Largest Swiss companies in the watchmaking industry
by Arina Smith Business Development 12 December 2017
With a history dating back to the sixteenth century, Swiss watches have earned such a strong reputation that aspects such as quality, strength or reliability are almost underlined. Watches manufactured in Switzerland are called “Swiss Made” (or, in short, “Swiss”) and the logo of the manufacturer or distributor. This labeling (place of origin, in legal descriptions) enjoys a strong reputation throughout the world and the globalization of trade has increased its importance.
“Swiss made” personifies a quality concept that has progressed over time. This comprises of the technical quality of the watch (accuracy, safety, shock resistance, and water resistance) together with the aesthetic quality (originality and elegance of the design), covering both traditional manufacturing methods and new technologies (micro-electronics).
The Swiss are not the only watchmakers that produce high-quality watches and are thus facing a strong competition. However, thanks to the unique infrastructure and the innovative spirit, they have managed to maintain their leadership position, which is reflected by the empires built by some of the largest Swiss companies in this field.
1. Patek Phillipe SA
Being active in the watchmaking industry since 1839, Patek Phillipe is one of the largest Swiss companies in this field. Patek Philippe has gathered 70 patents and holds the first 20 spots in the top most expensive watches ever sold, becoming the absolute symbol of the financial power of the holders. Today, the average price of a watch is between 31,000 and 37,000 euros. The “Patek Philippe” watch magazine is sold on the internet for $ 400, and any of the holders of such an original watch has the right to receive it for free.
2. Rolex SA
Not only is Rolex one of the largest Swiss companies in its field, but it has also become over time synonymous with a certain prestige and owning a Rolex watch is almost a “must have” for the rich and famous. The Rolex Company was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf, born in Bavaria, but whose passion for travel has led him to other countries, including Switzerland. Today, Rolex is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, and although the company does not publish sales results, experts estimate it sells around 1 million watches a year.
Breguet is not only one of the largest Swiss companies in the watchmaking industry, but it is also considered to be the company that created the first ever wristwatch. Breguet was created in the year 1775 in France by Abraham-Louis Breguet and is currently part of the renowned Swatch Group. Breguet watches are now produced in Vallee de Joux in Switzerland. The inventor of the tourbillion is Abraham-Louis Breguet, a component of the mechanism of the automatic or mechanical clock that cancels the effect of gravity on the clock when it stays for a longer period in a fixed position. Its invention is used today in various forms, primarily for its function, but also as a design element.
In 1847, LeCoultre & Co produced the first keyless mechanism that could be turned and adjusted from the crown, and in 1851 at the London Universal Expo, Antoine LeCoultre won the gold medal for a golden timer with a new return and adjustment system without a key. Eventually, Antoine’s firm specialized in watchmaking, producing castings and precision components for watches. In 1860, it had 100 employees, and in 1899, when Antoine’s nephew Jacques David took over the business, LeCoultre had become one of the most important watch providers in Switzerland. Nowadays, the original company has changed owners over time and is now part of the Richemont Group, but it has remained one of the largest Swiss companies.
5. Blancpain SA
With a history of more than 250 years and world premieres in watchmaking, Blancpain currently produces luxury mechanical watches and is part of the Swatch Swiss group along with other well-known brands (Longines, Omega, Tissot, Breguet, Rado). Although the company has produced components for other brands as well, Blancpain has still remained an important name in the industry and one of the largest Swiss companies in the watchmaking industry.
Other important watchmaking companies from Switzerland are Zenith, TAG Heuer, Omega, Breitling and IWC.