t made the industrial revolution and the first wave of globalisation possible, but it’s now functionally obsolete and thus ultimately replaceable. Some of it might well, it is feared, be destined for the scrap heap. This being the case, you might expect to see the number of new watchmaking initiatives falling. But in fact, the digital revolution has been a game-changer, and the exact opposite is taking place. At the end of August 2019, there were 443 projects for new brands on Kickstarter alone. Compare that with the number of watchmaking companies based in Switzerland: 694, employing 60,000 people (source: Convention Patronale de l’Industrie Horlogère Suisse, September 2018).
And most of these new projects are for mechanical watches. An aberration in this digital world? Or an antidote? Even better, we’re seeing a burgeoning of haute horlogerie projects by watchmakers, many of whom have worked with the big names, built networks of expertise and are now taking the plunge and creating their own brand, or making a name for themselves as individuals.
- Revised extract of a Breitling ad
- © Europa Star 2/1950
It would seem that, unlike the vaguely threatening smart devices with their infallible, cold and clinical accuracy, mechanical watchmaking still has something intimate, vibrant, inaccurate perhaps, but warmer about it. Which is why its value, whatever its price, transcends its purely pragmatic utility.
The upshot is that from the Joux Valley to Kuala Lumpur, from the Jura to San Francisco, whether in the Balearic Islands, Saint-Germain or Hong Kong, watchmaking is putting out myriad new shoots. And most of them stem from young people. But let us not forget, as our Archives demonstrate, that the cemeteries of horology have always been littered with lost promises.*
Find our New Shoots Gallery in
the latest Europa Star issue
and online in October and November 2019:
The Example of CZAPEK
Horology’s Young Prodigy - REXHEP REXHEPI
YVAN MONNET – A New Shape is Born
The Watchmaking Incubator:
RICHARDT & MEJER
KICKSTARTER, For Better and For Worse
*Let’s be stoical, like watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin who, for his new brand, has adopted the maxim of Seneca, the Stoic philosopher: nothing is ours except time.
Discover more of our Watch Curator section here below.