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Under current rules, one might ask if this would be a more appropriate ‘Swiss-Made’ logo?
Under current rules, one might ask if this would be a more appropriate ‘Swiss-Made’ logo?

Feud over what makes a watch Swiss-made

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry is calling for tighter regulation on watch brands labeling their product as ‘Swiss-made’.
Swiss laws stipulate a watch can be labelled Swiss-made if 50 per cent of the movement is manufactured in Switzerland, but the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) believes that this has resulted in many offshore produced watches hijacking the value of Swiss branding.

“More and more foreign companies, particularly from Asia, have realised how easy it is to call a watch Swiss-made and in effect mislead clients and sell at higher prices than what they could otherwise justify,” president of the FH Jean-Daniel Pasche said.

It looks like the Federation is starting to get its way. While it still wants even tighter regulations, the Swiss National Council recently approved a minimum 60 per cent production rate directly in Switzerland for industrial products to be able to claim to be Swiss-made.

The legislation aims to maintain the eminence associated with Swiss products and keep jobs in Switzerland, and will soon be debated at the Council of States, which is the final passage the bill needs to pass through before being enshrined in law.

“Today, watches produced almost entirely in China are sold legally under the Swiss made label,” read a statement by the FH. “Strong and credible Swiss trademark creates jobs for watch manufacturers and subcontractors throughout the value creation chain, and this will allow production in Switzerland to be developed and strengthened over the long term.”

Swiss Mountaineer is still considered a Swiss-made watch despite offshore production and ownership.
Swiss Mountaineer is still considered a Swiss-made watch despite offshore production and ownership.
The New York Times provided the example of the watch, Swiss Mountaineer, which is emblazoned with Switzerland’s national flag on the dial. The paper asks, “Does it matter that except for their Swiss movement, the watches’ components are made at a factory in Shenzhen, China? Or that Swiss Mountaineer is owned by a Hong Kong company called Golden Hawk?"

The FH statement went on to state, “the Swiss label must no longer be abused” and that the new bill will crack down on watch companies taking their operations overseas.

“A well protected Swiss trademark also prevents foreign companies from buying Swiss watch manufacturers, relocating production to low-wage foreign countries and, despite everything, legally offering their products for sale under the Swiss made label,” FH statement added.

Vincent Chan, Golden Hawk’s director, best illustrates the problem and he makes no apologies for Swiss Mountaineer’s methods, or its watches, which sell for up to $US450.

“Even if everybody in Switzerland isn’t perhaps happy about what we do, there’s nothing they can do about it because we follow the rules. I would personally be interested to know whether all the smaller Swiss companies respect the rules as well as us,” Chan told the NYT in an interview last month at BaselWorld.

Some critics of the campaign see it as an attempt by the Swatch company, which is produced almost solely in Switzerland, to increase its already dominant market share.
“I think this Swiss-made campaign is more about weakening rivals within Switzerland than about protecting against a Chinese invasion or unfair competition from outside,” Laurent Alaimo, chief executive of Swiss company Technotime, told the New York Times.

Technotime has some of its operations outside Switzerland and has a Chinese shareholder that holds 80 per cent of its equity.

More reading
Australian watch makers take a stand

Nationwide Jewellers

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