The Watch Culture in Rumania


June 2003

We welcome George Gîsca an enlightened enthusiast of fine watchmaking, into our circle of correspondents around the globe. George Gîsca will keep us regularly informed of the progress and development of the watch culture and distribution in Rumania.

The lack of a watch culture is obvious in Romania, and not only among ordinary people… Before 1989, stores in Rumania were full of watches from the Soviet Union that were considered very solid and inexpensive pieces. People had vague notions of Japanese products such as Seiko and Citizen, as well as a few Swiss watches. None of these, however, were easily available in the local marketplace.

Atlantic and Doxa were two Swiss brands whose products did succeed in penetrating this rather interesting market and whose watches enjoy a good reputation. Thanks to Doxa timepieces, people learned the meaning of the Greek word and the Rumanian vocabulary enriched itself with the past participle 'doxé', which designates a person with vast culture and great intelligence. People also had heard of a few sports watches such as Longines, Omega, Rado and TAG Heuer, but it was only actual watchmakers who really knew about the more exclusive and famous brands. On the other hand, the politicians were well aware of foreign name brand watches and used their trips and positions to obtain them.

The events of 1989 caused major changes in the country and one of these was the transformation of the entire media landscape. The Rumanian market also opened up to a number of important Swiss watch companies, although it remained closed to the most exclusive brands.

While the younger generation was attracted by the chic and accessible Swatch products, the dream of every businessman, sports enthusiast and politician was to own a Rolex. Many among them would now finally have the means to make their dreams come true. But for Rumanians, the mythic aura of this venerable manufacture is due more to its snob appeal than to its watchmaking credentials. Without in any way denigrating the technical quality and prestige of Rolex watches, a real connoisseur could however contest the leadership position of this mono-product enterprise in Rumania. More interestingly, Rolex is not even officially distributed in this nation, where, as one might imagine, there is no shortage of fakes sporting the famous crown logo.

The absence of a veritable watch culture is continuously felt, even when it comes to politicians, businessmen or sports enthusiasts. Besides Rolex, their horizon is limited to a few other brands such as Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Ebel, Longines, Omega, IWC (under the name of Schaffhausen) and Vacheron Constantin. They might also take into consideration a few luxury brands such as Bulgari, Piaget and Van Cleef & Arpels, but nothing more!

People who want to purchase a watch currently have the possibility of choosing among several brands coming from all sectors of the industry. The luxury and prestige range is represented by IWC, Piaget, Cartier, Baume & Mercier, Bulgari, Vacheron Constantin, Zenith and Omega, which can be found particularly in the stores of Helvetansa, Galt Swiss Horlogery, Cellini and Micri Gold.

In these same stores, as well as in a few other boutiques such as Hyper Market, Morning Star and International Genimpex, can be found the high-end and mid-range products of such brands as Rado, Longines, Movado, Tissot, Auguste Reymond, Fortis, Atlantic, Doxa, Grovana, Ebel, Candino, Mondaine, Swiza, Nina Ricci, Certina, Hermes, Revue Thommen, Olma and Calvin Klein. Finally, in the economical end of the market are watches bearing the Swatch logo.

As can be seen, the most famous watch brands and manufacturers such as Patek Philippe, Breguet, Blancpain, Audemars Piguet, Girard-Perregaux, Lange & Söhne, Ulysse Nardin, and Chopard are not officially present on the Rumanian market. For reasons that are easy to understand…

The Watch Culture in Rumania (Part II)