tress, accidents, crises: no, we’re not talking about watchmaking, but sailing... During his career as a professional sailor, Michel Teweles experienced all that, with several America’s Cups to his credit. He then worked in yacht construction, service and maintenance. The French entrepreneur is now navigating the troubled waters of watchmaking after-sales service, via a company he founded at the end of 2019 in Gland, called 12Time Switzerland.
Michel Teweles gained his first professional experience in watchmaking as director of operations for Speake-Marin. Several ex-employees of the watch brand joined him to establish this new after-sales service structure. “At first, we envisioned entering the second-hand watch market,” he explains. “But we realised that all our meetings ended up on the critical question of service. There was something to dig into.”
- Michel Teweles, founder of 12Time Switzerland
All too often, clients are faced with an unpleasant surprise
Indeed, after-sales service is often where the relationship between a brand and its customer breaks down. Too often, high prices and delays conspire to create an unpleasant surprise for the customer. “In the best case scenario, we don’t know where the watch is for eight weeks, and it costs a small fortune,” Michel Teweles says. “Sometimes I’ve gone to watch retailers and I’ve had the impression that the employees considered me an annoyance. And these are well-known brands. In addition, many stores no longer even employ a single watchmaker. The only way to build customer loyalty is through service. That’s what our structure is organised around.”
The B2B strategy implemented by the entrepreneur is designed “to help brands and retailers improve their service, not take over their business.” 12Time Switzerland set up a 200m2 workshop to convince brands and obtain certification. The company started out by partnering with brands from Richemont, Swatch Group and some independents. By the end of May, the company expects to be certified by nine brands.
“The only way to build customer loyalty is through service. That’s what our structure is organised around.”
“Most of the brands welcomed us with open arms! Our idea isn’t revolutionary, but brands have to fight against the grey market, which has largely been fuelled by after-sales. We are a service platform, we’re not here to sell watches,” Michel Teweles says.
The coronavirus is changing priorities
12Time Switzerland also benefited from an unexpected set of circumstances: while all eyes were on the Asian markets, the outbreak of the coronavirus “changed priorities within the brands”. As a result, the new company’s business suddenly accelerated.
The after-sales service specialist commits to providing a quotation for a watch service within 48 hours. “The concept we offer doesn’t force retailers to leave their shops,” says Michel Teweles. “We pick up the part(s) and prepare the estimate. If the quote is accepted, we get to work. On the order confirmation, customers see the delivery deadline, which is never more than one month out.”
“Most of the brands welcomed us with open arms! Our idea isn’t revolutionary, but brands have to fight against the grey market, which has been largely fuelled by after-sales.”
- In the workshops of 12Time Switzerland in Gland
“After-sales service should not be run by the finance division”
The company’s geographical scope is currently concentrated on Switzerland, but it could be extended to other European countries. “We want to expand our customer base to include more independent brands,” the entrepreneur says. At the next EPHJ trade fair in Geneva, 12Time Switzerland will set up a workshop to carry out repairs on-site, to demonstrate its know-how.
“Service culture is very particular,” explains Michel Teweles. “However, many problems have set in over time. For example, we see brands that are not specifically equipped to provide service, and only start doing it when there is a slump in production. Other brands think they can make a profit from service, which is not necessarily possible. When the after-sales service is run by the finance division and not the sales division, that’s what leads to high costs and delays.”
“When the after-sales service is run by the finance division and not the sales division, that’s what leads to high costs and delays.”
“Today, customers come to us quite naturally, because we limit ourselves to what we know we can do well,” the former sailor continues. “The after-sales service market needs to be better structured. Back when I was building boats, I was in a passionate environment. And some enthusiasts think they can do everything! We believe in the division of labour.”