Watch suppliers


Should watch suppliers go into direct sales?

EDITORIAL

April 2021


Should watch suppliers go into direct sales?

This somewhat provocative and paradoxical question is prompted by the birth of watch incubator Watch Angels, backed by subcontracting group FM Swiss Logistics. No longer content to simply produce for others, this group is now taking the launch of watch brands into its ambit.

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hould watch suppliers go into direct sales? This somewhat provocative and paradoxical question is prompted by the birth of watch incubator Watch Angels, backed by subcontracting group FM Swiss Logistics. No longer content to simply produce for others, this group is now takingthe launch of watch brands into its ambit.

So far it has helped to launch a sustainable watch brand with designer Cédric Bellon (who worked for Bell & Ross for many years) and resurrect the Swiss-made version of the legendary American brand Waltham. As Guido Benedini, former CEO of Alpina and now head of Watch Angels, explains, several launches are on the agenda, at the rate of “a new brand every month”. That’s nothing if not ambitious!

The legendary American brand Waltham has just been relaunched by the incubator Watch Angels, backed by the subcontracting group FM Swiss Logistics.
The legendary American brand Waltham has just been relaunched by the incubator Watch Angels, backed by the subcontracting group FM Swiss Logistics.

At a time when the pandemic crisis has made the circumstances of watch suppliers even more precarious, leading a growing number of them to consider diversifying into other industries, the launch of this new structure by the FM Swiss Logistics group raises a number of questions.

Should companies that have the operational means to do so now seek salvation by moving into direct marketing, sales and distribution? In short, should they “become” a watch brand, either alone or as part of a partnership (thereby keeping the margins for themselves)?

Should companies that have the operational means to do so now seek salvation by moving into direct marketing, sales and distribution? In short by “becoming” a brand?

This phenomenon is not new in the history of watchmaking. One need only recall the takeover by Paul Castella’s Dixi group of a series of Le Locle watch brands that found themselves in trouble in the 1970s: Zenith, Movado, Mondia, Paul Buhré, H. Moser & Cie and even Zodiac. For a time the town was even nicknamed “Dixiland”, as the machine-tool and micromechanics group was the largest employer in Le Locle!

There are countless watch suppliers backed by a watch brand... or the other way around. The “agility” of our digital age, whose cardinal principle is direct communication and disintermediation (otherwise known as cutting out the middle man), opens up the opportunity for certain players to expand beyond production and into sales, thereby responding to compelling requests from new watch entrepreneurs and start-ups.

The “agility” of our digital age, which is all about cutting out the middle man, opens up the possibility for certain players to take the plunge into sales.

This is not without risk, as it means learning a new trade. Diversification is always tricky when it means entering unknown territory, as when suppliers decide to launch themselves into the medical sector with its ultra-standardised environment.

Times of crisis force everyone to explore new avenues of activity and innovation. Examples of diversification and repositioning will certainly multiply in the months to come. We just hope that the majority of companies will be able to count on the support of the authorities to facilitate this transition, hence maintaining the Swiss industrial ecosystem as much as possible in these extremely adverse conditions.

Note: this editorial is extracted from the latest issue of our Bulletin d’informations (get it here).

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