It’s no secret that there are more loopholes in ‘Swiss Made’ regulations laid out for watches than there are holes in Emmental cheese. The fact that only 60 percent of the manufacturing costs needs to happen in Switzerland means it is fair game for brands to turn to Asia disproportionately in the production process. And we are not even going to talk bracelets and straps here.
In an ideal world, there should be no blowback to manufacturers admitting production of some components happen in China. However, given the fact that a “Swiss Made” watch can charge a premium over watches made in other countries just by virtue of those two words printed on the dial, it does seem unfair companies are only required to have a little more than half of their components to be of Swiss origin. It’s a regulatory issue that many in the industry have railed against. In a satirical move, the Schaffhausen-based H. Moser & Co. even famously produced a watch with a case that is 100 per cent natural and entirely Swiss: cheese.
Lionel Bruneau, however, saw an opportunity. The Frenchman reckoned that there was market for 100 percent Swiss watches at a fair price given that most new indie brands were using Chinese-made components. A filmmaker by profession, Bruneau reckons for some clients the fact that a watch is completely “Swiss Made” is very important. “I would say 50 percent. The other half they don’t care much, just like the watch as it is, and at that price,” he says.
A resolute Bruneau founded Ultramarine, a micro brand that claims to use all it components from suppliers in Switzerland. A complete outsider in the industry, he says he was initially naïve enough to think that just the quality of the product and price offering will be enough to attract backers. When his Kickstarter campaign went belly up, he decided to finance the project himself.
“The prototype was good enough to convince 40 clients to pre-order the watch. I also had the help of my Swiss partners, who liked the idea of 100 percent local work,” says Bruneau. His Swiss suppliers were only too happy to work with him, troubled as they were by the increasing precedent of seeing their work being shipped to Asia and even Mauritius (a Swiss dial maker now has a factory in the island nation in the Indian Ocean).
Ultramarine’s first model — a dual-timer called Morse — is made entirely in Switzerland and is powered by Eterna’s Caliber 3914A movement fitted with a GMT module. Bruneau says he was a “bit tired of seeing ETA and ETA clones everywhere”. However, the two biggest reasons he chose the Eterna movement are the power reserve (65 hours as opposed to ETA’s 38/42 hours) and the diameter of the Cal. 39. The fact that it measures 30 mm ensures that the date window is right where he intends it to be on the dial. “Also it’s quite a rare, and my clients love that. It is also expensive, one can buy 5 Sellita movements for the piece of one Eterna caliber,” he adds.
Eagle-eyed readers will notice I.O.E.S printed on the dial at the 6 o’ clock position usually reserved for the Swiss Made marking. This abbreviation stands for Intégralement Ouvré En Suisse which when translated from French means ‘Fully Manufactured in Switzerland’ — when you have made the effort of isolating your production to Switzerland entirely, it makes sense to wear that badge proudly on the dial.
Bruneau says he consulted the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) before using the I.O.E.S designation on the dial. He says that he can prove the watch is 100 percent made in Switzerland if he’s asked to substantiate the claim. Take the Morse for example: Caliber 3914A is supplied by the Grenchen-based Eterna, the case is made by Bouille & Cie. in Neuchatel, hands by GMG in Le Locle, the leather strap is sourced from Créations Perrin Suisse, the buckle by Cornu and the dials by Fehr & Cie., all based in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The watch is assembled by MTK 2.0 in Bulle, Fribourg.
The fledgling brand’s second offering is named the Albatros. This is a modern take on the classic Pilot’s Watch and will be powered by Eterna movements as well – Caliber 3902A and 3909A. The watch is now in the pre-order stage and is available from the brand’s website. A diver’s watch called Beluga is slated for a 2020 release. Bruneau wants to have six different models by 2023 and also offer variations of existing models every year.
For more information about Ultramarine watches, log on to their website.