As with other products like chocolate, Switzerland jealously protects its beautifully made and aesthetically appealing watches and clocks with the “Swiss made” label. “Swiss made” is more than a simple label of origin. It is a sign to customers that they are buying a product of outstanding quality and reliability.
With the help of legislation, international treaties and multilateral agreements drawn up by the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the World Trade Organisation, Switzerland has the necessary legal instruments to protect “Swiss made” watches and clocks from piracy and counterfeiting.
To obtain the “Swiss made” label a watch must meet certain minimum conditions. Although some foreign-made components may be used, they may not account for more than 50% of the total value of the components and the watches must also be both assembled and inspected in Switzerland.
Some regions in Switzerland, like the banking and watchmaking capital of Geneva, have their own label of origin. However, the “Geneva” hallmark does not enjoy the same level of protection as the “Swiss made” label. A watch may carry the Geneva hallmark if it meets the same requirements as those for a Swiss-made watch and if at least one of the major operations in its manufacture was carried out in the canton of Geneva.
More prestigious than this is the award of the quality hallmark known as the “poinçon de Genève” or Geneva Seal, issued by the Office for the Voluntary Inspection of Watches from Geneva. They must have been made in the canton, and each movement must be numbered. There are 12 strict criteria to be met ensuring the highest standards in engineering, finishing and assembly.
Is there such a thing as a foreign-made Swiss watch?
A watch that has been manufactured abroad but contains Swiss components may carry a mark to this effect. However, any exaggeration of the degree of Swiss involvement is strictly prohibited. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry sees to it that watches which are put on sale do not flout this rule.
Fake watches are for fake people
According to estimates by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (fine watchmaking foundation), 40 million fake Swiss watches are manufactured and sold ever year. Counterfeited goods like these damage not only the Swiss watch market but also the good reputation of the Swiss watch industry as a whole. The FH and the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry are locked in a ruthless ongoing battle against the counterfeiters. In addition to legal action, they launched the anti-counterfeiting “Fake Watches are for Fake People” campaign in 2009.
At the start of every year Switzerland holds two major international exhibitions where it can showcase its watchmaking expertise:
“BASELWORLD” is the most important international watch and jewellery fair. Over 100,000 visitors from the industry travel from every continent to Basle to view the latest creations. The fair has more than 2,000 exhibitors, including all of Switzerland’s major watchmakers.
Geneva hosts a more exclusive affair, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), or International Salon for Prestige Watchmaking, to which only professional guests of the exhibiting brands are invited. The show is regarded as one of the major events in the Geneva calendar, second only to the Motor Show. Visitors can discover the latest innovations in the world of fine watchmaking. Many of the timepieces on show are one-offs or limited editions.