Switzerland explained For Members

Cuckoo clocks and Toblerone: The 'Swiss' products that are not actually Swiss

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Cuckoo clocks and Toblerone: The 'Swiss' products that are not actually Swiss
Remember to change the time on your cuckoo clock. Image by Regina Basaran from Pixabay

It used to be that Swiss chocolate, watches, cheeses, and other products were, well, 100 percent Swiss. But that is no longer the case. We unravel the mysteries of what is actually manufactured in Switzerland and what isn’t.


The chocolate and cheese saga...

What is this world coming to?

The Toblerone, which as every chocolate lover knows, is made in Switzerland, will soon no longer be. 

While it is still partially manufactured in its city of origin, Bern, some of the production activity is being moved to Bratislava, Slovakia, which means that from July 2023, Toblerone will have a more international flavour — figuratively speaking.

It also means that the iconic Matterhorn will no longer be depicted on the packaging, and will be replaced by a generic mountain image instead.

READ MORE: Why is Switzerland's famous Matterhorn mountain disappearing from Toblerone bars?


But that’s not all.

The Gruyère which, as everyone in the world (except in America) knows, is the quintessential Swiss cheese has been stripped of its ‘Swissness’ by a US appeals court. The court ruled on Friday that the word "gruyere" is a common label for cheese and cannot be reserved just for the kind made in Switzerland.

READ MORE: US-made cheese can be called 'gruyere' too: court

Sorry, you are no longer Swiss. Photo by ELIOT BLONDET / AFP


The reason for all this is that we live in society, where national lines and identities are becoming blurred by globalisation.

READ MORE: When is something from Switzerland officially considered Swiss?

What are some of the other things widely believed to be Swiss that actually aren’t?

Let’s start with Heidi.

While the 19th-century novel was written by a Swiss author Johanna Spyri, and her fictional heroine Heidi lived in the Swiss Alps, the orphaned girl was born in Frankfurt.

So the quintessential "Swiss" girl was actually an immigrant, way before Switzerland had become home to approximately 2.1 million foreign nationals — most of them from Germany.

Cuckoo clocks

Switzerland is known for its watch industry, but cuckoo clocks were not actually invented here. 

Just as Heidi was German, so are the cuckoo clocks - they originally came from the Black Forest in Germany.

Now, however, many are manufactured in Asia; either way, very few are hatched in Switzerland on a massive scale.

But they were originally embraced by the Swiss and are loved here in Switzerland. 

Swiss Miss chocolate drink

Despite its name (possibly a nod to Heidi, who we already know wasn’t Swiss), there is nothing even remotely 'Swiss' about this chocolate drink made by US manufacturer Conagra Brands, and sold in America.

Despite the company’s claim that "farm-fresh milk" is used to manufacture the chocolate mix, no Swiss cow has ever been involved in this process.

chocolate drink

Chocolate drink.. but is it Swiss or not? Photo by Giancarlo Duarte on Unsplash

Swiss roll

Again, no.

This very sweet jelly-roll cake filled with whipped cream and jam is purely an American invention.

Why its' called ‘Swiss’ is anyone’s guess. It is delicious though, so we'll give them that! 

Now let’s look at products that are actually made in Switzerland.

The army knife

Though imitations abound, the iconic, multi-bladed army knives with a Swiss cross logo are as much part of Switzerland as cheese (except Gruyère) and chocolate (except Toblerone).

Initially made by a Swiss manufacturer, Wenger, they are now produced by another Swiss company, Victorinox.

Still Swiss. Photo: Pixabay

In fact, Victorinox has branched out into decidedly unmilitary products like Swiss Army perfumes, watches, and luggage.

And speaking of armed forces, a range of other ‘military’ products are being manufactured in Switzerland as well.

Among them are ‘Swiss military’ watches, produced by a Biel-based company, Hanowa.

For a neutral country, Switzerland sure manufactures a lot of military-based products.

However, be careful while buying: not everything that has a Swiss flag logo on it is actually made in Switzerland. A lot of these products are manufactured elsewhere.


Food and drink

While not exactly known for its cuisine the way the French and Italians are (though you shouldn’t necessarily say that to the Swiss), a lot of culinary inventions were, in fact, born in Switzerland.

These explainers detail some foods that are ‘typically’ Swiss:

Why the Ovomaltine drink is a true Swiss classic

How can we explain the Swiss obsession with the drink Rivella?

Why the Swiss love their iconic Alpine candy Ricola

Le Parfait: How Switzerland fell in love with a pork liver spread

Raclette - the Swiss winter dish you have to try 

Also, just because Gruyère and Toblerone have lost their exclusively Swiss label doesn’t mean that Switzerland doesn't have other great offerings. 

Chocolate manufacturers like Lindt & Sprüngli, Cailler, Bloch, Läderach, and many others continue to be manufactured in Switzerland.

And hundreds of Alpine dairy farmers and thousands of Swiss cows work hard to produce a variety of cheeses that proudly display the ‘Made in Switzerland’ label.

We saved the best for last…

...Roger Federer!

The tennis legend, who was born in Basel, is Swiss!

The star, who is sometimes referred to as simply 'Roger' in Switzerland is a hero in his home country. And he still embraces the Swiss way of life. He lives in a lakeside mansion in Zurich (although he has homes in a few other places too). 


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Richard Dobson 2023/03/07 20:19
Lindt manufacturers many of its chocolate bars in other countries (for example, France and Germany) and they too are very, very good (and some are not even for sale in Switzerland and we have to go into France to buy some of these wonderfully delicious chocolate bars).

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