What makes Switzerland one of the most successful economies in the world? It is a small, landlocked country, poor in natural resources, its landscape and society dominated by mountains, nevertheless it has become an international top performer and "Made in Switzerland" has become a brand which enjoys a worldwide reputation. Come with us on a journey to explore Swiss quality and Swiss virtues; to discover the origins of Swiss success through examples past and present.
The Swiss are said to be like clockwork: precise, accurate and efficient. Ask about Switzerland, and watches are one of the first things to spring to mind. The Swiss watch industry is the number one showcase sector. The craft of the Swiss watchmaker has its roots in the second half of the 16th century in Geneva. One of the most important trades in this city at that time was the art of the goldsmith. Under Calvin, the religious reformer, the public display of wealth and luxury and the wearing of jewellery were forbidden, so goldsmiths had to search for other outlets for their art. The Huguenots had just introduced the manufacture of wearable watches to Geneva: the union between the art of the goldsmith and the craft of the watchmaker was born. Calvin's obsession with punctuality is also thought to have encouraged the development of watch-making in Geneva. What is certain is that the Swiss first became associated with precision and punctually under 16th century Calvinism. Precision as a feature of Swiss quality is found today in many branches of industry. Thus, Switzerland is respected worldwide as a supplier of specialized tools and machines, and high-precision parts and components for the car and aviation industries.
A little country like Switzerland, poor in natural resources and fertile agricultural land, has to find new means to economic prosperity. The Swiss have therefore developed traditional skills and, thanks to inventive genius, a willingness to take risks, reliability and love of detail, they have achieved outstanding results, always striving to be better than the foreign competition. The survival of Swiss companies has been, and still is, solely dependent on constant innovation. The ideas, courage and risk-taking of Swiss entrepreneurs, founded on a sound education system, are the components of their success. Swiss businesses invest much more in research and development than other world economies.
A convincing, traditional example for the superiority of Swiss inventive genius is the success of the chocolate industry. How could the Swiss become famous for chocolate when it is so expensive to import the ingredients of cocoa and sugar? Through absolute commitment to quality and innovative genius! The Swiss took one of their few raw materials (milk) and, in 1875, they produced a milk chocolate which spread beyond the borders of this tiny alpine country and conquered the world; a Swiss original which has yet to be surpassed. Hazelnut and filled chocolates are also Swiss inventions.
They say that coffee breaks in Switzerland are shorter than anywhere else. It is a fact that the Swiss enjoy only 20 statutory days of paid leave per year - less than most other European states. In a plebiscite held in the spring of 2012 a clear majority of Swiss voted against an increase in the legal minimum of paid leave from four to six weeks. The Swiss are anxious to retain economic competitiveness and job security. A referendum in 2002 proposing the introduction of the 35-hour week was also rejected by a majority of voters. In 2014 the average working week in Switzerland was 41.7 hours (source: Bundesamt für Statistik BFS [Federal Office for Statistics]). Right from the start, hard work, perseverance and reliability have been important factors in the success story of Switzerland, a tiny country with few natural resources. The quality of Swiss workmanship has always rested on a talent for turning cheap source materials into high value products and services through intensive and highly skilled human labour. The backbone of the Swiss economy are small and medium-sized companies. With highly qualified and motivated workforces, they tailor their products absolutely to the specific individual requirements of the customer.
The Swiss pocket knife is a must-have on every expedition. It has long been an indispensable tool, and not just for extreme sports' enthusiasts and adventurers: For safety and peace of mind, always carry a Swiss knife. Come what may, you can rely on the "smallest tool box in the world". The Swiss officers' and sports' knife was developed at the end of the 19th century for soldiers of the Swiss army. The revolutionary idea was to integrate the blade with numerous other implements in one compact, lightweight tool. Today, the Swiss pocket knife has long enjoyed virtual cult status. Along with the classical components of bottle opener, nail file, screwdriver magnifying glass, corkscrew, compass, saw, bodkin and toothpick, modern versions also have a USB stick, laser pointer and Bluetooth remote control. This most reliable of all multi-purpose tools has thus made the transition from a piece of purely outdoor equipment to a modern lifestyle tool for the office.
"As punctual as the Swiss railway" could become a common saying. While in some countries the words punctuality and railway are only used ironically in the same sentence, the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) have an international reputation for absolute reliability. The Swiss railway sets its own particularly high standard: In 2009 they tightened up the standard European five-minute definition of punctuality. Since then, trains are regarded as late if they arrive at their destination more than three minutes after the scheduled time. According to official statistics, in 2014 87.7 percent of SBB customers arrived at their destination on time (source: SBB Facts and Figures).
Swiss cheese is justifiably famous for its unique quality and regularly achieves top marks in international quality competitions. About half the milk produced in Switzerland is used to make cheese. There is an art to cheese-making and it has a long tradition in Switzerland, dating back to the Roman empire. If climatic fluctuations caused a heavy decline in grain production in the mountains, cheese became an important food. It has long been typical for Swiss cheese dairies to produce natural products of the highest quality. Each individual step in the cheese-making process influences the flavour. Swiss cows eat grass in summer and hay in winter. Silage is not permitted so the natural quality of the source material, milk, can be guaranteed. Fast processing of traditionally unpasteurized milk is ensured thanks to the short journey from farmer to village cheese dairy. Even today, production follows traditional methods and recipes and the individual cheeses are traditionally hand-crafted and lovingly tended during the maturing period. The proven maxim is "quality rather than quantity!"