The Swiss watch industry searches for meaning

The luxury industry as a whole – and Swiss watchmaking in particular – is undergoing an unprecedented series of changes generating fundamental transformations, affecting the very meaning of life and therefore luxury’s reasons for being.

By Yves Vulcan

Today more than ever, the Swiss watch industry is asking itself serious questions with regard to the sweeping upheavals shaking the foundations of the world as we know it. We could merely be content with listening to analysts, sociologists and political pundits, and adapting the aesthetics of our watch by working on our watch dials, our calibres and our short-term strategies. That would nonetheless imply denying the obvious fact that this movement is definitely on the march and, like a physical timepiece, shows no sign of stopping.

Swiss watchmaking is a universe imbued with values and it is precisely these values that we must safeguard. What if we were to take a little time to reflect on that which is lasting and indeed timeless – as compared with that which is not? On that which can and should change, and on that which must remain true to itself? It is only through gaining a clear vision of these values we believe in – and how they are evolving – that we will be able to grasp the other profound and complex transformation affecting clients.

Today’s clients expect from us absolute values and guarantees that we must offer them. Passionate devotees of Swiss watchmaking are tending to expect a watch that will not only last a lifetime, but will also symbolise a value to be passed on. Younger generations are also seeking such values and they know even better than their parents that nothing ever stands still or is unchangeable. We have the responsibility to enable them to experience that which is timeless, durable, rare and precious. We must be capable of sharing with them this idea of time which, despite their perplexity, will enable them to have a clear idea of that which does not change and maintains its value.

If the middle classes disappear, if wealth becomes ever more concentrated, if poverty spreads, if values crumble and if we do not question our attitudes, the Swiss watch industry, with its artisans as well as the small and medium-sized enterprises composing it are bound to suffer. They will have to adapt or vanish. Our values help us to move towards the future without being crushed by the present. Horatius told us to “Carpe diem”, to seize the moment. We must understand – with more confidence and less fear – a future that is already changing as we write. Just as it can help us have a change in attitude. We were sceptical, let’s get curious!