and value
  2. guarantee satisfaction on the part of consumers who, when buying a Swiss made watch, expect it to have been manufactured in Switzerland and to incorporate a high added value of Swiss origin
  3. make the law more specific, in order to clamp down more effectively on abuses

The ‘Swissness’ debate was a heated one in Switzerland. In September 2015 the Swiss cabinet finally approved the ‘Swissness legislation’ that had been on the table since June 2013. This legislation will tighten rules over the use of the designation ‘Made in Switzerland’ designation, as well as use of the world-famous Swiss cross.

This groundbreaking Swiss legislation will come into force from January 1st, 2017.

From 2017, industrial goods can only claim to be made in Switzerland if at least 60% of the production costs are realised in the country.

Therefore, in order to be designated as Swiss Made, a watch will now have to meet the requirement of a minimum 60% of Swiss value in the entire watch. There is to be an expected jump in the amount of Swiss made components in Swiss watches from 2017 onwards.

But the watchmaking industry in Switzerland demands even more. That is why the Swiss cabinet is also examining a proposal submitted by the FH to tighten the rules even further with regard to the use of the word ‘Swiss’ by any watch brand. The FH doesn’t want just 60% of the production costs to be realised in the country but is also demanding that the technical development of the watch and the watch movement must also be done in Switzerland in order to merit the designation of ‘Swiss’.

It is clear that for the FH and luxury Swiss watchmakers it is the very credibility of Switzerland and Swiss watchmaking on the world market that is at stake.

Would anyone expect anything less with ‘Swiss Made’?