With the advent of the so-called smartwatch, the Swiss watchmaking industry is facing a conundrum: should Swiss watchmakers embrace this new watch concept even though it carries the risk of accelerating the shift from mechanical watches to smartwatches (and thus make the traditional watchmakers redundant over the longer term) or should they retreat into making and marketing* even more luxurious timepieces (a strategy the industry has been pursuing for the better part of the past 20 years)?
My guess is that the industry will decide to pursue a combination of both courses and that this will in fact allow it to survive – that is to say, survive, not thrive! Coupled with the strong Swiss franc, this means that the country’s third main contributor to national exports is likely to register a decline in employment levels (the sector had some 57,300 employees in 2013, according to the Federation of the Swiss watch industry) probably already this year. In other words, higher unemployment levels for Switzerland – although I beg to be proved wrong.
Whatever the outcome, I thought that against the background of the industry’s annual trade fair, Basleworld, which is taking place right now, Swiss watchmaking aficionados might be interested in having some web links available on a single web page pointing to various constituents of this industry so often associated in the minds of foreigners with my country so as to maximise their browsing pleasure.
For all industry related news, the main port of call is the website of the Federation of the Swiss watch industry (in my previous job, I would consult their monthly export statistics on a regular basis, as the release of these figures would affect my employer’s line of business). For the very Swiss art of fine watchmaking (‘haute horlogerie’ in French), I would recommend the website of the Fondation de la haute horlogerie (also available in several languages). Although one can find several watch magazines on the Internet, the following is an online magazine based in Geneva which I visit from time to time (I do so only occasionally as I am not really a watch buff): WorldTempus (available in English and French).
Here are the websites of the main manufacturers of watches ‘made in Switzerland’** (although there will invariably be some brands left out as I am really not a watch specialist): Rolex, Omega, Cartier, Longines, Patek Philippe, Tissot, TAG Heuer, Swatch, Breguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Chopard, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, Breitling, Hublot, Officine Panerai, Ulysse Nardin, Montblanc, Blancpain, Parmigiani Fleurier, Zenith, Bulgari, Baume & Mercier, Franck Muller, de Grisogono, Frederique Constant, Corum, Girard-Perregaux, Louis Vuitton watches, Roger Dubuis, Jaquet Droz, Cabestan, F.P. Journe, DeLaneau, DeWitt, Jean Dunand, Antoine Preziuso, Wyler Genève, Franc Vila, Rado, Certina, Mido, Mondaine, Festina and so on.
I hope you will enjoy this opportunity to surf the websites of companies that offer tradition, craftsmanship, design as well as plenty of ‘haute’ emotion.
- ‘Ticking along: the valley at the heart of the watchmaking boom’, Samuel Jaberg, Swissinfo.ch, 14 May 2014
- ‘Mechanisms of technology re-emergence and identity change in a mature field: Swiss watchmaking, 1970-2008’, Ryan Raffaelli, Harvard Business School, December 2013
- ‘Swiss watch industry: prospects and challenges’, Credit Suisse, October 2013
- ‘Some Swiss watchmakers are desperately trying not to be left outsmarted’ (post on this blog)
- ‘To move or not to move in the smartwatch segment, that is the question.’ (other post on this blog)
* At the cost of several billion Swiss francs every year – well, it is passed on to the customer, so who cares? The industry’s so-called ambassadors and the people doing the marketing are those who really benefit from the fine watch sector’s over-reliance on celebrity marketing to differentiate its products.
** The watches carrying the label ‘Swiss made’ are not always 100% Swiss made in that this label is affixed on watches that can have as few as 50% of Swiss components but are assembled in this country; the Poinçon of Genève label is engraved only on watches that are 100% made in Geneva and conform to other stringent requirements.