Swiss Watch Making


It is thought that watch making came to Switzerland in the 16th century. In the 1540s Calvinist reforms put bans on wearing jewellery so many jewellers started making watches as an alternative income source. The centre of watch making here was Geneva and by the early 1600s watches from the town were establishing a reputation for quality.

The first guild or union for watch makers was set up in Geneva (The Watchmaker's Guild of Geneva) in 1601. As the decades passed it became harder to produce watches in the town as there were so many watch makers already established there so another centre was established in the area around the Jura mountains. It was here that Daniel Jeanrichard revolutionised the industry by setting up a system that divided labour in the watch making process.

By the late 1700s Switzerland was strongly established as a watch making capital. Abraham Louis Perrelet had created the Perpetual watch which was to bring together technology that would later be used to invent the self winding watches we use today. In the 1800s Patek Phillipe started to produce pendant winding pieces and the industry started to bring forward more innovations such as chronographs, the perpetual calendar and the fly back hand.

Innovations continued across the 1900s and more and more watches were being mass produced. The ability to bring to market cheaper watches and to make them more readily available consolidated Switzerland's position as the leading watch maker. In this century a Swiss watch maker also produced the first self winding models and electrical watches came to market.

In the 1960s the first quartz wrist watch (the Beta 21) was invented by the Centre Electronique Horloger (also known as CEF). Today watch making in Switzerland accounts for the country's third largest export market and the country exports over 90% of the watches it produces.