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Behind the Phrase: What Does "Swiss Made" Actually Imply?

November 11, 2020

“Swiss Made” is a mark that’s applied to the world’s high quality, luxury products, but most often high-quality watches. However, what does the term actually mean, and is it still a reliable barometer of quality today?

Read on to find out the significance of this phrase, why it still matters today and some signs you can look for in order to tell whether your watch or the watch you’re about to purchase, is authentically Swiss Made.

The History

On December 23, 1971, the use of Swiss Made as a label for watches was covered by a Federal Council ordinance. However, on June 21, 2013, members of the Swiss parliament voted on a new “Swissness” of the law.

This is because globalisation and new developments in manufacturing processes were blurring the boundaries between what components were actually Swiss Made and what wasn’t.

Components were being sourced from China, Thailand, and other locations, then shipped to Switzerland for assembly.

In the low-to-mid price segment, many brands and OEM manufacturers are finding loopholes to trick the system and label their watches as Swiss Made. Unfortunately, a very small fraction of their watches’ value is actually generated in Switzerland.

The law set forth a minimum standard in order to combat this. However, there are some critics who say that the law is still too lax. For instance, watches may sometimes have a “Swiss parts” label instead.

This means that the movement of the watch was assembled in Asia using kits that consist partially of Swiss-made components.

Swiss Made

Now, a watch can legally be considered Swiss Made if all of the following are true:

  • The watch movement is Swiss.
  • Its movement is cased in Switzerland.
  • The manufacturer does the final inspection in Switzerland.

A Swiss watch movement is considered Swiss if:

  • The movement has been assembled in Switzerland.
  • The movement has been inspected by a manufacturer in Switzerland.
  • At least 60% of its value (not counting cost for assembly) is realised in Switzerland. This has been changed on January 1, 2017, as it used to be a minimum of 50% of the total value.

Some quality brands that claim the Swiss Made label are:

  • Jaeger-LeCoultre
  • Piaget Altiplano
  • Baume & Mercier
  • Van Cleef & Arpels
  • Omega Tresor
  • Rolex
  • IWC
  • Tag Heuer

Authentically Swiss Made

Despite these new restrictions, it’s still possible to purchase a fake Swiss watch if you’re not paying attention. There are many companies that take advantage of people who want that luxurious label. Thankfully, there are many signs that you can look for that can give you an indication of whether your watch is authentic or not.

Price

Swiss watches are famously expensive because watch manufacturers utilise fine quality materials. They hand-manufacture intricate watch mechanisms from precious materials such as platinum, diamond, and gold.

You should expect to pay at least £3,000-5,000 for a steel watch. Gold watches will start at £10,000-15,000. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is!

Sales Point

Only certain retailers are able to sell genuine Swiss watches. Swiss watch houses want to protect the reputation, quality, and desirability of their products, and the best way to do that is to keep careful control of how they’re distributed.

Always check the brand’s official website to see a list of authorised retail outlets for your city and country.

Engraving

Under a magnifying glass, any engravings on your watch should be crystal clear and perfectly cut - not sandy or misshapen. Also, check for correct centring of the logo by comparing it with other watches.

Errors

Ensure that everything on the watch is spelled correctly. It may seem crazy, but there have been instances of the word “Professional” on knock-off Omega watches missing a letter.

Efficiency

High quality Swiss watches are engineered to function at a very low volume. If you’re purchasing a watch in person, don’t hesitate to have a listen. You shouldn’t be able to hear any ticking unless the watch is close to your ear.

Certificate of Authenticity

Certifications of authenticity are in many cases unique and are stored as carefully as the watch itself. In order to have a certification of authenticity, the watch must be physically examined by experts at an official, authorised retailer.

Fully Functional

Most luxury watches do more than just tell the time. Ensure that all the functions of the watch are in working order. Check sub dials, helium release valves, the chronograph, and time zone settings.

Sealed Securely

If you are purchasing a watch that is supposedly brand new, check the packaging to ensure it hasn’t been opened previously. Some brands will have a mark on the packaging, such as a red dot, to show whether the packaging has been opened or not.

Weight

This is a very simple way to judge the authenticity of a watch’s material. For instance, Gold Rolex watches will be very heavy compared to fake watches. Stainless steel Rolex watches will also be far heavier than any fakes.

Purchasing Your Luxury Watch

Now that you know the parameters of Swiss Made watches, you’re able to buy these luxury products with confidence and aptitude.

With new rules in effect to combat globalisation and the new manufacturing processes, you can feel confident that Swiss Made is actually what the high end label suggests.

Ready to browse some beautiful pre-owned Rolexes or other brands? Head over to the Watches of Wales for a full brand list on what is being offered!