The history of the Swiss watch industry
|Old mark Gustave Chopard|The firstrules 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”
|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.
|"Swiss Made" mark on the dial and the movement|
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:
- Qualité Fleurier,
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"