You don’t need to invest much time in watch appreciation before noticing the common “Swiss Made” text on the dial of many watches. On a basic level, this country-of-origin attribution label is meant to convey a reassuring sense of quality and reliability. Surely, a watch made to the exacting standards of the engineers in historically horological Switzerland must be good! And generally speaking, they are. “Swiss Made” began to hold importance many decades ago when consumers quickly needed to identify which watches would accurately tell the time. This was when watches were sold mainly as utilitarian items, when consumers actually needed to rely on their wristwatches to know what time it was. Having a watch that was not accurate or that broke easily was something consumers wanted to avoid. “Swiss Made” was intended to be a label of reassurance, suggesting that if you spent a bit more, you were getting the quality you needed.

This was a time before aBlogtoWatch and pretty much any consumer or review publication on wristwatches. At that time, customers relied upon their own wits, the experiences of friends, and advertising when choosing which timepiece to trust. “Swiss Made” was useful because it allowed the Swiss watch industry to differentiate itself above others by overtly communicating that it was upholding various standards and sensibilities. In 2024, I think the actual purpose of Swiss Made is somewhat different, and I’d like provide my own take on the issue after David Bredan discussed his concerns about “Swiss Made” watches not always being entirely made in Switzerland.

Advertising Message

To summarize David’s point, he lamented the fact that “Swiss Made” was not so much a specific promise as a trade label, and that according to Swiss law (which the watch industry had input on, of course), that label does not require 100% of the “Swiss Made” item to be manufactured in Switzerland. I am not so personally bothered by this fact. David is correct that the standards of labels like “Made in America” are actually more stringent than “Swiss Made,” and that consumers might be confused or misled if their goal is to purchase a fully Swiss Made watch. I frankly don’t care who makes a watch or where its parts are manufactured, so long as the end product functions well and is logically priced.


I’ve seen mentioned that about 360 companies apply the “Swiss Made” label to their products. Some of them actively communicate that their “Swiss Made” label actually represents more “Swissness” than the law requires. In fact, some brands go even further by adding their own seals of quality designation (like the Patek Philippe Seal for example) or opt for similar but different labels such as “Swiss Handcrafted.” In fact, some of the only entities I have ever noticed that have a real problem with “Swiss Made” (aside from the occasional veteran watch writer) are other Swiss companies. Their issue seems to be that “Swiss Made” is loose enough for companies to source some parts outside of Switzerland, diminishing the Swissness of it all. Those beleaguered brands simply want consumers to know that they only do business with locals and their Swiss neighbors.

Advertising Message

This got me thinking: Is such a sentiment something consumers should even care about? And is it even politically appropriate in today’s age to promote ruthless protectionism in a mostly globalized society? If positive things happen when nations combine their talents and capacities to offer good value to more customers, then why exactly should the average watch buyer care too much about supporting jobs in a single small country instead of more broadly? Switzerland is an affluent country with a strong economy and the highest Human Development Index in the world. Does it really need to maximize how much of its spending money stays in Switzerland? Swiss brand financiers and owners certainly seem to think so, but I wonder if they are simply asking watch lovers around the world to help sustain Switzerland’s economy and high standard of living rather than actually promising and delivering quality and reliability (that may or may not be available elsewhere).

For example, the United States is the top place where the Swiss watch industry makes money, but rather than help spread the wealth in the United States as thanks for the “support,” the Swiss watch industry has systematically tried to cut Americans out of earning money from the sale of watches in their own country. This has been done by terminating relationships with U.S.-based third-party authorized dealers in favor of brand-owned boutiques, as well as eliminating American employees from watch brands in favor of imported talent. I covered this topic in an article on Forbes in 2018, and I continue to ponder if it is moral for Switzerland to focus on extracting so much value from the markets it does business with, as opposed to sharing earnings back with them. I fully support what I call the “ecosystem theory” of the watch industry. In that model, a series of entities around the world must cooperate to make watches, build demand for luxury timepieces, and then help sell them. According to that thinking, no one country should profit from the sale of a luxury watch if so many different parties were responsible for its sale. Surely there are multiple perspectives on the matter, but I wonder if concepts like “Swiss Made” are merely justifications for isolationism and protectionism.

At the same time, I do want to protect and celebrate the unique watchmaking culture in Switzerland and help inform as much of the world as possible about its appeal. Where the Swiss watch industry really excels is the rich level of watchmaking and precision small-part manufacturing culture. Between the many specialized professionals and companies that exist in the country to help serve the watch industry, many of the best components and finishing come from Swiss timepiece factories and their suppliers. Due to its well-developed watchmaking culture and history, it is not a stretch to suggest that some of the very best stuff comes from Switzerland. Indeed, despite the watch industry having evolved into a global network wherein you don’t need a single Swiss component to make an exceptional timepiece, Switzerland remains the de facto cultural home of watchmaking.

The Swiss watch industry likes to talk about environmental sustainability, but why is it not as motivated to be protective of the people and global entities that sustain it? In today’s world, if you receive so much money from other places, it just doesn’t seem acceptable to respond by only caring about your backyard. I want the watch industry to feel comfortable using the best people and the best processes, and I’m frankly not so bothered by the origination elements of “Swiss Made.” But the “Swiss Made” label and the mentality behind it bolster an already thriving economy and a localized industry while depriving the global community of artists, builders, communicators, and sellers that give the Swiss a platform on which to even do business. With this in mind, it’s important to keep in mind the dichotomy behind the definition of “Swiss Made” – since “Swiss Made” allows a fair amount of international components and work to go into this proudly Swiss product, the Swiss side of the industry should ideally help to support the network of professionals around the world that make the industry as we know it today possible.

Advertising Message

Subscribe to our Newsletter