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Why Switzerland is famous for watches

02 November 2020 12:39

Night-time view of Geneva

Night-time view of Geneva

Discover how a jewellery ban gave rise to the world's most sought-after watches and much more...

What's special about Swiss watches?

A 'Swiss made' watch is unlike any other. In fact the term itself is protected by law. According to rules established in 1971, the mechanics, casing and final inspection of a timepiece must all be carried out in Switzerland to earn the 'Swiss made' hallmark. These watches are made with a high-quality mechanism and often use premium materials. The metal gears, surgical steel and sapphire crystal used in many pieces ensure a Swiss watch is built to last several lifetimes.

When does Switzerland's history with watches begin?

The art of creating mechanical timepieces came into existence in the 14th century. However, the skilled trade didn't reach Switzerland until much later, via Huguenot refugees fleeing France. Watchmakers reached Geneva sometime before 1554 - protestant pastor John Calvin deemed jewellery too flashy for his flock, but permitted his followers to wear timepieces. It wasn't long before the capital honed its skills and the first watchmaking guild was established in Geneva.

How important are watches to Switzerland today?

According to the most recent statistics, the Swiss are the largest exporters of watches in the world. The landlocked nation exported £10.5B ($13.7B) worth of base metal watches in 2018, securing its place as the world's 18th biggest exporter across all goods. Just under 60,000 locals are employed in the watchmaking industry alone, a figure that doesn't take into account the distribution and retail of the country's famed timepieces.

Where can I go in Switzerland to find their famous watches?

Switzerland is home to the finest watchmakers, with Rolex's headquarters found in Geneva and Omega's head office in Biel/Bienne to the north. Although the expensive timepieces are available in high end department stores and jewellers around the world, you should head to the famous Watch Valley for a unique glimpse into the world of quality timepieces. The 120-mile Swiss Jura Arc from Geneva to Basel is home to Rolex, Tissot and other reputable brands, not to mention must-visit watch museums.

What else is Switzerland known for?

Take to The Alps on skis or on foot in the shadow of the famous peaks at Matterhorn and Monte Rosa. Or if you prefer a less frosty reception, Lake Geneva in the summer is a must-visit for sun worshippers. Here beach-goers perch next to one of Europe's largest bodies of water watching yachters, canoers and water skiers float by. And when you've finished taking in the sights, make sure you indulge in a bar of famous Swiss chocolate.

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