.. and to watch collectors, aficionados and smaller watchmakers, I do not necessarily see this monopoly of the watch industry and its Supply Chain as a good thing.
Swatch, has for some years been the world’s biggest “watch maker”. They own more than 20 brands like Longines, Omega, Hamilton and Rado and continue to grow by buying out more and more of the competition. Swatch also owns the company that manufactures the famous ETA movement and have over the years restricted the sale of spares and movements wherever it could. This means that if you want to get your old ETA powered watch like an Omega repaired, you might have a problem doing so. This is certainly the case in countries like Australia where I know there are movements and petitions against such actions by The Swatch Group.
They are now increasing vertical integration of their supply chain by their recent acquisitions of Harry Winston and control of Rivoli Investments – which has 360 sales outlets across the Middle East. This means that Swatch now (i) owns the raw materials that go into famous watch brands, (ii) own the famous watch brands and now (iii) own the vehicles (outlets) where these brands are sold. The latter will certainly affect independent watch retailers who will not have the volumes and marketing strength of the Swatch Group.
The groups profits rose 20.2% to 1.9bn Swiss francs ($2.1bn; £1.3bn) in 2013, despite the strength of the Swiss franc reducing its competitiveness in the US and Japan. This was partially achieved by a one-off payment from US jewellery chain Tiffany & Co. The two companies signed a deal in 2007 to form a 20-year partnership which came unstuck in 2011 and Tiffany was ordered to pay Swatch $448m (£274m) in compensation.
On a positive note, Swatch added 3,800 to its global workforce in 2013 bringing the total to 33,600.
I like a number of the brands owned by Swatch and the Omega Moonwatch is perhaps my favourite watch of all time. I must say though that every time I look at one of these watches I cannot help but think that I am feeding yet another global monopoly. Will I boycott these brands completely? I doubt it but let’s see…