Watches, clocks and alarm clocks manufactured in Switzerland bear the designation "Swiss made" (or its abbreviation "Swiss") as well as the logo of the producer or distributor. This label ("place of origin" in legal terms) enjoys a solid reputation throughout the world. And globalization of trade has done nothing to diminish its importance. On the contrary, the modern consumer is looking for a maximum of information when he or she goes shopping for a new timepiece.
What lies behind this reputation?
What does a label like this mean for the consumer?
"Swiss made" embodies a concept of quality that has been forged over the years. It includes the technical quality of watches (accuracy, reliability, water-resistance and shock-resistance), as well as their aesthetic quality (elegance and originality of design). It covers both traditional manufacturing and new technologies (micro-electronics).
The Swiss are not the only watchmakers to manufacture high-quality timepieces and are consequently faced with strong competition. However, thanks to their unique infrastructure and to their know-how and spirit of innovation, they have succeeded in maintaining their leading position.
The intrinsic value of the "Swiss made" label, therefore, is the result of considerable efforts on the part of watch making companies, who are ultimately responsible for maintaining its reputation.
While prestigious brand names have thrived, they have never relegated the "Swiss made" label to a secondary place. The brand names and "Swiss made" have always worked together in an alliance that provides the consumer with the best of guarantees.
It is hardly surprising that this asset whets the appetite of counterfeiters. "Swiss made" has to be constantly protected on every market. Providing this protection is one of the principal tasks of the FH which conducts an on-going battle through legal and administrative channels to thwart anyone abusing the "Swiss" name. The weapons used in this battle are the laws of each of the countries concerned, backed by international agreements (bi-lateral treaties signed by Switzerland with several European countries and multi-lateral conventions drawn up by the World Intellectual Property Organization and by the World Trade Organization - TRIPS agreement -).
Recognizing that it must set the example, Switzerland has already reinforced the legal instruments at its disposal. The new law on "the protection of brand names and place of origin", passed on 28 August 1992, introduced more severe punishments. The Swiss customs authorities, for their part, keep a vigilant eye on all imports, exports and merchandise in transit.
Moreover, a law "regulating the use of the name 'Swiss' for watches" sets out the minimum conditions that have to be fulfilled before a watch merits the "Swiss made" label.
This law is based on a concept according to which Swiss quality depends on the amount of work actually carried out on a watch in Switzerland, even if some foreign components are used in it. It therefore requires that the assembly work on the movement (the motor of the watch) and on the watch itself (fitting the movement with the dial, hands and the various parts of the case) should be carried out in Switzerland, along with the final testing of the movement. It also requires that at least 50% of the components of the movement should be manufactured in Switzerland.
Certain regions in Switzerland have their own "place of origin" labels. One of the most renowned is "Genève", which identifies top-quality timepieces made in the city and canton of Geneva. Like "Swiss made", this label is very popular with counterfeiters and therefore benefits from continuous protection within the framework of the FH's anti-counterfeiting programme.
The Swiss watch industry is very active in safeguarding the integrity of "Swiss made" and its other regional labels of quality.
The vigilant consumer can also play an effective supporting role. By choosing reputable sales points and not being tempted by deals that are as dubious as they are outlandish, he or she will help to thwart counterfeiters, protect his or her own interests and contribute to the defence of fair trading.
The FH and its regional representatives will be happy to provide further information on this subject.
Conditions for use
A Swiss watch
Only when it is Swiss, may a watch carry the indications "Swiss made" or "Swiss", or any other expression containing the word "Swiss" or its translation, on the outside. According to Section 1a OSM, a watch is considered to be Swiss if:
  • its movement is Swiss;
  • its movement is cased up in Switzerland;
  • and the manufacturer carries out the final inspection in Switzerland.
A Swiss watch movement
As we have seen, to be Swiss, a watch must use a Swiss movement. According to Section 2 OSM, a movement is considered to be Swiss if:
  • it has been assembled in Switzerland;
  • it has been inspected by the manufacturer in Switzerland;
  • and the components of Swiss manufacture account for at least 50 percent of the total value, without taking into account the cost of assembly.
If the movement fulfills these conditions, but the watch is not assembled in Switzerland, the "Swiss" indication may be affixed to one of the components of the movement. On the outside of the watch, may then only appear the "mouvement suisse" or "Swiss movement" indication. Section 3 § 3 OSM requires that the word "movement" appear in full, and be written in the same type-face, of identical size and colour, as the word "Swiss".
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Material extent of the use of the word "Swiss"
The word "use" is understood in a broad sense: it not only covers the application of the above-mentioned designation to the watch, but also, according to Section 3 § 5 OSM:
  • the sale, offering for sale or putting into circulation of watches bearing such an indication;
  • the application of this designation to signs, advertisements, prospectus, invoices, letters or commercial papers.
Particular cases
The "Swiss made" indication may only appear on a wristlet if it is of Swiss manufacture and if the watch is also Swiss. A wristlet is considered to be Swiss if it has undergone an essential manufacturing operation in Switzerland and if 50 percent of the production costs originate in Switzerland.
When a Swiss wristlet is attached to a watch manufactured abroad, it may only bear a reference to the word "Swiss" if this designation clearly shows that only the wristlet is of Swiss manufacture (for example, "Swiss wristlet").
The "Swiss case" indication on a watch case betokens that the case is of Swiss manufacture. A case is considered to be Swiss if:
  • it has undergone an essential manufacturing operation in Switzerland (stamping, turning, or polishing);
  • it has been assembled and inspected in Switzerland;
  • and over 50 percent of the manufacturing costs (excluding the value of the material) are due to operations carried out in Switzerland.
When the "Swiss case" indication appears on the outside of the case, and the watch is of foreign manufacture, the origin of the movement or of the watch must also be affixed to the outside of the watch.
"Swiss Quartz" indication
This indication is often illegally affixed to the outside of the watch, especially by foreign manufacturers wishing to show that the quartz movement used is of Swiss origin. But, according to the OSM, the use of this indication on the outside of the watch signifies that the watch is Swiss.
"Swiss parts" indication
This marking indicates that the movement is composed of movement-blanks which have been manufactured in Switzerland, but assembled abroad. This indication may only appear on the movement, and never on the outside of the watch.
Role of the FH
The FH has a double role in the protection of this indication of geographical origin;
Firstly, the FH advises the companies on the lawful markings for watches and movements according to the Federal Council's Ordinance governing the use of the word "Swiss" for watches;
Secondly it may act against companies which illegally use this indication, in order to protect the consumer, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the renown of this designation, which is synonymous with quality.