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Running Like A Swiss Watch: Tradition, Precision, and the IRD Brand

November 18, 2016

Throughout human history, some products and practices establish themselves as exemplars — the pinnacle of what human ingenuity and engineering can achieve. German beer, Wisconsin cheese, Roman sculptures, American jazz: all are the best and brightest examples of their craft.

One of the most significant instances of this phenomenon is Switzerland’s watchmaking industry. Since the 1700s, the Swiss have dominated the international watch engineering landscape with a trademark combination of mechanical efficiency, aesthetic appeal, and above all a single-minded commitment to precision.

IRD’s commitment to this level of excellence — as evidenced by our exemplary product quality and 98% on-time delivery rate — speaks for itself. So what can be learned from the Swiss?

A Brief History

The tale of how Switzerland’s watchmaking industry attained its position is an object lesson in how economic interests can shape a cultural movement. Germany is generally held as the watch’s country of origination — specifically, 16th-century Nuremberg locksmith Peter Henlein’s invention of small, portable clocks that could be affixed to clothing or worn as necklaces. In the following years, many other European countries provided complementary technological advancements such as balance springs (Denmark) and Lépine calibers (France). But over the course of 300 years, the Swiss steadily and inexorably established themselves as the champions of the industry.

Ascendancy

The turning point came in roughly 1800, when new industrialization processes made it possible for a new era of mass-produced watch components. This movement landed in squarely among Swiss farmers, who spent the snowy winter months producing components for horologists in Geneva. The Swiss’ industriousness, autonomy, and diligence soon earned the workers a reputation as the best of the best. However, the industry was still operating under what was known as the établissage model, where watches were assembled from disparate pieces created by a wide variety of craftsmen. This model produced new watches at a pace that far outstripped English or German firms, but the product itself was of low quality.

At the time, Switzerland’s government system was exceptionally decentralized, with every valley operating under its own city center. This decentralization directly contributed to the development of what has become the artisanal model of craftsmanship: bringing all craftsmen under one roof with the goal of top-to-bottom quality. By setting quality as the goal, rather than production volume or pure profit, the Swiss watch industry established a sterling reputation that led to greater demand for Swiss watches than any other kind of watch in the world. To date, Swiss watch is a term synonymous with quality.

Lessons Learned

So what does IRD Glass take away from Switzerland’s story? Three core concepts: autonomy, diligence, and pride. Swiss watchmakers outperformed their rivals because they were granted the freedom to operate — and with ownership of the work comes ownership of the results. IRD operates on a cell-based manufacturing model, and we only hire employees that are committed to providing customers with an exceptional experience. Whether the end result is a custom prism set or a beautifully-tooled timepiece, the approach — and the result — comes from the same source.