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“M” for Manufacture
Point of View

“M” for Manufacture

Thursday, 11 November 2010
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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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When car enthusiasts talk about their wheels – Porsche, Mercedes, Fiat or Ferrari -, they presume their model rolls off the production line of that particular brand. Not for a second, though, do I imagine they believe every single part was made in that same factory. I think the driver of a Rolls – oh happy man! – knows that the prestigious British marque counts on exclusive, top-notch suppliers for its components and accessories. The artists at Rolls-Royce then assemble them into a result that is necessarily greater than the sum of its parts.

In Fine Watchmaking, and over the past ten years in particular, virtually every brand has added the magic word Manufacture to its name, particularly for its communication. In doing so they attest that everything the customer wears on their wrist was made in their workshops. Is this really necessary? Is it something customers want to know? And if they do, how important is it to them that each model is made totally or partially in-house?

When purchasing a Fine Watch, the most demanding customer expects the manufacturer to guarantee its legitimacy, authenticity and reliability, and to provide service to the end of time, for durability is a lifelong assurance of its value.

A quarrel has emerged within the profession of late between those who swear by vertical integration and advocates of a horizontal-vertical mix. The latter believe manufacturers must be allowed to benefit from specialised, disciplined suppliers, including though not limited to the ones referred to by the Fine Watchmaking Manifesto as “movement makers.”

Incidentally, this horizontal structure has been a constant of Swiss watchmaking culture and production for three hundred years.

I fear this quarrel may continue ad infinitum without being of any benefit to the customer who knows the Earth is round, even if it has been divided into meridians and parallels. The world in this particular instance is personified by a Fine Watch that has been imagined, developed and produced by a brand which takes full responsibility for its work.

Whatever the case, and to avoid disputes, discussions and discrimination, we shall accept the reality of the word “Manufacture” as a manufacturer working for a brand – a specific place with its own existence, staff and equipment – and ignore its use in marketing in a way that can raise doubts, suspicion and in some cases even mislead.

These jottings may draw criticism from various quarters. No matter: criticism is part of dialogue, and as Socrates and Plato said, dialogue leads to truth. And sets the record straight.

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