Luxury Swiss watchmaking discovers crowdfunding

The restrictive lending policies of Swiss banks are forcing new luxury watch brands to embrace unusual finance solutions in an attempt to enter the fine watchmaking market. As a result, crowdfunding is becoming increasingly popular in the industry, when in the past no luxury Swiss watchmaking brand would have dared to embark on such a bold enterprise.

By Karl Heinz Nuber

Until now, crowdfunding was limited to cultural initiatives, NPOs and start-ups. But now, even companies in lucrative business sectors are turning to this financing solution, as illustrated by Swiss watchmaking Manufacture Dubois et fils, based in Le Locle.

Since August 2012, the brand has been amassing donations from investors around the world, raising an impressive 1.4 million Swiss francs. Their target, to collect 1.5 million Swiss francs to relaunch the “oldest Manufacture in Switzerland”, as Dubois et fils describes itself, has almost been reached. “It was very ambitious, and this sum of 1.4 million francs is unbelievably vast,” explains brand CEO Thomas Steinemann.

One of the most memorable watchmaking projects, launched a few months ago on Kickstarter, reached its €50,000 target in just eight minutes. The Klok-01 project from Klokers attracted over €263,000, or five times the expected amount! Of course the brand’s Founder, Chairman and Art Director Nicolas Boutherin and CEO Richard Piras – both of whom I know personally – were delighted with this result.

In spring 2015, watchmaking enthusiasts donated a total of 500,000 Swiss francs to Czapek & Cie to enable the brand to launch its first timepiece in October. Today, the brand is hoping to raise 1 million Swiss francs with a unique crowdfunding campaign on an international platform: a major first in the history of fine watchmaking. “Every watchmaking enthusiast dreams of becoming a partner in a Haute Horlogerie Manufacture and of owning one of the brand’s complications,” explains CEO of Czapek & Cie Xavier de Roquemaurel. “Today, by combining the classic subscription system with the modern possibilities offered by crowdfunding, we can make that dream come true.”

Karin Frick, a researcher in business trends at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, confirms that this type of funding is clearly gaining ground beyond the scope of cultural projects. “It’s a fashionable financing solution that is perfectly suited to the private sector, particularly to traditional brands and collectable items,” she explains. It is typically when classic lending systems break down that people turn to the crowdfunding solution.