Inspired by the world of the pocket knife, Victorinox watches come to life at the Watch Competence Centre in Delémont. From steel bar to meticulously finished parts, each stage takes place in an ultra-modern production area.
While the global reputation of the Victorinox pocket knife is now well established, when Karl Elsener I founded his small cutlery workshop in 1884, he had no idea how far this utilitarian object would come. Still based in Ibach, in the canton of Schwyz, the company employs more than 2,200 people, including 1,200 in Switzerland. It has also diversified into kitchen and professional knives, luggage, perfumes and watches.
It was in 1989 that watchmaking made its first entrance into the group. Victorinox sold Swiss Army timepieces under licence through its North American distributor. In 2005, the Group acquired Wenger SA, a watch and cutlery manufacturer based in Delémont. Since then, Victorinox has gradually united its various watchmaking units at the Jura site. To optimise the manufacturing process for its timepieces, the Group decided to renovate and extend the Delémont site by 11,000sqm, thus integrating watch design, development, testing and production within the same factory. The work, which cost around 35 million francs, was completed in 2016. Today, timepieces and watch components are developed, produced and assembled at the Watch Competence Centre for the Victorinox and Wenger brands. The watchmaking business accounts for around 10% of Group sales.
Inspired by the world of cutlery and mainly made of stainless steel, Victorinox timepieces meet the most stringent standards in all respects. Over 90% Swiss made, they come with a five-year guarantee.
Today, a team of seven people at the Delémont site focuses on the research and development of Victorinox timepieces. A large proportion of the components – such as bezels, cases, casing rings and case backs – are produced in workshops equipped with ultra-modern machinery. Millions have been invested to automate operations as far as possible, leaving the more interesting tasks to the specialists. Once machined, the parts are coated with a protective pink lacquer, an industrial process serving to track all the stages involved in finishing the components. Assembly and quality control complete the process, after which the parts are sent to the Seewen distribution centre in the canton of Schwyz.
Victorinox devotes great importance to the quality of all the components used in its timepieces and has its own test centre in Delémont. The watch heads undergo pendulum impact testing (6 kg) and water-resistance testing (to 300 metres), as well as being subjected to variations in heat (5° to 70 °C) and facing up to sea water and chlorine, before completing their journey with lengthy wear-simulation tests. Wristbands undergo a number of wear and tear tests: exposure to UV rays, fading, stretching of materials, etc. The rotating bezels and pushers are also “abused” by the many machines specially designed for these material “torture” sessions. All these preliminary checks ensure the impeccable quality of the materials.
Since 2023, the brand’s collections have been repositioned. While each has its own character, they share the common traits of flawless quality and unrivalled comfort, while their signature design is instantly recognisable.
The first step in this repositioning is the new Journey 1884 range, launched in early 2023 and inspired by the Swiss mountains. Hikers will notably appreciate the hands shaped like path signposts, the solidly rounded case, the shock resistance and the certified water resistance. Because Victorinox aims to be an everyday companion in any kind of activity, the quartz and automatic versions offer maximum freedom.
Last autumn, the watch brand’s most emblematic timepiece named I.N.O.X. was enhanced with a chronograph version. Elegance, bold geometry and industrial codes converge in a combination of functionality, resistance and innovative materials. The result reflects the company’s ability to offer modern sophistication.
The brand’s roots are echoed in the choice of innovative materials used in the production of the different models, with cases in mostly recycled stainless steel, in titanium and in carbon composite versions. Each watch features certified shock resistance (ISO 1413), water resistance to 200 metres (ISO 22810) and anti-magnetic protection (ISO 764), essentially for the quartz models, thus ensuring maximum freedom, whatever the adventure or activity.
In keeping with the spirit of the timepieces’ industrial roots, another special feature of the two new collections launched in 2023 lies in their case sides bearing the “Stainless Steel - AISI 316L” hallmark, borrowed from small knives. Other industrial codes can also be applied depending on the material used.
Highly appreciated options
The new Victorinox watches are teamed with a wide choice of straps – in paracord, rubber, leather, wood and other materials – to suit every outfit and every situation. An innovative system ensures this can be done tool-free, making it easy to personalise a watch in a matter of seconds to suit the circumstances. What’s more, both the Journey 1884 and the I.N.O.X. have the same space between the lugs. Straps from one collection can therefore be easily adapted to the other range and future collections will benefit from the same versatility.
The hard-working teams in Delémont are already announcing two major new products for this year. One is aimed at the sports world, while the other is dedicated to women, who are currently very poorly represented in the collections.
Across its three sites, Victorinox trains around 50 apprentices in its technical, commercial and mechanical departments, offering them the opportunity to obtain a “vocational maturity certificate”. The company actively supports apprentices throughout their training, offering them in-depth specialist knowledge in a family atmosphere and an international environment. Particular importance is also devoted to respect, identification with the company, motivation and reliability.
February 01, 2024