Is IWC the Only Brand Made in the German Part of Switzerland

Posted by Jack Freedman on June 25, 1998 at 04:28:59:

In Reply to: Is IWC the only brand made in the German part of Switzerland posted by Fred Bart on June 25, 1998 at 03:03:37:

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: Can anyone name a major Swiss brand (other than IWC) that is not assembled or primarily made in the French speaking part of Switzerland? IWC is made in Schaffhausen, which is a German speaking area. Most other brands are made in the French speaking areas, including Geneva, Biel, Neuchatel and the area surrounding the Lac de Joux. Blancpain recently moved to a town (Paudex) near Lausanne.

: Any thoughts on the cultural reasons why most watches are made in these areas? IWC was founded by a US Citizen. Was there a reason why he moved to Schaffhausen? (An area with water power, and a history of arms and machinery makers)

: Thanks for your thougts on this matter.

: Fred Bart

Hello Fred,

There are other, lesser known, brands in the Swiss “German” region but I cannot rattle off any names. One manufacturer which comes to mind is MONDAINE which has recently become well known for their “railway” style watches. They are based in Zurich, only 45 minutes from Schaffhausen.

A good reason why most watch companies are centered in the French speaking region is that it mostly began when the farmers, locked in their homes during long harsh winters, were forced to find a craft with which to support themselves. Thus, the Valley de Joux region – with its peace and serenity – became a focal point of
watch making. In relative close proximity to Geneva, a city well known for its exquisite jewelry and
watch making, the farmer/watchmakers toiled away the long winter months to create some of the world’s most fascinating timepieces.

Although times have changed, there are companies which continue to market their watches with the same theme wanting you to believe that a bearded craftsman is sitting at the bench humped over single-handedly assembling your watch from beginning to end. I’m sure you have seen the “farmhouse” in company literature.

The German speaking region of Switzerland tended to be more industrialized or connected with commerce. Which is why cities like Zurich or Basel are noted for their banking and pharmaceutical industries. The attraction of Florence Jones, founder of IWC, to Schaffhausen was definitely the spectacular “water falls” of the Rhine river located just ten minutes away. Beauty aside, it was the means of available cheap electricity which enabled IWC to establish itself in an industrialized factory setting next door to other existing machinery makers.

Today, IWC, a prestigious watch manufacturer in a class by itself, enjoys special reverence since it’s isolated from the rest of the luxury watch industry located on the other side – in the French region – of the country.

Jack Freedman

Posted by Hans Zbinden on June 25, 1998 at 05:11:35:

In Reply to: Is IWC the only brand made in the German part of Switzerland posted by Fred Bart on June 25, 1998 at 03:03:37:

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Hi Fred
Many watch companies were located in a canton (state) called Solothurn which is predominantly German-speaking but borders on the French-speaking part of Switzerland. In towns like Grenchen and Solothurn you’ll still find headquarters and factories of brands like Breitling, Fortis, Roamer or Titoni. These towns used to be major centers of the Swiss watch making industry but unlike their western (French speaking) counterparts never fully recovered from the quartz shock in the 70’s.

Oris are located in German-speaking Holstein which is a bit north-east of the watch-center. Still, Switzerland is such a small country that you’re hardly ever more than a two hours away from the French-speaking part.

A few watch companies and parts makers have established themselves in the north and northeast of Switzerland but it’s very well possible that you’ve never heard of them. For what it’s worth, here are a few: Itraco, Inducta, Grovana…not much I’m afraid.