Watchmaking Industry: MR. UP and MR. DOWN

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March 2014

Everyone has their ups and downs, the days when they are full of beans and those when they are at the end of their tether. So is the watchmaking industry up or down?…
Asked in this way, the question has no sense. Just as we are not all up or down at the same time, the watchmaking industry has brands that are up and those that are down. Trends that are down and technologies that are on the up.
A global exhibition like BaselWorld is a snapshot for which everyone poses and, even if they are down on the inside, tries to look as if things are on the up. Nothing could be more normal or logical: even if you are really down, at the end of your tether and your power reserve is exhausted, it’s not really the time to let yourself go, take your eye off the ball, to hide away or disappear under the carpet. No, being upbeat at this time of year is an obligation.

The power reserve of the Legacy Machine No. 1, created as a collaboration between MB&F and Chinese artist Xia Hang
The power reserve of the Legacy Machine No. 1, created as a collaboration between MB&F and Chinese artist Xia Hang
The power reserve has been modified to allow Xia Hang’s “comma man” (4mm high, in polished aluminium) to move from his arched position when the power reserve is low to his upright position when the watch is fully wound. By means of an invisible hinge, the head, shoulders, back and chest of Mr. Up (the name of the power reserve when it is fully wound) gradually lean towards the horizontal as the barrel unwinds: Mr. Up becomes Mr. Down.

So you will understand the difficulties that we face as journalists. How do we drag the truth out of people, how can we find out more about the state of their “power reserve”, how can we tell the difference between the true, the false and the approximate when it is all smiles and the noise of champagne corks popping? More than ever we need to go back over our information, compare, weigh up, evaluate, sort. We have to find out, here and there, that behind these flamboyant displays somebody may be on their last legs, that there is a silent battle being waged between shareholders behind this brilliant and harmonious smokescreen or, on the contrary, that somebody else, who has always kept a low profile, is at the height of their form and raring to go.

A salon – we used to call it a “fair”, which had a slightly popular and raffish side to it – is a vast stage on which actors parade, adorned and made up for the show. They have learned their lines, prepared their responses, committed their talking points to memory, rehearsed their performance: everything is ready, everything is “up”!
We will take stock afterwards and that is when we will know who is up and who is down. Not forgetting all those (the majority, in fact) who are quite frankly neither up nor totally down. They are somewhere between the two, with some power reserve remaining. But will the energy they take on during BaselWorld be enough to allow them to raise their heads high? Or will a brand-new connected watch put them on a serious downer?

Find out in our next issue.

Source: Europa Star April - May 2014 Magazine Issue