swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

Your Gateway to Switzerland

Watches - introduction

Clocks at Bern's onion market (in new window)

Swiss made, but this alarm clock will win no prizes for accuracy. An exhibit at Bern's Onion Market illustrates the Swiss love of clocks.© swissworld.org

Quality, precision, uniqueness, reliability, tradition, design, innovation … these are just a few of the words that sum up the Swiss watchmaking industry – an industry which manages to produce timepieces that are diminutive yet highly complex, traditional yet state-of-the art.

The unparalleled reputation of Swiss watches is the result of over 500 years’ hard toil and meticulous attention to detail. While Geneva is undoubtedly the cradle of Swiss watchmaking, its heartland is in the “arc jurassien”, the arc formed by the Jura mountains stretching from Geneva in the south to Basle in the north, with companies concentrated in the cantons of Neuchâtel, Vaud, Jura, Bern, Solothurn and Basle.

But things have not always been easy for the industry. It has had to face down political unrest, stiff competition from abroad not to mention problems linked to its fragmented and labour-intensive production methods. But, like time itself, Swiss watchmakers never stand still.

Switzerland remains a world leader thanks to its design and technical innovations. Swiss watchmakers produce timepieces to suit every taste and every budget: from the cheap and cheerful mass-produced plastic quartz watch right up to the gold and diamond-encrusted chronographs. When you buy a Swiss watch, no matter what price it is, no matter which company made it, you know you are buying an item of outstanding quality and reliability. Swiss watches are in high demand across the world. In fact, 95% of “Swiss-made” watches are sold abroad, making the watch industry Switzerland’s third major exporter.

What is it that drives Swiss watchmakers? Maybe it is the inexorable flow of time and their constant quest to capture it, albeit fleetingly, and present it to us in ever new exciting shapes and forms...