atchmaking is in trouble, both in Switzerland and worldwide. The pandemic crisis has merely reflected and deepened existing fault lines in the new world now coming into being. Digital disruption, the growing divide between global brands and the rest, and the emergence of new communication technologies are not new phenomena. But the acceleration of events that began long before 2020 is forcing watchmakers to take urgent action.
Nevertheless, we must not underestimate the long-term work that has been going on under the radar – also since well before 2020. Watchmaking genius can be clearly seen in the incredible innovation, often the work of men and women deploying their collective intelligence behind the scenes, that the industry has delivered year after year. With the cancellation of the major watch fairs, and the crisis descending on the sector, these innovations have become less visible.
“With the cancellation of the major watch fairs, and the crisis descending on the sector, these innovations have become less visible, not less important.”
But they are perhaps were we need to look, if we are to overcome the major challenges of our time. In our latest report we identify some of the innovations currently taking shape, and pay tribute to the people behind them.
In the clinical white rooms of the CSEM, the laboratories of the EPFL, in the facilities of major contractors like EM Microelectronic, more visible brands such as Greubel Forsey or independents like Bernhard Lederer, innovation is alive and well, and continues to nurture the flame of watchmaking passion.
While new technologies such as Blockchain call traditional approaches into question, battles are raging behind the scenes around intellectual property. We also explore innovation in this broader context.
In his day Gérald Genta, whose contribution is now universally celebrated, had to fight against the “watchmaking bourgeoisie” to impose his own vision and style. An incident from 1984, which we revisit in our pages, provides a perfect illustration. Genta’s sporty-chic style has now become the contemporary orthodoxy of the entire industry.
And that’s how the story of innovation always goes: from resistance to acceptance... until the next breakthrough emerges. And thus the heart of watchmaking continues to beat. Even in times of crisis.
“That’s how the story of innovation always goes: from resistance to acceptance... until the next breakthrough emerges.”