Why is a Swiss made watch a better watch?

wacg0101_1I was waiting on a guest the other day when he told me he would like to get himself a nice dress watch for work. I asked him what he did for a living and he told me he was an account executive for a large company. I immediately thought a Movado watch would be a great fit. It would look great with the suit he was wearing, show he had great style, and let his clients know he was successful. I showed him my choice and he looked at me with a little shock. The price on the watch was about $750 and he could not understand how a watch could cost that much. He pointed to his current watch and noted it had cost around $200. I explained that the watch on his wrist was not made like the Movado and was worth about $200......and the Movado was worth every penny of the $750.

So what makes the $750 watch a better watch??


Let's start with the actual metal the watch is made out of. Swiss made watches are almost always made with316L surgical steel. This is done for a couple of reasons. First, it makes the steel extremely hard. This allows the metal to both take and retain a polish better than other, lower grade steel watches. Simply put, the watch will look better for longer. Second, this steel alloy is the most corrosion resistant of all steel alloys. That means the watch is more resistant to rust than lower grade counterparts. Lastly, because the steel is so hard, it can bere-polished to almost new condition anytime it gets scratched (with the exception of plated parts).



wbug0110_1If you inspect a Swiss watch, you will notice it is usually rather heavy in comparison to non-Swiss watches. This is due to the fact that all Swiss watches use solid steel links and cases. Many non-Swiss watches use hollow links that can bend or distort under pressure. Some, in fact, are made by rolling steel. This makes a link which can be distorted rather easily, sometimes resulting in scratchy or "rough" spots against the wrist. In many cases, non-Swiss watches are not even made out of steel. They can be plastic or a mix of base metal. If you have ever had a band corrode, you have owned a base metal watch. Steel will not do this to you.


The clear face of the watch, or the crystal is also different. Most Swiss watches generally use a synthetic sapphire crystal. They are used due to their extreme hardness (a 9 on theMohs scale.) for scratch resistance. If you have ever owned a Swiss watch, take a look at the crystal. You will find it most likely looks as good as the day you first purchased it. They are hard enough, in fact, that you can take a car or house key to them and they will not scratch. Standard watches usually use a hardenedmineral glass crystal. These are not nearly as hard as the sapphire, nor ore they near the expense. A sapphire crystal can start at $90 or moreversus a hardened Mineral at about $25.

Link pins

The pins that join the links together and to each other in a Swiss watch areusually a pin and sleeve versus just a pin in non-Swiss watches. This seems like a small detail until you understand that the links must rotate. In a pin watch, the link rotates on the pin. As we all know, metal on metal wears. Where the pin is also the source of the tension, the wear makes the pin smaller and eventually allows the pin to slide out of the band. On the pin and sleeve model, the band rotates on the sleeve while the pin retains the tension. No wear on the pin means it takes much longer to wear out the pins in a Swiss watch.

Band caps

The band caps, or the connecting link that links the band to the case of the watch is solid on a Swiss watch. Other makes are hollow. Again, this seems rather minor until you break pin after pin. The solid cap actually works to support a large percentage of the watch pin holding the band on. Force against the pin is therefore distributed over the entire length of the pin. Compare that to a non-Swiss. The band cap is hollow and only contacts the pin in small areas. When force is applied, it will tend to first distort and then break the pin because all the force is concentrated in those few small areas.


The movement, or the mechanical works of the watch is the heart of the watch and can account for 1/3 to 1/2 the overall price of the watch. In Swiss watches, these movements are hand assembled and made with metal gears. that means a watchmaker actually is responsible for ensuring each watch is put together correctly. Not so in non-Swiss. Most others use plastic gears and assembly lines to make their watches. There are certainly quality control checks, but not on every watch. Like most manufacturing plants, they verify a select group in each production run. In terms of longevity, the Swiss watch has the edge here as well. Metal gears do not wear as quickly as the plastic ones. Also, many plastic movements are sealed and must be replaced, whereas the Swiss movement can be serviced.....that means you can hand it down!

The verdict


wesl0199_1Swiss watches are much better made than their counterparts. They are not made to be "throw away" watches, but instead are designed to give generations of wear. When you consider a watch, ask yourself a simple question: "How will I feel when this watch wears out?" If you love it, what a sad day that will be......unless it is Swiss....then you can fix it.

As to my guest - he did not buy the Movado, but understood the differences and the price. In the end, he picked a $400 watch which offered some of the upgrades I mentioned above. In the end, he was better able to choose a watch that fit his budget and expectations, that's the best anyone could want.

About the Blogger:


mark-poulin2-web20111Mark Poulin, Store Manager, Auburn Day's Jewelers

Originally from Michigan, Mark decided to settle in Maine because of the wonderful quality of life and because it is a beautiful and safe place to raise his children. Read more...