In the air Monday, October 3rd 2011
Latest statistics for Swiss watch exports, published in August, confirm solid results, even if commentators fear a weakening in this positive trend.
My view is that exports will end this admittedly turbulent year at highly favourable levels, in particular for models with an export value above CHF 3,000-6,000 (USD 3,250-6,500 / EUR 2,450-4,900). Also because the timepieces unveiled early in the year at Geneva and Basel, in particular "complicated" models, will start selling at the end of the year, and their target audience are customers who want and can, not those who want but can't.
As the specialist press has already pointed out, the strong Swiss franc will erode margins, not to mention precious metal prices, although these will be partly absorbed by marketing as prices increase in the various currencies.
For the moment, no one can predict what 2012 holds. We are still in a prosperous zone; profits will certainly be less than in a recent past but losses are unlikely, except for small concerns, independent or not, for which distribution is more of a problem than for the large groups.
Being rich and living among the rich isn't a valid reason to forget the poor. Responsibility towards the wider community is beginning to interest luxury and Fine Watchmaking.
As a guest at a lovely evening in Venice, hosted by Jaeger-LeCoultre to present a fundraising project for the NGO Emergency and the centre for cardiac surgery which it runs in Sudan, I got to thinking about how our luxury segment could, or perhaps should, become a vector for well-intentioned compassion towards the weak and the poor. Not for what it might reap in return - nothing is more despicable than ostentatious giving - but to use our powers of communication and persuasion to benefit noble, efficient, on-the-ground, useful causes.
And I asked myself, if high-end or Fine Watch companies, beyond what they already do, donated one franc for every watch sold to a similar cause, how many children could we feed? How many structures could we build? How much medicine could we buy?
A franc isn't much, especially as a percentage of a watch's retail price. But if we consider the potential of even a small coin in this vast and needy world, we might then appreciate its power and importance. As I said, this is just an idea: were someone to give it consideration, thank you to them. Export statistics could provide the basis for a collective fund. Franc by franc, that's a lot of money and innumerable benefits.
The objective is to eliminate poverty, hunger and sickness from the world. Not just in the "third world" but wherever difficulties exist. "Father, it is our duty and salvation…" says the officiant during consecration. It is also our duty to consecrate a small coin to a great cause. ■