From Jacques David to Nicolas Hayek- Third edition
1Introduction For nearly two centuries, Swiss watches have exerted an insolent domina- tion over the world market. Moreover, despite several crises, this suprem- acy has never been successfully challenged. The success story of the Swiss watch industry has been and still is largely explained as the result of a long tradition of manufacturing precision instruments, a widely shared techni- cal culture, and an industrial organization as a ﬂ exible production system which enabled it to answer all the needs of customers. However, this tra- ditional account, currently kept alive by the marketing strategies of watch companies and highlighting a kind of a timeless “Swiss genius”, has to be reconsidered in the light of economic history. Watchmaking is certainly one of the oldest and most representative industries of Switzerland. A quick glance at the evolution of the foreign trade statistics of the country between 1840 and 2000 makes this impor- tance evident (Table 1). During these two centuries of history, watch- making is indeed one of the four main Swiss export industries. Together with textiles, machines and chemicals, it largely contributed to making Switzerland one of the richest countries of the world. The structure of foreign trade shows that watchmaking is, after textiles, the second largest export industry of Switzerland between 1840 and 1937, and even the ﬁ rst in 1953. Moreover, its importance tends to strengthen during these years, with the percentage of exports growing from 8.2% to 21.1%. In the second part of the 20th century, watchmaking is third, below chemicals...
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