If you buy a “Swiss-made” watch thinking it’s almost entirely produced in Switzerland, you might be mistaken.
The manufacture of components including dials, sapphire glass and cases is flourishing in China, Thailand and Mauritius and many of these end up in watches designated as “Swiss-made”.
Stricter rules came into force this year for watches bearing the coveted label on their dial and for which consumers are prepared to pay a premium.
The key requirement is that 60 percent of the manufacturing costs occur in Switzerland, up from a previous 50 percent threshold that applied only to the movement -- the core mechanism.
The new rules were meant to make the label more credible in the eyes of consumers and to shield the industry from Asian competition.
But the change has made it difficult for the makers of cheaper Swiss watches to cut costs and weather a harsh industry downturn. And at the same time it has left the makers of more expensive brands enough leeway to shift a chunk of component supplies to Asia to protect their profit margins.
“Since the Swiss-made rules were tightened, we have fewer orders, not more,” said Alain Marietta of dialmaker Metalem, based in Swiss watchmaking hub Le Locle. “Some customers ask us to produce half of the components in China so we can be cheaper.”
He said he was concerned about losing customers but had stuck to his principles. “We want to offer a real Swiss made in Switzerland, otherwise for the people working in the watch industry here, it’ll mean slow death.”