The mark of many luxury watches — indeed, most — is a mark on the face, usually just below where the hands attach to the case. It reads: “Swiss-made.”
The label was created by the Swiss government in order to keep a handle on which watches are, in their view, truly able to claim that they were made in Switzerland. “Swiss-made” is seen as a mark of distinction around the world, as the Swiss have a long history of crafting beautiful and reliable timepieces.
The benefits of calling your watch “Swiss-made” are real. Consumers are willing to pay up to 20% more for a watch that bears the designation, according to some studies.
But it turns out the “Swiss-made” label isn’t quite as difficult to attain as it used to be. Many Swiss companies import watch parts into Switzerland for final assembly, and yet they still call the watch “Swiss-made.” Some Swiss companies have adopted the opinion that this dilutes the brand, making it mean next to nothing.
The rules surrounding Swiss watch branding were strengthened at the beginning of January, but they are still not as strong as similar policies in other countries. In the US, for example, a watch can only be designated “Made in the USA” if “all or nearly all” of its parts are sourced from the US.
Here’s what is required for a watch to be called “Swiss-made” as of January 1, according to A Blog to Watch:
- “At least 60% of the production costs of a watch taken as a whole must be Swiss-based.”
- “The movement must still contain at least 50% Swiss-made components in value (not in quantity) and at least 60% of the movement’s production must be generated in Switzerland.”
- “Last but not least, it also specifies that the technical development of a ‘Swiss Made’ watch and movement must be carried out in Switzerland. Smart watches are also included for the first time.”
To make a point about the relative leniency of the rules, Swiss watch company H. Moser & Cie. created a watch with a case made out of resin-mixed Swiss cheese. It technically meets the requirements for being a Swiss-made watch, but it is also literally made from pasteurised Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese, according to Bloomberg.
Moser’s watches are made from 95% Swiss parts. With the stunt, it sought to illustrate the absurdity of the requirements for the “Swiss-made” designation and how easily they are beaten with a loophole.