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The Unvarnished Truth About Victorinox Swiss Army Watches

I love my Victorinox watch, you can't go wrong with a Swiss Army Watch.

The History of the Swiss Army Watch

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 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 of 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 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"!

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, customers assume the product must be top-notch.

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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.

© 2013 swisswatchguy


Red on June 05, 2020:

I own three of them and my oldest is from 2004 and still keeping time. One reason I like the Victorinox watch is for the styles that they offer, which appeal to me. The quality is also up there, especially on their higher end. And don't forget that Victorinox now owns Wenger. Wenger watches are made in the same factory, but use more economical movements. Both are great quality and will not break the bank.

DJ on May 21, 2020:

I don't care what anyone says to knock Swiss Army watches. Swiss Army is simply the best, accurate, durable, awesome. I just upgraded to a Victorinox, Awesome. My previous Swiss Army watch I've owned since '99-(21 years old with hard wear). I figured it was time to upgrade anyway. The only thing it needed was a new battery. Nevertheless, Swiss Army watches are #1. Also mind you I'm obsessed with time....The fiat and last thing I look at is me Swiss Army watch. My Jeweler agrees 100%.

Be safe, stay on time!!

Jim on March 22, 2020:

I have tried 3 different Swiss Army watches. I have maintained them but they have all failed. Purchased a Timex made in China for $45. Works great. Highly recommend NEVER buying a Swiss watch. Their "quality" is all hype.

Star Kernow on March 05, 2020:

The comments on here from "joker" and "gooner larson" are proof that both of them are morons

Rajuncajun1 on January 09, 2020:

Great information on a great company that makes high quality products. I own several products made by Victorinox, Swiss Army, & Wenger, including several watches, luggage, Swiss Army Knives (Alox is my #1 favorite), Computer Bags, & many more. I've honestly never had a single problem with any item made by any Victorinox company. I also loved the video showing how durable the I.N.O.X. watches are! I'd never seen that one. Thanks again for the informative article!

Steve on October 26, 2019:

I own a 1990 "Swiss Army" not with the Victorinox logo, and it has worked well since. Replaced the Renata 394 battery twice. The second hand has fallen of and is stuck on the bottom where 6 is on the dial. It still runs and keeps good time. There is a 1/16 hole in the crystal at 11o'clock also. I still wear it and have changed the wrist band from the original strap, as it wore out and replaced with a rubber strap off a dive watch. This watch has been through everything. Fire, dropped off ledge while I was changing gear,

David on April 06, 2019:

I have a silver inox watch. It is robust and was a wedding anniversary gift. Excellent, very please with it. Dress it up and dressed down looks great on the wrist. I read all the reviews prior to purchase, a great buy.

Happy happy!

Spottie on March 12, 2019:

Bought mine 2 years ago and have had no problems. The watch looks good, feels good and Looks the same as the day I bought it. I work in construction and my watches get beat to hellł , bought this watch because of the commercial of them running a tank over, tying it to a weather balloon and letting

It go to the edge of leaving the atmospher and freezing it in a block of ice only to put a torch to get it out(there are more but those were the 3 that convinced me to purchase mine. I have almost put mine through those test examples through my job. Maybe not alll the watches are made with the pride mine was or maybe people who like to complain are.................well.............complaining, what a shame how some people expect something to preform and do things there not made or designed to do. I expected it to keep accurate time be able to take a beating and never have to look for another watch again, so far yep, yep and yep

BeeJay57 on February 18, 2019:

Don't waste your money. $535 for a Victorinox Swiss Army Quartz 3 hand 241473 watch. Worked for four months. I returned from Afghanistan and had the battery replaced which is very expensive and it worked fine for two months and then it started to die again. It was sent in and they want $140 to fix a watch which is under warranty. I asked it is was reasonable that it cost $140 twice a year to keep the watch working okay they said yes. It took almost two months to get the information needed just to send it in. The operations in their office is terrible also. No one there knows what they are doing.

I will now need to through out a watch that I have $650 invested in and have worn about 25 times. NOT A GOOD THING.

After reading other reviews of the knives and other items I will never purchase one of their products ever again. I guess I will need to get more Japanese products instead - probably made in China - but at least they are reliable and will work for a long time.

Robert on October 13, 2018:

I bought a calvary watch as I was a mounted patrol officer with a victernox movement (excuse the spelling). I was also an avid rock climber and mounteneer. Worked great through the first battery, sent it in to factory for replacement, took 7 weeks, battery lasted only 1 month, took it to a local watch shop and they replaced the battery, again battery lasted only 1 month. Needless to say I wasted my money on this one.

The reason I am writing this is, I am kinda old and this watch has been my companion through some hairy situations. I would like to have it run again but I'll be damned if I ever buy or send anything to this co. again. No customer care or responsibility of workmanship.

Joker on September 22, 2018:

Every 'Swiss' watch under $1000 is made in China and assembled in Switzerland. That is enough to qualify as 'Swiss Made'.

The in house movements are generic ETA.

Jvin on March 12, 2018:

I am shocked by these negative comments comments - I have about 10 of their watches and I have never had a single issue with any and all of mine were purchased at the warehouse sales over the years. I have never had an issue with any of the automatics.

gooner larson on March 08, 2018:

"manufactures it own movements"

Should not be in the same story as

"uses ETA movements"


Lance Harriss on September 19, 2017:

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....

Lance Harriss on September 14, 2017:

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

Jim on September 13, 2017:

go back to pre K

Hubaido on June 26, 2017:

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.

Kenny on April 25, 2017:

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.

Bill on April 21, 2017:

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 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....?

J Benzito on February 04, 2017:

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.