Geneva Watch Days: watchmakers more motivated than ever

On the occasion of the 3rd edition of the Geneva Watch Days, watchmakers are optimistic about the economic conditions in the sector. Despite uncertain supplies but thanks to an unprecedented level of sales, they remain hopeful about the future of their timepieces.

“I have the watches ready, but I don’t have the boxes to deliver them,” Xavier de Roquemaurel, CEO of Czapeck, confided to the agency AWP on the sidelines of the Geneva Watch Days watch fair, which takes place from August 29 to September 1. . Installed for the occasion in one of the Beau Rivage suites, the house closed its order book in mid-April during Watches & Wonders. “There hasn’t been a major demand for at least 50 years. So far I’ve only received 16% of the boxes planned for the whole year.’

A few golden corridors further H. Moser & Cie. speaks. of a very satisfactory development, but of a lack of accessories. “We’re not necessarily seeing a strong slowdown in the production of the watch itself, but in the ordering of means of communication (POS) such as demo trays,” explains Claire Tellenbach, marketing manager of the Schaffhausen brand. “In general, it even goes so far that certain materials for the decoration of our shops are not available.”

Same story at HYT. Installed in room 315 of the palace, the Geneva brand defends its uniqueness with a series of pistons and liquids. Liquidity is the futuristic hallmark here, much to the chagrin of watchmakers. “We don’t use gold, for example, because we focus on materials that are in line with our DNA, modern and technological, thereby protecting ourselves from shortages, supply problems and price increases,” explains Julien Haenny, Marketing and Brand Communications Manager. “On the other hand, we feel a discrepancy between the schedules, especially with the longer delivery times. But thanks to the good relationship with our suppliers, we still manage to maintain it despite the situation.”

On the big house side, Bulgari has solid inventories to protect its production and ensure its supplies and after-sales services, but some of its box and component manufacturing plants could be affected by power supply restrictions. “We are currently working on different scenarios involving our suppliers that will allow us to minimize the consequences,” Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin told AWP agency.

temporary chaos

The industry has an iron health, say the pros under the marquee brand GWD. However, there are several steps involved in creating a watch, and this is where the chaos lies. The exit from the post-Covid crisis was not well prepared. The waves of layoffs, especially in the supply chain, and the lack of anticipation are holding us back today,” says Xavier de Roquemaurel. For 2022, the manager expects 600 delivered watches between 12,000 and 120,000 francs, compared to 300 in 2021 and half as many in 2020. “We will produce directly in-house to avoid bottlenecks,” he announces AWP by unveiling the acquisition of machine tools, which are scheduled to be commissioned in 2023.

“Assembly, movement components and the production of spiral springs take place in our manufactory. We are growing and recruiting, but carefully and appropriately,” emphasizes the representative of H. Moser & Cie. The company produces almost 2,000 timepieces worth an average of 40,000 francs in its manufactory.

For Edoardo Bolla, Associate Specialist at Phillips Bacs and Russo, “horological issues need to be viewed at a macro level. Of course, the market is always changing and extreme volatility weighs, but if passionate professionals remain focused on their goals and the quality of that craftsmanship while ignoring external attacks, the industry will continue to thrive.’

Swiss watch exports rose 31.2% to CHF 22.3 billion in 2021, recovering from Covid-19. This key figure for the industry follows the same upward trend in the first seven months of the year at almost CHF 14.1 billion. Bulgari says it has posted sales records in all regions of the world since the beginning of the year, with a strong upswing in stores, “except China, although it remains our first market because the brand is very strong there.” The Italian house used the two years of restrictions to accelerate its digital transformation and attract new customers accustomed to online shopping.

Investment objects such as pleasure, fine watchmaking and luxury products in general attract a wider range of customers. “The format of the trade fair is unique in this industry. Each brand is free to exhibit wherever it wants: boutique, hotel, factory,” says Jean-Christophe Babin. “We’ve gone from 25 to about 30 brands and inquiries have already been made for 2023.” ib/


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