What are you actually buying when you pick up a pack of Swiss Skateboard Bearings? We were wondering the same thing, so we did some research. If you've read our other articles on bearings, you'll know that ABEC does not specifically apply to skateboarding. It's actually a measure of precision within the bearing. Skateboard bearings get dirty the second they touch the ground and that precision can be lost. Because of this, more brands have started promoting "Swiss" bearings. But what exactly is a Swiss bearing? Why are they supposedly better than other bearings?
Skateboarding companies have a Swiss obsession, but what's really the deal?
What first comes to mind that is they are like the Swiss Army Knives. There is a brand in Switzerland that is producing a standard bearing, just like there is a brand in Switzerland producing knives. But is that the full story? What magic do the Swiss do that Americans or Chinese don't?
We did the research and other than the materials used within the bearings originating in Switzerland and the bearings being built in Switzerland, there are no noticeable physical, mechanical, or material differences that make a Swiss bearing better than any other in the world. In the words of RatVision:
These are not watches, army knives, or cheese here. We all know what Swiss cheese looks and tastes like and that it will never be called cheddar cheese. Swiss bearings do not have specific attributes like Swiss cheese that separate them from any other bearings manufactured around the world. There are no standard recipes or instruction manuals for manufacturing true 'Swiss' bearings.
For something to be classified as a true Swiss bearing, they must be manufactured on genuine Swiss screw machines (see video below). Bearing manufacturers in other countries know this and create "Swiss-Style" screw machines. This allows them to market and sell "Swiss Bearings" without manufacturing in Switzerland. The "Swiss-Style" machines may or may not even resemble anything from Switzerland. There isn't a governing body that enforces rules on the making of bearings. Because of this, "Swiss" bearings can be made in China or the US on a "Swiss-Style" machine and marketed and sold as Swiss Bearings.
However, when comparing a Swiss bearing to a Chinese bearing, there relatively is no difference. A bearing is simply a bearing. The term Swiss is a marketing ploy to differentiate away from the ABEC rating. In many cases, it is even thought of as above the ABEC rating. In truth, Switzerland has a reputation of making high quality bearings and brands take advantage of that. China has good and bad bearing manufacturers and tons of top brands come from there. The perception in the mind (at least in our experience) is that stuff from China is cheap and Swiss or America is superior. We couldn't disagree more as all of these countries make good stuff and low quality stuff. It just depends on the manufacturer.
Swiss made skateboard bearing
If a brand is to market a true "Swiss Bearing", it would need to be made in Switzerland on a Swiss screw machine using Switzerland based materials.