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A bridge between past, present and future
Point of View

A bridge between past, present and future

Tuesday, 08 November 2016
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Franco Cologni
President of the FHH Cultural Council

“Talent demands effort, dedication and hours spent perfecting a gesture which, day by day, becomes a gift.”

An entrepreneur at heart, though a man of letters, Franco Cologni was quick to embark on a business career that would lead him to key roles within the Richemont Group.

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4 min read

In an “Age of Transitions” – the theme of the 2016 Forum de la Haute Horlogerie – we cannot disregard values that have survived the centuries and which hold us steady in a sea of perplexity. Speech by Mr. Franco Cologni, President of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie Cultural Council, at the opening of the Forum.

“Panta rhei” (everything flows), said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. The question we must ask ourselves being, to and from where does everything flow? A transition is not just the transformation itself, as we are wont to believe, but a starting point and, more importantly, a finishing point. In other words, we give thought to the present which takes unexpected forms, but forget that what we are witnessing today is the consequence of what we have built in the past, and that what we will see tomorrow is already taking shape before our eyes.

The age of transitions, therefore, is not happening here and now. For those who believe in the culture of immediacy, the only time available to us is the present, but our mind can take us much further. It allows us to relive the past but also predict the future: because any transition is a process that extends across past and future. A process we are called upon to observe, perhaps manage or at least influence. Remember this: the future originates in the memory of the past.

If this is an age of transitions, there is an even greater need to reflect on all that is timeless, and therefore iconic, eternal, and what is not.

More than ever, Fine Watchmaking is reflecting on the changes which are transforming the aspect and perhaps even genetic code of our world. Why is it doing this? After all, we could content ourselves with analysts’ opinions. Take a look at what the sociologists and political commentators have to say. We could simply take note of the prevailing forces and go back to working on our dials, our complications, our short-term strategies and modest visions. But as the Pope told Napoleon, “Non possumus,” – we cannot.

Because Fine Watchmaking lives on values, and these are the values that we must preserve. If this is an age of transitions, there is an even greater need to reflect on all that is timeless, and therefore iconic, eternal, and what is not; on what can and must change, and what must stay true to itself; on what must become global, and what must remain happily local.

Only a clear vision of these values we believe in – and how they are evolving – will enable us to understand that other important and equally hard-to-follow transition: that of the customer. The customer holds expectations of absolute values, of guarantees that we are willing and obliged to provide. Deep down, the customer expects more than a watch that will last a lifetime; they expect it to be a value they can pass on.

We were sceptical. Let's be curious, instead!

Younger customers are drawn to these values, too. Or rather, younger customers are most aware that nothing stands still, nothing remains the same. Hence why we must try and explain these concepts of lasting, timeless, iconic and precious. We must be capable of conveying this notion of time that will, in their perplexity, allow them to form a clear idea of what doesn’t change and has value. It is the only way we can stand up to this constant uncertainty.

If the middle classes disappear, if there is a greater concentration of wealth, if there are more poor people, if values crumble, Fine Watchmaking knows it cannot sit back and watch hands circling the dial, cutting like a knife through everything it has built during all these years. We must respond accordingly to this desire for authenticity: our values help us rally the future without becoming crushed in the present. Horace told us to seize the day – “Carpe diem”. This Forum will help us seize the present so as to understand, with greater confidence and less fear, a future that is changing as we speak. Just as I hope it can also help us change our attitude. We were sceptical. Let’s be curious, instead!


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