Swiss watches have dominated the watch-making business with their best in class reputation. But how did Switzerland become the paragon of excellence in watch-making?
It was actually religious persecution during the 1600’s that started it all.
The Protestant Reformation, inaugurated by Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church, began a wave of reform that swept across Europe. Many French Protestants were persecuted by the French Catholic government and forced to flee France, establishing settlements elsewhere in Europe, including Geneva, Switzerland.
In Switzerland, John Calvin became a leader of the movement, reforming not only Church doctrine, but also the city of Geneva. The Reformation cry, “Sola Fide (Faith Alone) and Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)”, was taken quite literally by Calvin who banned the wearing of jewelry, among other things.
Local goldsmiths had to figure out other ways of making a living and refugees from France came to the rescue, teaching the jewelers how to make watches. Since watches were deemed as “practical” instruments, production was allowed. Using the refugees’ knowledge of watchmaking, and their own skill in aesthetic beauty, they came together to create the most accurate and beautiful pocket watches in all of Europe. By the time the ban on jewelry was lifted, the Swiss had established themselves as the forerunners in watch-making.