t was in 2016 that Sven Henriksen started his entrepreneurial career, due to the sometimes unexpected detours that a career in the watchmaking industry can take. “After the end of a job with a local company, I set up my own structure, drawing on my experience and my network of contacts in the subcontracting world, from Asia to Switzerland,” he says.
He soon joined forces with a former colleague, Yann Mazzon, who brought valuable technical skills to the new structure, which was named H-Development (H for Henriksen and also Horlogerie). “We had both dealt with demanding customers and already worked well as a team,” Sven Henriksen continues. “The private label business, in which we were both active, is the best watchmaking school because you are involved with everything and deal with a multitude of different components.”
“Private label production, in which we were both active, is the best watchmaking school.”
- Sven Henriksen founded H-Development five years ago.
Today, H-Development, based in Biel, supplies (mainly Swiss) watch brands with components produced in Asia, and also runs a watch laboratory providing troubleshooting services, i.e. resolution of complex technical problems. The company also has a third pillar: it represents the Japanese watch brand Minase in international markets.
“A number of watch companies, whether they are existing small structures or newcomers, do not have the resources to operate a technical structure of their own,” Sven Henriksen points out. “This is where we wanted to intervene. And often the first approach to solving technical problems leads to a deeper relationship that includes component delivery.”
Today, H-Development is able to deliver cases, bracelets, dials and hands sourced from subcontractors based in mainland China. “We make it a point to work with local partners who are also family-run companies, with a human dimension, with whom a dialogue is possible,” continues Sven Henriksen. “This helps us with our philosophy of personal customer service.”
- The company has now added watch hands to its catalogue.
When sourcing products in China, H-Development does not work with trading companies, as is often the case. Instead, the company deals with manufacturers directly. “This allows us not only to know very precisely the origin of each component and thus ensure its quality, but also to maintain a high level of confidentiality. The three pillars of credibility in the delivery of watch components are confidentiality, quality and respect for deadlines.” On this last point in particular, thanks to over 20 years’ experience, Sven Henriksen has learned to handle the subtleties of Chinese business culture.
“With the pandemic, we’ve seen a shift from the delivery of components to technical development.”
- Yann Mazzon is in charge of H-Development’s technical office.
Focus on technical development
How has H-Development coped with the tricky period that began last year? “Our clients have reduced their activity, but what we’ve seen most of all is a shift from the delivery of components to technical development,” says Yann Mazzon. “All in all, it hasn’t been so bad. We work with relatively small structures, so they are quite flexible. They have not had to deal with large quantities of blocked inventory, for example.”
For the Swiss watchmaking industry as a whole, the pandemic has ushered in a change of focus to smaller quantities and more exclusive series. Since the “Swiss made” calculation now includes technical development, this activity is gaining ground for H-Development. “This evolution of the Swiss industry corresponds quite well to our state of mind,” says Sven Henriksen.
- The company’s offices in Biel
The entrepreneur has noted a welcome burst of energy, not only from established brands, but also from newcomers and start-ups: “We have a lot of requests for innovative technical product design. There may be less volume, but the creativity is there!”
Everyone is adapting to this new situation, including suppliers in China: “In the past, they wanted a minimum order of 1,000 pieces, but the threshold has gradually been lowered to 500 and now 300 pieces.”
H-Development is also working on the delivery of high quality steels, and has recently introduced watch hands to its product portfolio.
“There may be less volume, but the creativity is there!”