Switzerland is famous for fine chocolate and celebrated watches. In fact, for many watch lovers, or ‘horologists’, merely the mention of a Swiss Made watch is exciting! But what does Swiss Made mean, and why are Swiss watches the best?
Here at Burrells family jewellers, we have decades of experience working with Swiss luxury watches. We would like to share our knowledge so that you can make the best decisions when investing in wristwear.
So, in today’s blog, we will be explaining why Swiss watches are world-renowned. From watch materials to mechanisms and movements, we will be revealing all about these fabulous timepieces.
Swiss Watches Use the Best Materials and Features
The materials and features used by artisanal watchmakers contribute to the quality of Swiss watches.
The following are essential to consider:
• Surgical grade steel
• Solid steel links and cases
• Sapphire crystal
• Pin and sleeve connectors
Surgical Grade Steel
Swiss Made watches use 316L surgical steel. 316L is a high-grade steel that is resistant to corrosive substances.
Due to the incorporation of surgical steel, Swiss-made watches are less susceptible to tarnishing, as well as general wear and tear. Additionally, the use of surgical grade steel makes Swiss watches hypo-allergenic, useful for people who have allergies to certain alloys, such as zinc.
There is no guarantee that a manufacturer of a non-Swiss watch will use steel. Non Swiss watch brands frequently use inferior materials to lower the cost of production.
Solid Steel Links and Cases
Swiss-made watches use solid steel links and cases. When a brand uses solid steel links and cases, it means that their timepieces are less likely to rattle, and will feel sturdier on the wrist.
In comparison, many non Swiss Made watches use hollow links in their bracelets. Hollow links are much more likely to rattle and can bend easier.
With this in mind, here is a expert's tip: The weight of a watch is a good indicator of material quality.
Swiss Made timepieces usually have a sapphire crystal glass screen. Sapphire crystal glass makes a Swiss-made watch incredibly scratch-resistant.
In fact, sapphire crystal should not scratch at all under normal wearing conditions. We know this because of the mineral hardness scale or ‘Mohs Scale’.
The Mohs scale uses the numbers 1-10, with a mineral measured at 1 being the least scratch-resistant and 10 being the most. On this scale, sapphire crystal has a hardness level of 9.
In contrast, lower value watches typically have a lesser quality screen made from mineral glass. Mineral glass is cheaper to produce and easier to scratch. Even watches that use terms such as "hardened glass" will not be as durable as those with sapphire crystal.
Pin and Sleeve Connectors
Watches use pins to keep links together. These are the small, rod-like pieces of metal that pass through the links of your watch.
Lesser quality watches use only these pins, meaning that the pins maintain tension while rotating with the link. However, the constant friction between the pin and link results in the pin becoming smaller and smaller until it drops out.
Swiss watches, on the other hand, use pin and sleeve connectors.
Pin and sleeve connectors use the pin to hold tension, but a sleeve covers these pins. It is the sleeve which allows rotation. Consequently, there is less friction on the pin and it takes much longer to wear down.
Swiss Watches Have the Best Mechanism and Movement
The movement is the heart of a watch and is what accounts for much of the overall price.
Internally, Swiss watches have metal gears. Metal gears take a long time to wear, but when they do, an expert can repair them.
Moreover, a Swiss watch is hand assembled, meaning that it is subject to a keen eye and individual quality control.
Manufacturers of non Swiss watches often use cheaper materials such as plastic, which wear quicker than metal gears. Such manufacturers also make watches in batches, which means that no-one thoroughly checks each timepiece.
Why the Term ‘Swiss Made’ Matters
The actual term ‘Swiss Made’ is found on the dial of most Swiss watches. Swiss Made is an official identifier which assures quality.
To be classed as Swiss Made, a watch must follow these guidelines:
• The movement must be constructed, cased, and inspected by a Swiss manufacturer.
• The movement must not be more than 50mm in diameter and 12mm in thickness.
• 60% of the other total watch components (other than the movement) must also be produced, assembled, and inspected in Switzerland.
Previously, some offending manufacturers would mix a small number of Swiss Made components with poorer ones to try and cash in on the Swiss Made term.
However, guidelines changed on January 1st, 2017, and now at least 60% (previously 50%) of the watch’s manufacturing costs must come from Switzerland. This 10% difference may sound minimal, but it is making a difference.
What is the Difference Between Swiss Made and Swiss Movt?
Another common term often found on watch dials is ‘Swiss Movt’. Swiss Movt is different from Swiss Made.
Swiss Movt signifies that the movement was made in Switzerland, but has no bearing on the quality of the rest of the watch.
Swiss Watchmaking as an Art
In Switzerland, watchmaking is an art. Fiercely protected, Swiss watchmaking is a way of expressing creativity and perfecting mechanics.
Many non-Swiss brands take inspiration from Swiss manufacturers. As previously discussed, some non-Swiss watch brands even buy Swiss parts to try and cash in on the phenomenal reputation.
This copycat method is revealing. Oscar Wilde once said, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. However, there is nothing quite like the real thing.
OMEGA's watchmaking facility in Bienne, Switzerland
Should I Buy a Swiss Watch?
A Swiss watch is a superior product made from high-quality components. Such a focus on quality makes Swiss watches an excellent choice - whether you are a first-time buyer or a watch collector.
And why? Well, we think that the number one reason is longevity.
One of the most famous watch advertisements of all time belongs to Swiss brand Patek Phillipe, whose slogan reads: “You never actually own a Patek Phillipe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” And Patek Phillipe is right; if you look after your Swiss watch, it can remain in a beautiful condition for decades.
If you would like to read some more of the Burrells blog, we recommend this article: 5 Tips for Investing in Luxury Watches.