April 12th, 2008
By Charles Wyndham.
I have just got back from Geneva where I had been kindly invited to attend a most splendid bash at Frank Muller’s Watch Land.
Driving through a monsoon down pour with the taxi driver muttering, as we waited interminably to get close enough to the entrance so that we would be merely drenched and not drowned, that everything was always well organised, gave me the same pleasure when a train arrived at Luzern station from Zurich 10 minutes late.
‘Clock work’ is not a term that endears itself to me usually, bit too close to ‘cuckoo’; that is until you start to talk about those grown up Dinky toys for men called ‘watches’.
Cars are such tedious objects and what is the point of a machine capable of going at the speed of sound when in practice it will only ever be able to use all that horse power to amble at best if not crawl along any road waiting for somewhere with no cars or no speed camera?
But watches, where all the useless but fascinating intricacies and endless permutations on a theme completely engulf my imagination, really are a stunning success story.
It is not that long ago that the watch industry faced ruin as it was swamped by the quartz revolution or, god forbid, even tuning forks being used to make watches work.
The grinding mechanisms of old fashioned watches were horribly close to ‘stop’.
But the industry reinvented itself, so that fools like me can gawp at these wonderful pieces of fantasy.
The watch makers take pride in showing all the inner details of the workings of their baubles, there is a real transparency in the product.
Not only has the highly competitive industry moved the mechanical watch from the ‘has been’ to ‘the must have’ to, now, the must have jewellery icon.
As I potted about ogling these time machines and being overawed by the diamonds, the first thing that struck me was, given just how tight the spec for these diamonds is, where are they going to come from?
Everyone knows that one huge problem with the watch industry is a huge shortage in skills and lack of production capacity which results in retailers being rationed.
I am too fuddy duddy to wear a diamond encrusted watch but in such a remarkably short time it has moved from ostentation to become beyond acceptable to almost necessary.
Watches and diamonds have been every bit of a success in growing demand as the DTC’s Supplier of Choice and others down the chain, fighting to hide their margins, have failed.
There must be lessons from that to be gained for those working in the wider world of diamond jewellery.
DTC’s lesson is to turn its back on the most highly specialised in this field.
I suppose they do that simply out of embarrassment.
But in all seriousness the watch industry has achieved everything that SoC set out to reach but has failed.
What are the differences?
Both take commodities wrap them up in brands and sell them.
The DTC talks about passion, but it is the passion of a crucifixion not the passion that I witnessed as a bunch of ‘watch groupies’ got together to enjoy the outstanding success of their product.
The whole feel was embarrassingly uplifting, I happily joined the happy clappers that were serenaded by a Cuban band.
Forget SoC, go and buy a watch.
December 31st, 2008
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November 24th, 2008