In watchmaking, Swiss Made is the stuff of dreams. But by reading this article you will understand that this label is not a guarantee of quality and we will explain why, using concrete examples.
How to obtain the Swiss Made label? To simplify, the legislation requires that :
1: The movement be Swiss Made.
2: The total cost of the watch must be at least 60% Swiss Made (but sometimes the word "manufacture" hides the word "billing" and thus
Example of a low-end Swiss-made watch configuration:
1: Swiss-made movement in elaborate version: 78 euros.
2 : Price of the rest of the watch (Chinese-made) + assembly (Swiss-made) : 52 euros...
Total cost of manufacturing the watch: 130 euros... This is less expensive than the only strap of the Bohen Mille-Mer (and the buckle is not even included).
Selling price of these watches on the internet (directly from the manufacturer): between 450 and 800 euros.
So, all Swiss-Made watches in this price range are actually Made in China. But that's not really the problem. The real problem is that with 52 euros, you can't have a quality case, case back, dial, hands, crown, strap and buckle.
This is why the Swiss Made label in no way means that a Swiss watch is of superior quality to a non-Swiss watch, especially since Miyota, supplier of solid Japanese movements, will offer you such good reliability and comparable precision (in this level of range) for less.
Take a Rolls-Royce or an Aston-Martin, symbols of absolute luxury in automobiles. Do these English brands produce truly English cars? No. Same for BMW. Today, all production is international, for reasons of technology and cost price.
With globalization, many Swiss manufacturers, losing their competitiveness, have been taken over by German groups and have been able to become competitive again with Chinese factories. How ? By accepting the notion of international manufacturing:
1: Superiority of the know-how of Swiss watchmakers.
2: Investments by German partners.
3: Optimization of manufacturing costs, sometimes with a hidden share of Asian manufacturing. But without any reduction in quality.
When I was living in Vietnam, I met a very friendly Swiss man who had set up a jewelry workshop in the third district of Ho-Chi-Minh. One of his clients was one of the biggest jewelers in Place Vendôme (in Paris). The secrecy was absolute. Obviously, the goal was to lower the manufacturing price, for equal quality.
On watch blogs, we sometimes talk about this obscure part of manufacturing. Some say it: there would be a manufacturing unit in New Mexico that would work for Rolex. Others claim to have seen an Omega subcontract workshop based in the Mekong Delta. Is it true ? Is it a legend? I don't know, but those who know won't say anything: watchmaking is a closed and secret world.
The only question that can be answered is whether the quality of Rolex or Omega watches is really exceptional. And for me, the answer is clear: YES, these two jewels of Swiss watchmaking offer the best to their customers. So we come back to the example of Rolls and Aston Martin.
At the beginning of our project, we were obsessed with the percentage of Swissness of the watch. One day, by chance, my wife came across an article that talked about the most influential people in Swiss watchmaking. While reading this article, I recognized a person with whom I had made my debut in watchmaking. I was a junior designer, and this person (we'll call it “C”) was starting in sales. Just in case, I sent an e-mail to congratulate “C” on his remarkable professional career and to inform him of my project. Luckily, "C" answered me quickly and we reconnected. After telling him about Bohen, "C" immediately told us: this is not how you are going to obtain the best result in terms of quality. What is needed is not that your watch be 100% Swiss. What is needed is that you seek the best quality for your customers, while remaining accessible in terms of price.
“C” gave us a very concrete example, which will immediately enlighten you:
Our sapphire crystal, Swiss-Made and resistant to 100 ATM, cost 21 Swiss francs.
“C” showed us the same glass, made in China, but for 12 dollars…
Question: Is Swiss glass of better quality?
Response from "C": No difference, because in reality it's the same. The glass was purchased in China, but the treatment was carried out in Switzerland (which makes it Swiss-Made).
And this is the tendentious role that globalization plays in Swiss-Made.
So in your opinion which glass did we choose? The cheapest, to benefit you? Or the most expensive, to ensure a greater share of Swissness?
The answer is "neither", because "C" then introduced us to a Japanese manufacturer that provides lenses for the aerospace industry and for major optical brands, in an incomparable quality and purity rate. On the other hand, the price of Japanese glass took us from 21 Swiss Francs to 45 dollars. For this price, you have the Rolls of sapphires.
From there, “C” introduced us to the president of a design office that oversees the manufacture of a Swiss brand that you all know, whose selling prices go up to 20,000 dollars. By working with this office, we immediately had access to sub-contractors from the biggest brands and our small quantities were suddenly no longer a problem. Like what, relationships matter.
What has it brought us?
A quality that installs us without any compromise in the big leagues.
A price that does not exceed the bar that we had set.
Confidence in the manufacturing process.
A very high level of Swissness.
What sacrifices have we had to make?
Our margin has gone from X3 to X2 (yes, of course, there is no miracle).
The level of Swissness is lower because of the glass, but also the packaging which will be produced by the Asian subcontractor of several luxury brands.
Thanks to this, we were able to push our work further and bring all the subtleties that define a luxury product: Very pure steel, to aerospace standards. Use of Black Polish (the most beautiful of manual polishes) and use of a special technique for Deep Brushed effects. These are finishes that will show and give you a feeling of beauty. Ditto for the anti-magnetic movement: even if there is no transparent back, our modified movement will receive pearl bridges and the coast of Geneva.
To obtain indexes set only on three sides, we created a luminescent material in the mass since the paint was no longer applicable.
For the hands: three layers of Superluminova to obtain the highest intensity, as well as inclined and brushed sides. All these details generate the refinement that you will only find on luxury watches, not to mention our calendar magnifying glass that you will not find anywhere else.After all, why deprive yourself of the best.
Luxury is an art,
Exigency is the heart,
Rarity is the soul.