Switzerland is one of the world's largest watch manufacturers. In terms of value, it is responsible for about half of all world production. The average price of a watch exported from Switzerland in 2006 was 410 dollars. But along with its luxury output, Switzerland is also known for the world's best selling plastic watch: the Swatch.
The watch industry exports 95% of its products, according to the export promotion body, OSEC.
Few raw materials, plenty of work
The most complex watch in the world is probably the Calibre 89 made by Patek Philippe for its 150th anniversary in 1989. It contains 1728 parts, and four people spent nine years working on it from initial research and design to final assembly.
The quality of Swiss products is the basis of a successful export economy. The Swiss have a reputation for hard work and a tendency towards precision.
A luxury watch consists of more than 300 parts. A great deal of thought and meticulous work is put in to fitting the most complex mechanisms into the smallest casings. The materials used for a watch make up just a fraction of the cost of the finished product.
An industry with rural and regional roots
Watches used to be made in winter, when there was less work to do on the farms. Even today, many luxury watches are produced in rural areas, like the vallée de Joux in the Jura mountains of Canton Vaud.
However, the main watchmaking industry is concentrated in towns along the Jura, like La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle in Canton Neuchâtel, Biel in Canton Bern and Grenchen in Canton Solothurn.