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The Unvarnished Truth about Victorinox Swiss Army Watches

Updated on March 1, 2016

The History of the Swiss Army Watch: How Victorinox Redefined Itself and Created a Beautiful Timepiece

The new Victorinox watch factory, built in 2002.
The new Victorinox watch factory, built in 2002.

The business that is responsible for creating the Swiss Army name brand, which is called Victorinox, has been around over a 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

Swiss Army watches are becoming known for their high quality and affordable price.
Swiss Army watches are becoming known for their high quality and affordable price.

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 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 the 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 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 to necessary to satisfy global demand—quite the feat.

Beware of watches that claim they're "Swiss Made"!

This watch looks like the real deal, but it's nowhere near the same quality as a real Swiss watch.
This watch looks like the real deal, but it's nowhere near the same quality as a real Swiss watch.

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, customer 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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    • profile image

      Lance Harriss 4 weeks ago

      The Airboss Mechanical Black Edition is a Nice Automatic from Victorinox..There are not many Autos left in their line..I wish they used a 10 year lithium battery in their Quartz models....

    • profile image

      Lance Harriss 4 weeks ago

      Swiss army watches are now mainly quartz the officer automatic line is gone. Ugly styles

    • profile image

      Jim 5 weeks ago

      go back to pre K

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      Hubaido 3 months ago

      I bought a victorinox base camp chronograph watch 3 years ago and although I love the look of the watch the build quality has disappointed. I had to replace the metal watch strap twice which is ridiculous. The watch just fell of my wrist both times luckily not damaging the face. The watch bands were not been put under any strain either time they broke. Decided to replace the metal strap with the black rubber version the newer base camps watches are coming with. Hopefully this is the last time I heed to replace anything on this watch for a while.

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      Kenny 5 months ago

      I have two Victorinox watches, both use ETA 2824-2 movements. I have not had any problems with these watch, they are my favorite everyday watches. both have a field watch inspired look, but with modern styling. They look and run great. I don't know much about their quartz movements except that they are Ronda quartz movements.

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      Bill 6 months ago

      Bought a titanium, chronograph, #241171 I think. I get comments on this watch whenever I wear it. The movement is accurate of less than one second monthly...I shower with it. It's so light, but so handsome, too. I own or have owned more than 100 watches and this one is my favorite...it is lightweight, stunningly attractive, and absolutely accurate! Some of the comments on this site must be bogas! Come on people, don't you have anything better to do....?

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      J Benzito 8 months ago

      Nov 2015 my wife bought me a Victorinox Swiss Army Men's 241444 Chronograph for my birthday. Around the same date last year, I noticed that the hand on one of the sub-dials had fallen off, and was just rolling around in the case. I took it to the jewelry store where she'd purchased it - thinking, hey no problem, - it's covered under a three year limited warranty, which includes the hands - expressly. However, I was just informed that Victorinox would not be honoring the warranty, and instead I was quoted a repair bill of 181.00 dollars. First, I don't expect these sorts of issues with a Swiss made watch. Secondly, when problems do occur, I would like to think that the level of customer service would rise above the norm. i will be speaking again to the jewelry store on Monday, as I have refused the repair. I would like to know why the repair claim was denied.

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      nicolas 9 months ago

      I bought 1 of these so called great Victorinox watch, it does not keep the time!!! the battery is dead after less than a year. I sent it to Victorinix and they told me there was no problem with it but the time is not acurate... I don't use it, what is the point to have watch wich does not keep the time. You can have some casio for around 6 gbp and it is much better. Don't buy any victorinox, i have a seiko with is 25 years old, time is accurate and i changed the battery 3 times and it was much cheaper!!

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      Jon8250 9 months ago

      I have had a couple of Victorinox watches and one Wenger. My fist Voctorinox was an inexpensive nylon strap watch and it held up to a lot of abuse. Eventually it got condensation under the crystal but still keeps good time. I felt it was not worth repairing but I beat the heck out of that watch and noting else would have help up any better. The better of the three I regret buying because of the unique band that they no longer produce. If I would have bought the metal bracelet I would have no complaints. I don't wear it often but it is almost 20 years old and keeps perfect time. My third is a inexpensive Wenger. Tough and keeps perfect time. I just bought a Victorinox automatic that I expect will be just fine.

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      TenTanToes 10 months ago

      Female owner of one of the real SWISS ARMY watches. I bought it for $5

      at a thrift store...I was the 1st who knew how to work the triple-deployment

      clasp. The crystal, I assume sapphire, already had a deep scratch.

      Been through a lot before I myself put it through a bit more.

      It's still going, tho I rarely wear it. But, as with my ugly but running automatic Bulova I had since barely a teen, in '72, they do not make them like they used to. Do they?

      I'm scared off on Victorinox now.

    • profile image

      Ed 10 months ago

      A lot of these comments sound like Amazon reviews from people who know nothing about watches. Just saying.

    • profile image

      BigO824 11 months ago

      I've had a Victorinox that I purchased 13 years ago. Replaced a few batteries but other than that it works as great as it did the day I purchased it.

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      Jeff S. 12 months ago

      They are great-looking watches that always feel solid and sturdy, but the movements simply do not last. I am on my second in ten years and it just stopped at about two years old. The first one did last longer but started loosing time after just a couple years. These were two of the most expensive watches they make. Luckily this one is still under warranty. Company would probably have to do something quite bold to ever get me to buy another one. Already feel kind of dumb for giving them a second chance. I suppose its possible I just wasn't careful enough with the first one. But that has definitely NOT been the case with the second one. Just a bummer, because they really are some of the nicest looking and feeling watches out there, regardless of price. But I guess a beautiful-looking watch under $1000 is the same thing as a beautiful-looking car under $20,000. You really do get what you pay for.

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      Bryan M. 13 months ago

      I got Victorinox and I love it. Even I've tested it in a engine of diesel it doesn't fall out. Maybe you guys buy the fake ones and not the real one.

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      Philip Arminio 13 months ago

      I love my green Inox. It is extremely accurate and solid as a rock. Oh I failed to mention quite beautiful as well. I get comments on it every single time I wear it.

    • wshillington profile image

      Walter Shillington 13 months ago from Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Not a lot of love for Victorinox expressed in the comments section of this article. I think I'll stick to my cheap Chinese automatics.

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      jorgef2002 13 months ago

      I have a collection of about 200 + watches, several Swiss army,victorinox,wenger,of all the customers service/repair,the worst is victorinox swiss army,one by one they have been dying or stopping working,one an ODYSSEY the minutes hand is stuck,another model VIP,the crown does not move the hands,another the seconds hand instead of moving like a second at a time,moves like 3 seconds at a time ,then stops for a second or two and then moves again the same way, the fourth one ,just stopped working I though it was the battery,took it to my watchmaker/repair shop,changed the battery 2 x and a big NOTHING,he estimated that to repair it will cost me more than the watch,$350.00,I decided to call Swiss Army ,to check on repair cost,they answer ,we do not stock after a while,great you buy a brand that u think is a quality brand, and them they last 1 year or two and that is it,they advice me to check around to c if repair shops had parts,yea right parts for all four.do not BU buy swiss army,victorinox or wenger ,buyer beware,they look solid but technically and quality wise junk.

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      JoshD 14 months ago

      I had purchased 7 of these watches in a relatively quick succession. I wish I hadn't. I purchased them all at a company store over the coarse of about two years. Each one has been nothing but aggravation. They all worked fine for a just over 2 years, then as expected the battery dies. Not a problem right? But weight there is more... this is when the fun starts. I Learned I needed to send them back to the company for battery replacement. I do and it cost $55. Fast forward to say the second and 3rd battery replacement.... NO NO NO ... they are broken. How they hell can 3 watches be broken... Never been worn other than to my office for business casual type ware. I work at desk. The repair cost about $300!!! Very expensive watches when cost of repair added in ever two or three years. After the second or third time being sent back I have given up. I have now have a box of 3 non-functioning watches. As they others' batteries die they will go into the dead watch box as well. I still use the same Timex I got at basic training in 1988. I can change the battery myself and it works fine. It looks like crap, but works. Buyer beware.

      Peace

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      www.forsining.com 14 months ago

      i think that it is very cool!

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      Montecristo 17 months ago

      I bought a nice Victorinox wrist watch which was quite expensive. Some few days after starting to use it, I realized that bot the chronometer second pointer and the tenths of second pointer would not be reset to their normal position after stopping the chronometer. I managed to find a solution in Internet which seemed to solve the problem by clicking the upper and lower buttons with the remontoir open, and the pointers went back to the right place. Even when this is not supposed to happen on a good quality watch, I accepted it. The problem went on happening many,many times and I always solved it as explained. But now the small pointer in the left which counts the minutes when using the chronograph has also stopped in an abnormal position and I cannot take it back to the right one by any means. No explanation on their site. No Technical Service available which would be able to solve the issue. Summing up: Very pretty watch,but that is all there is to it. The Swiss prestige has fallen to the floor in my opinion.

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      Mitch 17 months ago

      I have had three of their watches over the last few years. The last one that I purcased just over a year ago I had to return the next day because one of the numbers fell off of its face. The replacement for it just packed it in. The second hand stcks in one spot but if you tap the watch it might run for a while. I sent it out a few weeks ago thinking that it should be a warranty repair but they just left me a message saying the estimate for repairs is ready. I realy dont recommend purchasing one of their watches. Obviously they are having quality issues. Just my opinion though.

    • wshillington profile image

      Walter Shillington 17 months ago from Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada

      In 2005 Victorinox bought Wenger. That probably accounts for Mark333's comment.

    • profile image

      Allam 18 months ago

      MArk333 is confusing Victorinox with Wenger.

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      mark333 20 months ago

      bad quality and poor customer service. Watch braclet broke in less than a year and replacements are not available from Wenger. have to throw away. Will never purchase from them again

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      daPhantom1 22 months ago

      If Onur Polat says his watch only cost $US25 and it is poor quality ...I don't believe anybody should expect to get anything but a fake knock off for that price. I have heard that there are huge markups on watches, but surely that must be below the cost of production.

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      jason 2 years ago

      Just bought my first victorinox. Went for the alliance 214667. It is a beautiful watch. Not flashy but oozes quality.

    • Taranwanderer profile image

      Taranwanderer 2 years ago

      The beige Victorinox is a beauty. I've got to get my hands on it - even though I like metallic links as wrist straps. I'll make an exception if I can find this luxury watch at Amazon. https://hubpages.com/style/luxury-watches-you-cant...

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      HenryLiew 3 years ago

      I just bought a diver 500 blue silicon straps and is beautiful. It's looked very clean, easy to read and it works perfectly but I hoped it doesn't gave troubles and claims.

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      JC Heppler 3 years ago from USA

      I never knew that these watches had so much history. I think that this adds to their uniqueness. I'm all about getting a unique watch that has a deeper meaning to it rather than just some random watch.

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      Onur Polat 4 years ago

      Well, I bought this product considering that it was a good brand. 2. day of my trip in Japan the stitches by the strap came off. I had to fix it. It does not come with extra security belt which means if it tears it is gone. There are holes but you have to find your own string. It is not a good quality product for sure.

      But the customer service was worse. I can not imagine how cheap this company was. I only paid 25 usd for this product. When i shared my opinion about this bad quality product imo and asked for a solution, they asked me to send them back. I paid, almost half of the price of this product, and shipped myself. And they admit that it is not repairable and still making me wait, they do not even give store credit. Such a shame I already paid, did not get the service or product and paid again for shipping and you may replace the item maybe one day ? If I believe this product was good I would not even bother sending it back or pay again on shipment or waste my energy.

      These kind of companies with really terrible customer service should loose customers I believe, that is why I am not going to buy anything with this brand and making everybody around me aware of their service/products.

      And thanks to social media we can let everybody know for them not to do the same mistakes that we did.