The Unvarnished Truth About Victorinox Swiss Army Watches
The History of the Swiss Army Watch
The business that is responsible for creating the Swiss Army name brand, which is called Victorinox, has been around for over 100 years. By this point, it’s common knowledge that it makes a pretty badass Swiss Army knife that you can use for just about anything. But people don’t immediately think about watches when they hear "Swiss Army," and that’s a shame. This concise article will explain how the creator of Swiss Army knives even started manufacturing watches in the first place. I hope to also give you a hint of the quality that goes into them.
Victorinox had been crafting its knives for well over a century when the decision-makers within the company decided to expand their product line beyond the classic tool. The key, they knew, was to maintain the expectation of great quality they had created. So the leaders in the company started imagining other possible choices. In 1989, Victorinox decided to start producing a line of Swiss Army watches. By this time, Swiss watchmakers had established their reputation with generations of success. In fact, Geneva was one of the first places where watchmaking became considered an art. When Calvinist rulers forbade goldsmiths from making jewelry in the 16th century, Swiss craftsmen turned to crafting watches, with great results.
A Review of What Sets Victorinox Watches Apart
Victorinox watches are very reasonably priced Swiss-made timepieces—only $350–$550, compared to the thousands Swiss watches can often cost. Below is a rundown of the various features of Swiss Army watches that signal Swiss quality.
- Accurate—Victorinox manufactures its own movements (what makes the watch tick), and they are extremely accurate—they can measure time within a few seconds per year.
- Wear-resistant mechanisms—Synthetic rubies are used in the movement, preventing it from wearing down with use.
- Extremely scratch-proof—All watches are coated crystal hardened to at least twice the industry standard. Standard hardened mineral crystals rate 450 Vickers; Victorinox uses hardened mineral crystals that rate 900 Vickers or sapphire crystals that rate 1,200 Vickers—so hard nothing but diamond can scratch their surface.
Individual watches have different features but are generally very durable. The I.N.O.X. is famous for being built to survive falling from a three-story building, getting run over by a 64-ton tank, and being run through a washing machine, as Victorinox actually demonstrates:
It's All in the Details: The Process of Assembling a Swiss Army Watch
In the early stages of designing its watches, Victorinox ran into an obstacle it would need to overcome: outsourcing the production of the watches, a common practice, would have given away a lot of control over its quality. In order to guarantee high-quality watches, the company would have to control the manufacturing process. To do this, Victorinox actually designed a unique manufacturing facility in 2002 that allowed them full control over the creation of its new watches.
At that point, the company turned its attention to materials. Swiss Army watches are manufactured from only the finest components. The basic mechanism that causes the watch to tick—called the “movement”—comes from a company called ETA. ETA is a Swiss company whose movements are highly sought after. In fact, you can find ETA movements in almost all genuine Swiss-made watches, including in luxury brands such as Tag Heuer and Omega.
Top-of-the-line watches are actually made by hand by specialists, which makes it noteworthy that the Swiss Army produces almost one million wrist watches each year. The company has managed to scale a business model that requires a lot of talented human labor in order to pump out the quantity necessary to satisfy global demand—quite the feat.
Beware of Watches That Claim They're "Swiss Made"!
Swiss watch companies, like so many quality manufacturers, face growing competition from foreign firms selling “knock off” watches of poor quality.
These foreign competitors benefit from a rule which declares that timepieces can be officially called “Swiss” if the movement, the part that literally makes the watch tick, is at least 50 percent sourced from genuine Swiss providers. This rule has opened a loophole for other companies to create shoddy watches and market them as Swiss-made.
Many providers, most noticeably a number in Asia, have taken advantage of (and even abused) this regulation. These foreign companies produce watches made with lower standards than legitimate Swiss-made timepieces and then have the gall to charge a luxury price for them. In other words, newer corporations with no track record of success are relying on the status that Swiss watch companies have earned over more than 100 years. They merely call themselves "Swiss-made," and, as a result, customers assume the product must be top-notch.
In spite of this, while a tiny fraction, only 3 percent, of the millions of timepieces consumers buy in the whole world are made in Switzerland, over 50 percent of the money paid for wristwatches worldwide goes to buying these watches. Every spring, almost 100,000 visitors flock to Switzerland for Baselword, an international watch convention. Though a number of Swiss-made watches go for extravagant prices, (the Patek Phillipe Calibre 89 pocket watch goes for four million dollars, and newer designs can run more than a moderately-priced house), Victorinox offers Swiss quality at moderate prices.
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