The roots of the label "Swiss Made"
English Russian
English Russian

The history of the Swiss watch industry

Swiss Made on watch Chopard
Old mark Gustave Chopard
  • The first rules of watch labeling appeared in Geneva in 1601;
  • The competition with American producers of low-price watches made Swiss watchmakers focus on quality of Swiss watches;
  • The label “Swiss Made” was used to emphasise the origin of Swiss watches;
  • The use of trademark “Swiss Made” is regulated by Swiss legislation.

The first regulations of marking watches in Switzerland appeared in 1601 in Geneva. That year the local watch masters established the guild, which introduced strict rules of education for watchmakers from “magister” to “master”, and applied an obligatory stamp to be placed on all watches produced in Geneva.

In the beginning of 18th century the production of watches evolved also in the North of Geneva in the mountains of Neuchatel, where the rules of Geneva guild did not have force. Like in Geneva the local masters found their own way to mark watches: a watch master engraved their signature on the movement, and later also on the dial. The signature necessarily included the place of production, even if it was not very popular.

Evolution of the trademark “Swiss Made”

Old watch Abraham
Signature of the Swiss watchmaker

Mid 19th century the USA started massive production and import of watches to Europe. Unlike Swiss, the US watch industry consisted of big mechanical manufactures, which allowed production of a much bigger number of watches at a considerably lower price. The Centennial International Exhibition held in 1876 in Philadelphia proved the necessity of modernisation of the mode of watch production in Switzerland.

In the competitive struggle with the Americans the counter-move of the Swiss manufacturers was the decision to emphasize the quality of Swiss watches, particularly their reliability and movement accuracy, rather than low prices and massive availability. It was necessary to distinguish the watches produced in Switzerland with a kind of a special mark. At that time such certification did not yet exist, however to identify Swiss watches, some watchmakers placed the mark “chronometer” on the dial. Besides that it was often that the prizes received at international fairs were engraved on dials and movements. The participation in international fairs brought recognition to Swiss watches, which stimulated the start of huge advertising campaign by the end of 19th century, and culminated in their international popularity.

The growing demand on the official protection of the mark and the “Swissness” of watches forced the government to issue the Federal law on the Protection of Trademarks (amended in 1891). 16 April 1880 a large number of Swiss and foreign companies, especially watchmakers, registered their trademarks in the Federal Office of Intellectual Property in Bern. Besides the brand name and logo, the place of production was also mentioned under the mark “Swiss Made” in English because of the importance of the American market.

Since that time Swiss watchmakers started to put regularly the mark “Swiss Made” on the dial and the movement together with other technical details.

Watch with lable Swiss MadeWatch with lable Swiss Made
"Swiss Made" mark on the dial and the movement

Contemporary legislation


In 1971 upon the request of the watchmakers the Federal Council passed the order, which defined the legal status of the trademark “Swiss Made” and the conditions of its use. Under this regulation watches cannot have the mark “Swiss Made”, “Swiss”, and any mentions relating to “Swiss” or its translation, if they do not comply with the law.

The mark “Swiss Made” was always mentioned on the item together with the name of the watchmaker. However, the majority of the watchmakers producing the most expensive watches do not put the mark “Swiss Made” on their items: their name is the guarantee itself that the watch is 100% originally Swiss made.

Along with “Swiss Made” other similar marks are used nowadays in the Swiss watch industry:

  • Geneve,
  • Qualité Fleurier,
  • COSC.


The order regulating the use of the mark “Swiss Made” for watches from the very beginning was in dispute. Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry was challenged to strengthen the mark “Swiss Made”. The order of 1971 was reviewed in 1992, as it was considered to contain the measures too soft.


Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, its members – Swiss watchmakers and Swiss officials are constantly fighting against illegal production of the fake Swiss watches. As a result 1 Jan 2017 a new version of the order regulating the use of the mark “Swiss Made” to be issued to make the conditions of its use more rigorous.


Information and photos: courtesy "Musée international d'horlogerie La Chaux-de-Fonds"

Hagelstam & Co will be doing a sale of a collection of porcelain containing figurines, vases, coffee and dinner sets by Royal Copenhagen, Bing & Grøndahl, Lungby, Wedgwood and Dahl-Jensen. Featuring pieces modeled by sculptors Knud Kyhn, Christian Thomsen, Erik Nielsen, Holger Christensen, Johannes Heedegaard, Axel Locher and Olof Paulsen.  Next...
  • Views: 1965
On September 26th, 2018 German auction house Hampel Fine Art Auctions will offer important Old Master paintings for sale: François Boucher (1703 – 1770), Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691 – 1765), Hermann Tom Ring (1521 – 1596), Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 – 1625), Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1502 – 1550), Giuseppe Bazzani (1690 – 1769), Frans Snyders (1579 – 1657), Jacopo di Cione (1325 – 1398), Michele Tosini (1503 – 1577), Hans Memling (1433 – 1494).  Next...
  • Views: 3411
On September 26th, 2018 German auction house Hampel Fine Art Auctions will offer for sale a series of Russian art lots. An enamel salt cellar from 1855, crystal bowl from 1900, several Russian icons from 18-19th centuries and photographs of Nicholas II to be offered at the upcoming sale.  Next...
  • Views: 5613
From September 17th to 21st, 2018 Swiss auction house Schuler Auktionen will be doing a sale of a series of items dedicated to Russian art as part of their main auction. Russian icons XVI-XX centuries are to be offered at the upcoming sale.  Next...
  • Views: 5757
Rebecca Reynolds holds a PhD in archaeology from the University of Nottingham. Following this she was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2016 and is interested in combining her archaeological background into her legal practice to explore and ensure continued and improved protection of cultural heritage. She currently works as a freelance zooarchaeologist and cultural heritage consultant. In the interview she talks about efficiency of the Treasure Act 1996 and protection of archaeological heritage in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.  Next...
  • Views: 2380
On June 18th and from June 20th to 22nd, 2018 Swiss auction house Schuler Auktionen will be hosting their next auction in Zurich. Among the lots to be offered for sale are some Russian icons from the XVII — XIX centuries: a large twopartite icon “Unexpected Joy” – “Synaxis of the Archangel Michael” (XIX century), “Christ Pantocrator” (1st part of the XIX century), “Archangel Michael Horseman” (XVIII century), “St. Elisha” (XVII century), “Fiery Ascent of the Prophet Elijah” (around 1600), “Christ Pantocrator” (XIX century), as well as the icon with the bright glass bead embroidered casing and the frame (XIX century).  Next...
  • Views: 6434
On June 6th, 2018 leading Russian art auction house MacDougall’s is hosting their next auction in London. The highlights: Konstantin Somov’s “Meeting in the Park” (1919), Ivan Shishkin's “Pine Forest. Yelbuga” (1897), Pavel Kuznetsov’s “Fountain” (1904), Chaïm Soutine’s portrait “La liseuse endormie, Madeleine Castaing” (c. 1937), Ivan Khrutsky's “Still Life with Fruit and Honeycomb” (1840), Alexander Deineka’s “Woman in a Yellow Dress” (1955), Georgy Nissky’s “Reclining Nude” (c. 1959) and other artwork.  Next...
  • Views: 7941
Martin Hans Borg, Russian art expert from Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Bredgade 33, Copenhagen, Denmark, talks about the Russian art auction on June 8th, 2018, as well as the role of provenance in the selection of items for auctions. “We have contact with the branches of the Danish royal house, which continuously consigns Russian art treasures to our auctions. It always provides an extraordinary touch when there are royal and imperial provenances on the lots that are up for auction. This is also the case at the summer's Russian auction."  Next...
  • Views: 9029
Excercising due diligence in art transactions means using stolen art databases. Obviously, the existence of separate databases renders the work of international art businesses more difficult by imposing additional responsibilities in the verification of provenance.  Next...
  • Views: 14586