Swiss-Made: But Where Exactly?

Written by

Four Swiss horological hubs all watch lovers need to know.

LA CHAUX-DE-FONDS
Cartier factory

This city is the current watchmaking capital of Switzerland. Today, about 180 watch brands big and small are based in this city of about 38,000. Household names that have set up bases here include Cartier (above), Patek Philippe, Girard-Perregaux, TAG Heuer and Breitling. La Chaux-de-Fonds was also once home to Rolex and Omega, which have relocated their factories to Biel/ Bienne.

Trivia: The city was awarded Unesco World Heritage status in 2009. In the 18th century, the city was planned for watchmaking activities with areas designated for watch ateliers and parallel roads for easy transportation of goods. The top floors of many of La Chaux-de-Fonds’ apartments used to house watch ateliers, which have big, wide windows to allow light to come in.

BIEL/BIENNE 

Rolex Bienne headquarters

The city’s two-part name is telling of its population make-up. Biel is Swiss-German, while Bienne is Swiss-French. While the concentration of brands here are less than the other three cities, its inhabitants are formidable, counting Rolex (above) and brands from the Swatch Group such as Omega and Hamilton.

Trivia: The late founder of Swatch Nicolas G. Hayek was awarded honourable citizenship of Biel/Bienne in 2004.

GENEVA
Vacheron Constantin factory

Swiss watchmaking traces its roots to this city, where horological activities started in the mid-16th century. Home to the likes of Piaget and Vacheron Constantin, Geneva-made timepieces are known for their high quality. In 1601, watchmakers here established the Watchmakers’ Guild of Geneva, the first organisation of its kind in the country.

Trivia: Watches that are manufactured in Geneva adhere to strict guidelines on decoration and quality. The best are awarded the Poinçon de Genève or Geneva Hallmark, a certification awarded to only 0.008% of 30 million Swiss watches produced annually.

LE LOCLE
Zenith headquarters

A close neighbor to La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle was also awarded Unesco World Heritage status in 2009. Switzerland’s third smallest city, Le Locle’s watchmaking activities flourished in the 18th century. In the early 20th century, more than half of the world’s watches were produced by manufacturers in Le Locle and La Chaux-de-fonds. Today, the city is home to major players like Zenith (above), Tissot and Montblanc.

Trivia: Before watchmaking took over as the city’s main economic activity, agriculture and lace making were the main industries.

Published in In Depth
Contributor

Contributing Writer

Our secret contributor is an industry insider who has worked with well-known luxury watch marques, as well as written for numerous horological publications. He asks to remains anonymous, however, so as not to ruffle feathers with his sometimes opinionated posts.