That is the question!
A lot of people think of $10,000 Rolexes, making payments on a credit card, and making a major sacrifice.
Even though I am more partial to Japanese, Swiss Made is universally accepted as the gold standard. However, did you know that by the late 1970’s and early 1980’s — Swiss watch making was basically dead? The Rolex Daytona was considered undesirable (while today it’s the hottest model). Seiko had started putting nails in the coffin for the Swiss. But the casket never shut completely and Swiss watchmaking came roaring back in the 80’s.
Why? One brand — Swatch! The story has been told over and over, but let me tell you in “Reader’s Digest” form. Swatch found that they could make quartz (battery powered) movements to compete with the Japanese and sell fun watches that are disposable for about $50 or so. In 1983, they brought Swiss watchmaking to a new generation. They made hundreds of millions of $$ doing this and they funneled that money back into their legacy brands like Longines, Omega, Hamilton Tissot, and Certina. Those brands live on today and are strong. These Swiss brands and others all had to go upmarket to survive. Watch sales are on fire during this pandemic era!
Hamilton sells this beautiful automatic field watch for $575 ($625 with bracelet)
Swatch sells this watch w/ battery for $80
(looks like a larger version of my first watch as a kid)
How are they doing it at those price points? The Swiss Made standard says that 60% of the value (not contents) have to be derived from Switzerland. On these less expensive models — the strap / bracelet, glass, dial, hands, and case are often coming from the Far East. It’s a reality. The movement, whether battery or mechanical is made in Switzerland. The watch is assembled there too. Swiss labor isn’t cheap. They can easily say 60% of the value comes from Switzerland. The technicalities would not dissuade me from buying a Swiss watch like this. Let’s face it, a lot more people in the world can afford $300 watches than $10,000 watches.
If someone wants to be a purist — you can spend a little more. For example — Dekla watches are all German made, except for their Swiss mechanical movements. (About $650+ with the conversion of Euros)
The Timex American Documents are all American Made (higher standard that Swiss Made) except for the Swiss quartz movement.
So my take away point is, yes you can get a Swiss Made watch for $150 or even $80 and have a meaningful experience. Watches tell stories about our lives.