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Swiss Watches 101: What Makes Them So Special and Desirable

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swiss watch

The term “Swiss watch” signifies a timepiece that meets stringent criteria, including having the movement assembled in Switzerland and adhering to Swiss quality standards. Brands like Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin, known as the “Big Three,” exemplify the highest standards of Swiss watchmaking. 

Owning a Swiss watch is not only a symbol of refinement but also a connection to the rich heritage and enduring pursuit of excellence in horology.

Read and and discover the fascinating history, remarkable craftsmanship, and iconic brands that have shaped the legacy of Swiss watchmaking.

What is a Swiss watch?

A Swiss watch is a timepiece that is manufactured and assembled in Switzerland, adhering to strict criteria and regulations set by the Swiss Federal Council. 

Under Swiss trademark law, as of 2017, the following criteria must be met for a watch to be recognized as “Swiss made”:

  • A minimum of 60% of the production costs should be incurred in Switzerland.
  • The watch movement needs to be housed within the country.
  • The final quality assurance check should be conducted in Switzerland.
  • The watch movement should be of Swiss origin.

The last condition is more complex, as it carries its own set of qualifications. To be classified as a Swiss movement, the following rules must be adhered to:

  • For mechanical watches, at least 80% of the production expenses must be Swiss.
  • For quartz watches, 60% of the production costs should be Swiss-based.
  • Regardless of the type of watch, the technical construction, prototype creation, and final assessment must all be carried out in Switzerland.

The Difference Between a Swiss Watch and a Normal Watch

The distinction between a Swiss made watch and a normal watch lies in the meticulous craftsmanship, heritage, and reputation associated with Swiss watchmaking. Note that this table provides a general overview and there can be exceptions and variations within each category.

Swiss WatchNormal Watch
OriginManufactured in SwitzerlandProduced in various countries
QualityExceptional quality and craftsmanshipVaries in quality and craftsmanship
PrestigeAssociated with a rich horological heritageMay not have the same level of prestige
Value and ResaleOften retains value well and has a strong resale marketValue retention and demand may vary
RegulationsAdheres to strict Swiss Federal Council criteriaNot bound by specific regulations

Brief History of Swiss Watch

The history of Swiss watches is a captivating journey of innovation, craftsmanship, and timeless elegance. From the emergence of the clock industry in Geneva to the establishment of the Watchmakers Guild, Swiss watchmaking has evolved into a symbol of precision and luxury.

  • 16th Century: The clock industry appeared in Geneva as a result of Jean Calvin’s ban on ornamental objects, pushing goldsmiths and jewellers towards the Swiss watchmaking Industry.
  • 17th Century: The Watchmakers Guild of Geneva was established in 1601, becoming the first of its kind in the world. Many watchmakers started leaving Geneva to set up business in the Jura mountains.
  • 18th Century: The development of the watch and clock industry is closely tied to the introduction of the “établissage” system by Daniel Jean Richard, leading to increased productivity and the establishment of Geneva as a major exporter of watches.
  • 19th Century: Notable inventions and developments include Abraham-Louis Perrelet’s “perpetual” watch, Louis Moinet’s chronograph, and Adrien Philippe’s pendant winding watch. Complicated timepieces and functions like fly-back hand and perpetual calendar were introduced.
  • Early 20th Century: Renowned watchmakers such as Frédéric Ingold and Georges Léschot conducted research leading to mass production, interchangeable components, and standardization in the Swiss watch industry.
  • Post-WWI: The wristwatch gained popularity, and the first automatic watch was produced in 1926. Electric wristwatches made their appearance in 1952.
  • 1967: The Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH) developed the world’s first quartz watch, the Beta 21. This marked a significant milestone and led to further advancements in technology in the watch industry, including LED and LCD displays and the use of new materials.

Why Swiss Watches are Expensive?

Swiss-made watches are expensive due to the exceptional craftsmanship and high-quality components used in their production. 

Swiss watchmakers dedicate years to designing innovative movements that are assembled by hand and built to last. The intricate production process takes months, resulting in limited availability and increased demand, driving up the price. 

These watches use only the finest materials, ensuring accuracy and durability, with a luxury image associated with prestige and exclusivity, making them highly sought after. 

Consumers are willing to pay a premium for these timepieces as they symbolize status and reflect exceptional craftsmanship. Whether it’s a Patek Philippe Grand Complications or an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the high price tag signifies the watch’s worth and allure.

Best Swiss Watchmakers in the Market

1. Patek Philippe 

A renowned Swiss-made watch brand known for its exceptional craftsmanship and timeless designs. Here are three popular Patek Philippe models along with a brief description of their features and pre-owned prices:

Patek Philippe Nautilus – Tiffany Blue Dial ref 5711/1A-018 

Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711_1A-018 

Stainless Steel is a limited edition watch with a Tiffany Blue dial. It features a Patek Philippe caliber 26‑330 S C movement and has a case diameter of 40.00 mm. The watch is water-resistant up to 120.00 m. The average price in the private sales market is approximately S$150,673.

Patek Philippe Nautilus – Black Dial ref. 5980/1R

Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980_1R

A stunning watch with a Black dial. It features a Patek Philippe caliber CH 28-520 C movement, offering hours, minutes, date, and a chronograph with a column wheel. The case is made of Rose Gold and has a diameter of 40.50 mm. With a water resistance of 120 meters. The average price of S$271,836 on the private sales market. However, the expected price is around S$289,875. 

Patek Philippe Nautilus – Black Dial ref 5980/1A

Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980_1A

Stainless Steel is a sleek and sophisticated watch with a Black dial. It is powered by the Patek Philippe caliber CH 28-520 C movement, providing hours, minutes, dates, and a chronograph with a column wheel. The case is made of Stainless Steel, with a diameter of 40.50 mm and water resistance of 120.00 meters. The average price is S$139,787 – S$175,048.

2. Audemars Piguet 

A prestigious Swiss luxury watch brand renowned for its high-quality craftsmanship and innovative designs. Here are three popular Audemars Piguet models along with a brief description of their features and pre-owned prices:

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore – Black Dial ref. 26420SO 

Audemars Piguet 26420SO 

This watch has a Steel case with a diameter of 43mm and a thickness of 14.4mm. It features a Sapphire crystal and a water resistance of 100 meters. The Ceramic bezel adds a stylish element. The Automatic movement has a power reserve of 70 hours with an average market price of S$49,020 – S$60,767.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore – Blue Dial ref. 26480TI

Audemars Piguet 26480TI

This watch has a Titanium case with a diameter of 42mm and a thickness of 12.8mm. It has a water resistance of 100 meters. The Automatic movement has a power reserve of 40 hours with an average market price of S$43,179 – S$51,824.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore – Black Dial ref. 26401RO

Audemars Piguet 26401RO

This watch features a rose gold case with a diameter of 44mm and a thickness of 14.4mm. It has a water resistance of 100 meters. The Automatic movement has a power reserve of 50 hours with an average market price of S$46,114 – S$61,755.

3. Vacheron Constantin

A prestigious Swiss luxury watchmaker with a rich heritage dating back to 1755. Known for its exquisite craftsmanship and timeless designs, Vacheron Constantin offers a range of exceptional timepieces. Here are three popular models from Vacheron Constantin along with a brief description of their features and pre-owned prices:

Vacheron Overseas Constantin – Blue Dial ref. 7900V/110A-B334 

Vacheron  Overseas Constantin 7900V_110A-B334 

The Vacheron Constantin Overseas watch from the Dress collection has a stylish steel case with a diameter of 41mm and a thickness of 12.8mm. With a water resistance of 150 meters, it is suitable for various activities. The Automatic movement with 37 jewels operates on a power reserve of 60 hours and utilizes the caliber 5110 dt, with an average market price of S$41,411 – S$50,105.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas- Silver Dial Ref. 7900V/110A-B333

Vacheron Constantin Overseas 7900V_110A-B333

The watch has a steel case with a diameter of 41mm and a thickness of 12.8mm. The silver dial features are protected by a Sapphire crystal. With a water resistance of 150 meters, it is suitable for various activities. The Automatic movement with 37 jewels operates on a power reserve of 60 hours and utilizes the caliber 5110 dt, with an average market price of S$32,939 – S$44,022.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas- Blue Dial ref. 5500V/110A-B148

Vacheron Constantin Overseas 5500V_110A-B148

The watch features a steel case with a diameter of 42.5mm and a thickness of 13.7mm. The blue dial is protected by a Sapphire crystal. With a water resistance of 150 meters, it can withstand various water activities. The Automatic movement with 54 jewels provides a power reserve of 52 hours and utilizes the caliber 5200, with an average market price of S$43,984 – S$57,012.

4. Rolex 

An iconic Swiss watch brand renowned for its precision, durability, and timeless design. Here are three popular models from Rolex along with a brief description of their features and pre-owned prices:

Rolex Submariner – Black Dial ref. 116610

Rolex 116610

The watch features a steel case with a diameter of 40mm and a black dial that is protected by a Sapphire crystal, ensuring durability and clarity. With a water resistance of 300 meters, it is suitable for various water activities. The Automatic movement with 31 jewels provides a power reserve of 48 hours and utilizes the caliber 3135, with an average market price of S$14,493 – S$17,014.

Rolex Datejust – Black Dial ref. 126234

Rolex 126234

This watch features a dress style and is known for its date complication. The case is made of steel and has a diameter of 36mm, with a lug width of 20mm. The watch is equipped with a sapphire crystal for enhanced durability and has a water resistance of 100 meters. The movement caliber used in these watches is the 3235 with a power reserve of 70 hours. The average market price is S$13,178 – S$16,237.

Rolex GMT-Master II – Black Dial ref. 126710BLNR

Rolex GMT-Master II 126710BLNR

This watch features a black dial with no numerals and a steel case with a diameter of 40mm. The bezel is made of ceramic, and the crystal is sapphire. It has a water resistance of 100 meters. The automatic movement has 31 jewels and a power reserve of 70 hours with an average market price of S$21,685 – S$24,257.

5. Omega 

A prestigious Swiss watch brand is known for its exceptional quality, innovation, and rich heritage. Here are three popular models from Omega along with a brief description of their features and pre-owned prices:

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean- Black Dial ref. 215.30.40.20.01.001

Omega Seamaster 215.30.40.20.01.001

This watch, with its black dial adorned with Arabic numerals, is powered by the automatic movement caliber 8800. The sapphire crystal ensures durability, while the watch offers a water resistance of 600 meters. With 35 jewels, it has a power reserve of 55 hours, making it a reliable timepiece for any occasion. The average market price is S$5,545 – S$6,695.

Omega Speedmaster Professional – Black Dial ref. 310.30.42.50.01.002

Omega Speedmaster 310.30.42.50.01.002

With its sleek black dial and steel case, this watch features a bezel made of steel and is equipped with a sapphire crystal for added durability. It offers a water resistance of 50 meters and has a case diameter of 42mm. The manual winding movement caliber 3861 powers this timepiece, providing a power reserve of 50 hours. The average market price is S$7,091 – S$8,898.

Omega Constellation Globemaster- Blue Dial ref 130.30.39.21.03.001

Omega Constellation Globemaster 130.30.39.21.03.001

The watch showcases a striking blue dial and a steel case with sapphire crystal, ensuring both elegance and durability. With a water resistance of 100 meters and a case diameter of 39mm, it is suitable for various environments. The automatic movement caliber 8900 powers this timepiece, offering a power reserve of 60 hours.

The average market price is S$5,687 – S$7,312.

6. Cartier

A renowned luxury brand is known for its exquisite watches that blend timeless elegance with exceptional craftsmanship. Here are three popular Cartier models along with a brief description of their features and pre-owned prices:

Cartier Tank MC – Blue Dial ref. WSTA0010

Cartier WSTA0010

The watch features a stylish blue dial and a steel case with sapphire crystal, combining elegance and durability. With a water resistance of 30 meters and a case diameter of 34mm. The dial is adorned with Roman numerals, adding a classic touch. The automatic movement caliber 1904 powers this timepiece, providing a power reserve of 48 hours. The average market price is S$4,778 – S$6,194

Cartier Santos Medium – Silver Dial ref. WSSA0029

Cartier Santos Medium WSSA0029

The watch features a silver dial with a water resistance of 100 meters. It offers versatility for various activities. The case has a diameter of 35.1mm and a thickness of 8.83mm, providing a sleek and comfortable fit. The automatic movement caliber 1847 mc powers this timepiece, offering a power reserve of 42 hours. The average market price is S$6,939 – S$8,345

Cartier Ballon Blue – Silver Dial ref. WE902075

Cartier Ballon Bleu WE902075

The watch features a steel case with sapphire crystal and a silver dial adorned with elegant Roman numerals. With a water resistance of 30 meters, it offers protection against minor water splashes and rain. The case has a diameter of 36mm, providing a comfortable and versatile size for both men and women. The automatic movement ensures precise timekeeping without the need for manual winding. The average market price is S$6,631 – S$11,052

Please note that the pre-owned prices mentioned here are approximate and may vary based on factors such as the watch’s condition, age, and market demand.

Final Word

Luxury watches from renowned brands like Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Rolex, Omega, and Cartier embody the perfect combination of artistry, precision, and status. These timepieces are crafted with exceptional attention to detail, using the finest materials and innovative movements. Whether as a personal indulgence or a statement of refined taste, owning a luxury watch is an experience that transcends time.

Key Takeaways

  • A Swiss watch refers to a timepiece that is made in Switzerland and meets specific criteria set by the Swiss Federal Council.
  • Swiss watches, including renowned brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Omega, are synonymous with exceptional quality and craftsmanship.
  • Owning a Swiss watch signifies a sense of luxury, prestige, and timeless style, making it a prized possession and an investment for generations to come.

Looking to buy or sell your luxury watches? Watch Exchange is your one-stop destination for trading Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tissot, Sinn, Zenith, and other luxury timepieces. Find your next watch today or list your item for free!


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