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A Brief History of Swiss Watchmaking

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Tuesday, 30th June 2020

A Brief History of Swiss Watchmaking

One of the hallmarks of great watchmaking is that little note that says "Made in Switzerland".
Perhaps we are being a bit over the top since no watch is actually going to be stamped with those words (just imagine the damage to the aesthetics!) but most of the world's luxury watch makers base their operations in Switzerland.

A Swiss made watch is a status symbol if ever there was one. The country is considered by many to be the historical base for watch making and some of the oldest luxury brands are still based here. And to own a Swiss made watch is to be in possession of something truly spectacular.
The truth of the matter is, although watch making appears to be an originally Swiss tradition, it's not.
The trade was actually somewhat imported from France, via French refugees escaping persecution for their Huguenot religious beliefs.

Watchmaking arrived in Switzerland in around the 14th century and some of the earliest historical evidence of watchmaking was recorded in 1554, when the craft popped up in Geneva.
Initially, Geneva was quite popular for its manufacturing of elegant fine art jewellery. Jewellers began to worry about the future of their trade when watchmaking begin to grow steadily in popularity. They had a genuine worry about being put out of business.

But that would not be the case.
Watches were considered to be an undesirable means of expression. While a person could show off wealth and character though jewellery, a watch simply could not fill that role. Instead, watches would be a sought after, functional accessory rather than a jewellery replacement.

It wouldn't take long for both professions to see the opportunity to grow alongside each other and gain handsome profits as a result of the work they did. Over the years, Geneva would become Switzerland's watchmaking epicentre and those with the skill and those wanting to learn the trade would flock to the City.

Although those early years were ones of growth, Swiss watchmaking would only really see a boom in the 19th century. By this time, peasants had learned the art of putting together the perfect timepiece. During the country's unforgiving winter months, farm peasants and even farmers, would be forced to look for another means of making a living.
Watchmaking presented the perfect tool for earning an income during the downtime, which is why you will notice that many fantastic watch brands come out of small, obscure towns few would otherwise have heard of.

The Swiss were making up to 2 million watches a year, compared to England's paltry 200 000, by 1854. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, these small watchmaking companies would simply copy what their main competitors, England, were doing. They excelled in their approach and soon outpaced English production.

As time went on, Swiss horologist's began to think outside the box, and began introducing innovation into their work. This innovation would eventually save the Swiss from being overtaken by the USA as the world's top watchmakers.
Today, owning a Swiss made watch is one of the ultimate signals of wealth and status.

These luxury watches are available on the TopWatch website at affordable preowned rates, meaning just about any connoisseur of timepieces can own one.

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