A swiss watch is synonymous with beauty and perfection for everyone around the world. The swiss watchmaking industry has developed over centuries of creation and refinement. Without swiss watches the world of timepieces would almost definitely be unrecognizable. The history behind this industry is fairly fascinating. As shown below, many different circumstances had to happen to allow for the growth of the industry in Switzerland. Below is a brief and condensed history on the origin of swiss watchmaking.

The Beginnings

The first recognizable swiss timepieces were likely developed in Switzerland in the early 16th century. These early watches were more similar to clocks that were portable then the wristwatches present today.  This type of timekeeper was in fact created first in Germany, but it is Switzerland that popularizes and perfects it. These clocks tended to be worn as an adornment on a person’s body rather than on a wrist. They were too large for a person’s pocket but just sizable enough to be worn, though only the rich and nobility could afford the exorbitant priced timepieces.

The Refugee Influence

jewel highlight Rotate kits used for watchmaking

The Swiss became dominant watchmakers following the religious upheavals of the early 16th century. Many wars of religion forced civilians to become refugees across the European continent. Some of these refugees moved to Switzerland, especially Geneva. The religious refugees that fled to Switzerland took their watchmaking expertise with them. Of note, French Huguenots fled persecution in France and brought with them their watchmaking knowledge from France.

The Rise to Prominence

Another result of the religious upheavals was a ban on gold jewelry in the city of Geneva, Switzerland. This gold embargo imposed by John Calvin and the Calvinists drove the goldsmiths and jewelers to turn to watchmaking as an alternative instead of escaping the city. 

Somehow and rather luckily, unlike gold jewelry, watches were not banned and resulted in a lucrative market for the jewelers. Combined with the influx of outside knowledge, the Swiss watch industry only grew from these circumstances and thus the Swiss industry was born.