In the last few years, storm clouds have formed over the Helvetic Republic, where, for years, there has been nothing but blue sky and crisp alpine air. First they were mere zephyrs, barely rippling the surface of our collective consciousness, hardly worthy of mention in those glorious, post-GFC days. More recently we’ve noticed an increasing number of these squalls, and exchanged worried glances with our fellow travellers, but tacitly agreeing to collectively write them off as temporary aberrations due to external factors like currency fluctuation or political instability.
But now there’s no ignoring it. The gale is blowing hard, and all around us the watch industry is battening down the hatches and cutting loose the dead wood. Some of these new drifters will ride the storm out, but many will succumb to the forces and become tomorrow’s flotsam and jetsam in an industry that has known smooth sailing for too long.
I’ll do you all a favour and stop with the meteorological/nautical allusions now.
The coming year will be a pivotal one for the watch industry. Despite the positivity projected by the Swiss hegemony it’s becoming clear that the watch industry is in crisis. But how big? Is it a temporary dip, or is it a massive, once-in-a-generation scale event that will fundamentally change the industry? Some reports are noting a slowing in the downward trajectory, but it’s really too early to tell. What I do know is that SIHH, which kicks off in two weeks will be very interesting indeed. There are mass-layoffs, watchmakers picketing outside manufactures, big re-structuring’s, rumours swirling of brands being for sale, all cemented by the general air of grimness settling onto the faces of industry executives.
The coming year will be a pivotal one for the watch industry. Despite the positivity projected by the Swiss hegemony it’s becoming clear that the watch industry is in crisis. But how big? Is it a temporary dip, or is it a massive, once-in-a-generation scale event that will fundamentally change the industry?
All this makes the generally calm local Australian market seem like the eye of the storm. We’re a tiny player on the global stage, but a relatively stable one, with a slowly growing local consumer-base and a reliable tourist trade. This has meant that 2016 saw a swathe of boutique openings and multiple new brands (both major and niche) entering the marketplace. From where we sit, general interest in fine watchmaking has never been higher. Is it a bubble? A false economy? Are all these shiny new watches we see on Instagram being bought on the cheap through grey channels, used, or at heavy discount? Possibly. But does that matter in the long run? I don’t think so. My faith is buoyed by the fact that Australia’s passion for great mechanical watchmaking, from the top of town all the way down to the more affordable end of the spectrum has never been stronger. I don’t see that changing any time soon.
I’m proud to be part of this passionate local community which is a constant source of education, inspiration and amusement. I’m even prouder that this community (both locally and globally) continues to read us and trust the work that Time+Tide does. As always, thanks for your support and see you next year.