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Swiss Watch Information

The watch and clock industry, Switzerland's third largest exporter after the machine and chemical industries, has only one market : The World. Swiss made timepieces are to be found in all the countries of the globe. And, what is no less surprising, to suit all pockets, or almost so : from quartz fashion watches for a modest price to mechanical masterpieces, made of gold and decorated with precious stones, costing several million francs. It is this wide variety and its worldwide vocation which together have ensured the survival of the industry over the course of centuries.

Structures

Historically, the Swiss watch and clock industry has always had a specialized horizontal structure in which suppliers, craftsmen and sub-contractors supply movements and external parts to assemblers called "établisseurs", who put the final product together. However, to a lesser extent, the industry has also developed a vertically integrated structure in which watches and clocks are sometimes made entirely by the same company, in this case called a "manufacture".

During the 1970s and early 1980s, technological upheavals (appearance of the quartz technology) and the difficult economic situation resulted in a reduction in the size of the industry : the number of employees fell from some 90,000 in 1970 to a little over 30,000 in 1984, a figure which has remained stable over the last thirteen years (40,000 employees in 2004) while the number of companies decreased from about 1,600 in 1970 to about 600 now.

The average number of employees per company has remained constant, at just under 70 people per company in 2004, as in 1970. The great majority of watch companies are small sized companies (employing less than 100 people) while a very little number (less than 10) are each employing over 500 people.

Products

One of the great strengths of the Swiss watch and clock industry, by comparison with its foreign competitors, is its ability to offer the consumer a genuinely comprehensive choice of products.

Would you like a mechanical watch (handwound or automatic) or a quartz watch (with analog or digital display) ?

Do you prefer a diamond-set watch of precious metal or one made of stainless steel, wood, plastic or even high tech ceramic ?

Are your more attracted by a sober classic appearance, a sporty look or a fashionable and trendy design ?

Whatever you want, you will always find something to satisfy you amongst the products of the Swiss watch industry. And if you prefer an alarm or other type of clock to a wristwatch, you will have difficulty in choosing from amongst the vast range of models offered by the Swiss manufacturers of this type of product.

Markets and Competition

While the Swiss watch industry is present all over the world (it exports nearly 95% of its production), it does not carry equal weight everywhere.

Asia and Oceania take 44% of Swiss watch exports in value, Europe 34%, Americas 21% and Africa 1%...and the top fifteen countries represent over 82 % of these exports.

With their worldwide reputation for quality and styling, Swiss watches are not however the only ones to compete for the favours of customers. They have many competitors in the markets, the most serious of these being the Japanese and Hong Kong producers.

In Short

According to a number of economic analysts, the Swiss watch industry was moribond in the middle of the 1970s, having missed out the electronic revolution and being strongly affected by the economic crisis.

But what is the situation now, thirty years later ? Having successfully completed its structural reconversion, the watch industry is today, as it was yesterday, one of the brightest stars in the Swiss economic firmament. Better still, during the last five or six years, it has taken the leading position amongst the country's most successful industries, breaking its own records in exporting each year and going from 4.3 billion francs in 1986 to 13.7 billion in 2006