There are hundreds of Swiss-made watch brands, from the luxury Patek-Philippe and Rolex to the affordable Tissot. A watch embossed with the "Swiss Made" stamp denotes a quality timepiece manufactured with the best made materials, precision and integrity. However, not all watches bearing the Swiss name are assembled in Switzerland and are not necessarily manufactured by Swiss-owned companies.
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Mass production of Swiss pocket watches began in the early 20th century. Along with increased productivity came the standardisation of parts and assembly methods. Wristwatches became popular after World War I and advances were made in watches that were water and shock resistant. Automatic, or self-winding, watches and calendar watches became popular and affordable in the 1940s. The leading Swiss watchmakers are based in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle in Canton Neuchâtel and Biel in Canton Bern, according to fhs.ch.
The battery-powered quartz watch revolution began in 1967. Japanese watchmakers flooded the market with cheap timepieces and almost destroyed the Swiss watch industry, which was slow to adapt to the new technology. The mechanical manual wind was virtually consigned to oblivion. Many Swiss watchmaking companies collapsed or were absorbed by bigger companies. Swiss watchmakers rebounded and interest was renewed in high-precision mechanical automatic watches.
Although the vast majority of watches on the market today are quartz-powered, the resurgence in the automatic is important because Swiss watchmakers have an edge over other watchmakers. Swiss watchmakers have more than 150 years mechanical watchmaking experience. Automatics epitomise fine Swiss watchmaking.
Rules of the Game
According to the Federation of Swiss Watch Industry FH, a "Swiss" watch must have its movement---the spring-loaded mechanism or electronic device that powers the watch--manufactured, cased and certified in Switzerland. But there are exceptions. The Swiss-made movement's components only need to account for 50 per cent of the watch's value. In other words, half the watch can be made of non-Swiss parts. In addition, United States Customs requires that only the movement be manufactured in Switzerland to be labelled "Swiss Made." A Swiss watch doesn't necessarily have to be assembled in Switzerland.
The conflict in Swiss and U.S. regulations has created confusion among watch enthusiasts. The bottom line is that as long as half the watch components or the watch movement are of Swiss origin it's a Swiss watch. Reputable Swiss watchmakers like Rolex, Omega, Audemars Piguet, Baume Mercier and Breitling manufacture in-house their own movements, cases, dials, and straps and bracelets. These are authentic 100 per cent Swiss-made watches.
The Florida-based Invicta watch is an example of a Swiss watch assembled outside of Switzerland. Originally a small Swiss watchmaker, Invicta was purchased by an American investment company and became a major watch seller in the 2000s. Invicta purchases third-party Swiss movements (and sometimes Japanese). Other parts are manufactured elsewhere and assembled in countries such as China. Yet Invicta watches retain the "Swiss Made" brand under U.S. Customs laws. In 2010, Invicta was developing its own Swiss movement following its acquisition of Technica Swiss Ebauche Microtenique.
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