Apr 2, 2018669 views

Swiss Watches with Chinese Parts? Dan Henry@ Basel

I came across this article by Dan Henry https://danhenrywatches.com/blogs/journal/the-b-side-of-baselworld
I‘d like to start a discussion regarding the quote below that appears in the article.
“Chinese cases and dials arrive in Switzerland by the ton, and are assembled with Swiss movements – this way the final pieces receive the “Swiss Made” stamp.”
I know the Swiss Watch content rules allow some foreign parts and I know this is a very controversial topic. I personally don’t have an issue with foreign parts in Swiss watches as long as the companies are being transparent. When you look into this topic the companies are very evasive especially concerning Chinese parts. It makes me wonder what am I paying for?
I own my own manufacturing company and we specialize in making custom electronics for commercial and industrial companies in the US and Europe. We know the country of origin for every single one of our parts and would gladly hand this information to our clients.
The Swiss Watch industry knows exactly which of their parts are sourced from outside of Switzerland. Why haven’t customers demanded they publicly share this information?
Aren’t the top tier brands worried that there will be irreparable harm to the “Swiss Made” brand?
Please weigh in!
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miked243 and Asheikm
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From Wikipedia:
A watch is considered Swiss, according to the Swiss law, if its movement is Swiss, and its movement is cased up in Switzerland, and the manufacturer carries out the final inspection in Switzerland.
A watch movement is considered Swiss if the movement has been assembled in Switzerland, and the movement has been inspected by the manufacturer in Switzerland, and the components of Swiss manufacture account for at least 60 percent (as of January 2017) of the total value, without taking into account the cost of assembly.
My take:
If I buy a BMW X5, which is built in South Carolina, am I buying a German SUV or an American SUV? If I buy an American built Honda or Toyota, is it Japanese or American? Fords and Chevys have plenty of foreign made parts. When I buy an Apple iPhone, which is famously "designed in California", but made entirely in China, is it an American phone? With the rise of global manufacturing and parts production, these answers become complicated.
Affordable Swiss brands like Hamilton, Tissot and Glycine have to source parts from places like China to retain their price point. Even Seiko outsources to China and Malaysia to reduce costs on non-JDM watches. Nearly every microbrand owes its existence to China. When you get to higher priced watches such as Omega and Breitling, I become more concerned about how much Swiss is in the watch. Rolex should give me 100% Swiss for their prices, IMO, not to mention every brand priced above that.
The reality is that an entry level luxury brand, such as Ball and others, likely buys cases, bracelets, crystals, dials and hands from China, buys movements from ETA or Sellita, customizes the movements as needed (with perhaps up to 40% of the value of the movement in Chinese parts) and assembles it all, with final calibration and case up, in Switzerland. It wouldn't surprise me if that's true for higher priced luxury brands, such as everything from the Swatch group, Breitling, etc. What about Tudor? Or Rolex? Good questions.
This is nothing new. On watch forums this has been a topic off and on for 15 years, possibly longer but that is only how far back I go with the hobby.
The Swiss government and the watch industry are protecting their brand(s) image. Basically the rule as spelled out on their own organization's documents is a watch must be made with 51% Swiss parts within Switzerland in order to be labeled "Swiss Made". There are other standards to get a "Swiss" label or "Made in Switzerland" label which I do not remember off the top of my head now. I am quite sure of that 51% rule for Swiss Made.
On a side note, in the late 1990's I bought a Wenger Swiss Army watch. It had Swiss Made on the dial. I was disappointed but not surprised the first time I opened the back to replace the battery and saw the inside of the case back printed with "China Case".
BF_Hammer
That makes a lot of sense for the value priced watches like Wenger, Invicta, etc. but what about mid tiered luxury brands like Oris, Tissot, Glycine, etc. In other forums there is speculation that the case and bracelet for the Omega Speedy Pro are made in China.
I'd be disappointed if the case and/or bracelet on my Speedy Pro were made in China.
Thanks for weighing in!
PMJ1999
Wow, I just composed a very long reply with photos, and it all disappeared. Here goes again.
I have read for years unofficially that Hamilton uses Chinese cases and bracelets. I would not dispute many other brands of Swiss watches I have currently use them. Nobody is going to fess-up as long as keeping up a smoke-screen continues to work.
Now just to put a fresh perspective on this, let me tell you about my Omega Seamaster 300. The movement is an authentic Omega calbre 565 from the late 60's or early 70's. The rest of the watch is genuine restoration parts with Omega's marks. The same parts Omega uses for their restoration service in Switzerland. It was all assembled fresh with the movement serviced and these new parts into a new watch in Australia by Watchco (who was then an official Omega service center). Is it Swiss or is it Australian? Does it even qualify as authentic Omega? Should we really care? I don't.
I will add this kicker to the story. It came with a replacement Speedie bracelet authentic in all detail to the 1960's bracelet, folded links and friction-snap clasp included. I found it hard to wear because the clasp kept popping open when I flexed my muscles as I lifted something left-handed. I currently have an "unbranded" Chinese duplicate of a modern Speedie bracelet on the watch. It makes it much more wearable, and really I think it could be the equal of the Omega-engraved item that sells for 10X as much as I bought this for. Is that wrong? Does that make the watch something less? I don't believe that personally or I would not have done it. Is it possible the bracelet is extra production from outside of the official Omega runs? Maybe. What is that engraving worth?
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I have no in depth knowledge of Swiss watch manufacturing, I can only add my opinion.
If there is a lack of transparency, I think it is a skillfully employed tactic that some companies use to justify their prices. These companies have already established the reputation of their brands and have a devoted customer base. As long as the reliability of the watches is not jeopardized, their is no reason for customers to question the brand. Consequently, technologically less rigorous components, such as cases and dials, can be outsourced to increase profit. In this context, providing additional information regarding non Swiss components will only bring unnecessary scrutiny.
As with any industry, the largest expense for watch manufacturers is probably research. This leads to new technology on the wrist, primarily offered by the well known Swiss brands, through which they can also justify prices, up to a certain limit. Same with Seiko and spring drive. On the flip side, micro brands are primarily concerned with case and dial designs; they typically do not have the capacity for technological development. Hence, transparency becomes essential in establishing brand identity.
Asheikm
Very well put!