The Swiss has a long standing reputation when it comes to trade. (Think of banks). And their watch industry is no different.
But the increasing pressure for environmental and ethical accountability – from activists, investors and consumers – has convinced some brands that it is time to reveal where they get some of their raw materials.
They are fighting the battle of the industry’s deep-rooted tradition, a practice born out of fear of watchmen that the identity of suppliers will reveal details of their expertise and benefit rivals.
Many, however, are privy to a very different reason: they are reluctant to accept their “Swiss Made” watches, which include several components manufactured in China. These are not legal concerns: Swiss law stipulates that at least 60 percent of the manufacturing cost of a product must be in the country to qualify for its label.
Rather, it is, at least in part, an issue of branding: “Swiss Made” has long been associated with quality, accuracy, and price, and is inextricably linked to the marketing strategies of most Swiss watchmakers. Is it less if the products are not completely Swiss in origin?
“The real transparency challenge of the watch industry goes beyond the critical points that supply chain ethics is – it is the integrity of Swiss Made,” Bulgari chief executive Jean-Christoph Babin said on a video call earlier this month. “When you find watches in 500 Swiss francs [$530] It is claimed that the Swiss is made with mechanical movements, you can reasonably believe that there is a miracle behind it. Because I have never been able to do this, and I am 20 years old in the Swiss watch industry. “
Brands at the end of the reputation of the watchmaking spectrum, for whom the Swiss Made problem is less problematic as they make their own parts or buy from Swiss suppliers, face a different challenge: proving their commitment to sustainability and ethical sourcing Need of.
They are also being driven by many other factors – industry changes Epidemic And Digital development, A new generation of chief executives, Public pressure – to rethink long-established assumptions about how they do business, including the value of collaborating with other sentinels.
For consumers, a sense of openness to the industry means previously unattainable information, such as making Where brands get their gold And how they produce their timepieces, more available. Some watchmen are also going out of their way to share it.
During the Virtual Watches and Wonders Fair in Geneva starting April 7, Panrai introduced the submersible eLAB-ID, a 44-millimeter wristwatch made from almost exclusively used raw materials, with its own hands But also includes recycled super-Lumnova, silicon recycled into silicon. Its movement avoidance and a recycled titanium alloy known as Eco Titanium on its case, sandwich dial and bridge.
In a news release, the brand named nine companies that worked on the timepiece, which will remain one of a kind Concept watch By 2022, when Panerai planned to release a limited edition of 30 pieces, each priced at around 60,000 euros ($ 70,550). “We would love to mimic and improve,” Panerai’s chief executive, Jean-Marc Pontroae, said during a video interview last month.
Mr Ponture said the value behind making a recycled clock around the collective effort behind it was in its “ability to make noise”.
“The watch will be limited to 30 pieces; This will not change the life of Panerai or the watch industry, ”he said. “But the idea is to create a new business exposing these companies that can be approached by any of our competitors.”
Similarly, in November, Uilse Nardin introduced a centrifuge concept watch called Diver Net, which features a case made from recycled fishnets and a strap made from recycled plastic from bezels and seas. In press material, the company shared the names of its suppliers.
“We did not try to pretend that we were making it ourselves,” said Patrick Pruniaux, Uilse Nardin’s chief executive officer. “You have to do things that inspire others.”
That philosophy also spies on his parent company, Kering, a Paris-based luxury conglomerate – which owns Gucci, Boucheron and 10 others High-profile brand – which has earned A reputation for transparency and activism Not known for quality in any field.
Kering has gone this way, at least in part, because it has an eye for what its buyers – and potential future buyers – want.
Marie-Claire Dave, Mering’s chief sustainability officer, said on a video call last month, “You millennials and General Z. [customers] Asking more questions and wanting more answers with more details. “
Claudio D’Amore, a watch designer based in Lausanne, is one of the few Swiss watch executives to welcome such an investigation. In 2016, he created a crowdfund brand called Goldgena Project, which was renamed Code 41, Radical approach to transparency The Swiss Med was the answer to the industry’s long-running debate on the label.
Mr. D’Amore created his own label for Total Transparency on the original called TTO. And Code41 is equally transparent about another sensitive topic: pricing.
On their website, the brand includes a Table It lists all the components and processes that went into its latest crowdfunded timepiece, the NB24 Chronograph, with its prices and origins. For example, the Swiss-made movement of the watch cost the company $ 1,056 (including taxes), while the titanium case, dial and packaging – manufactured in China – $ 167, $ 56 and $ 22. In total, the watch cost $ 1,474 to produce.
Below the table, the brand explained that it came to a retail price of $ 3,500 by adding what it called “minimum markup” for profitability.
“Initially, some people didn’t like that we were explaining everything,” Mr. D’Amore said on a video call last month. “But we also received a lot of positive comments from encouraging people: ‘It’s about time someone tells us how it works.”
The most established brands in the Swiss watch trade are also getting this message.
As of July, IWC Schaffhausen has said, visitors to its website will be able to click on an icon or logo on each product page, to take steps to ensure that the content is responsibly acquired.
The information is from the most recent part of the IWC sustainability report – What’s new is how easy it will be to access online, a spokesperson said.
Chopard is another high-profile watchman striving to make his business more transparent. In late February, the Geneva-based brand updated Its website With more information about its raw materials, With gold Berenaroos, a community of artisan miners in the Choco region on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Also posted Code of Conduct for Partners for the first time.
And yet Berlin-based expert Julian Kipenberg on mineral supply chains in Human Rights Watch says these measures are still inferior to other areas, such as textile industryAre to implement transparency, especially on the complex subject of Gold sourcing.
“Big companies like Adidas and H&M issue Excel spreadsheets, where they list the names of the textile factories where their products are being made,” Ms. Kippenberg said. “But in this area, there is far greater reluctance to do so.” (Of course, those companies are not immune to controversy, for example, H&M; Entangled in one On its cotton sourcing.)
This hesitation may be because many watchmen are still wary of the dangerous effects of transparency for their intellectual property.
“How is part of our knowing and know how – why would you share it?” Wilhelm Schmidt, a. The CEO of Lang and Sohne, a watchdog watchmaker based in the German city of Glacute.
From Ms. Kipenberg’s point of view, however, the information she wants to see has nothing to do with the specific technical or artistic details of the time. “It’s about the conditions in which the material is mined and the actors are worked on in the supply chain,” she said. “There is also a broader question of accountability. Transparency is the only way to ensure that human rights violations can be prevented or addressed. “
Whether they like it or not, Switzerland’s biggest watchmakers may soon have no choice.
in November, Swiss voters rejected A proposal from the Responsible Business Initiative, a civil society coalition that would require Swiss companies to conduct due diligence on human rights and environmental risks in their supply chains and make their reports public. But a counterproposal of the Swiss Parliament would require companies to ensure traceability of their supply chains and make their reports publicly available for 10 years, expected to become law in 2022.
This means Rolex, also the world’s largest brand by sales, found in a Morgan Stanley report of Swiss watches published last month that the company now has a 26.8 percent market share – further boosting its business Will need to be made transparent.
“They can’t claim that they are a private company, because no one is asking about their trade secret,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the New York City-based Luxury Institute. “They have to answer. There is no place to hide. “