Anyone who spent their summer at sea, whether for a yachting cruise or a lazy day on a catamaran, knows that no two waves are alike. However tranquil it may appear at first glance, the sea can always take us by surprise. As can the world of Fine Watchmaking! An encouraging breeze can suddenly give way to the stillest of skies, or to impetuous winds that might catch the ill-prepared “navigator” unawares.
And these days, how many navigators can claim they are prepared to sail the vast waters of Fine Watchmaking? It has always been an effervescent environment: this is the time of year when we habitually pore over executive declarations detailing growth percentages, new markets, openings, acquisitions and success stories. This year, we’re seeing a lot of big smiles but very few declarations. A smooth sea, not a wave in sight, under-currents?
Trends: export figures published by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry for the first six months of the year are interesting, without a doubt, but fall short as they give no indication of sales made to the end customer, and which timepieces they ultimately choose, per brand and per product. They simply highlight a few positive points for shipments in the (ex-works) price bracket above CHF 1,500. This isn’t enough. We have but a glimpse of an upturn.
Catching the right wind comes down to understanding the evolutions of an increasingly uncertain, bizarre, unfettered market.
The compass we ought to be following right now, and which is calm in appearance only, is the customer. A customer who is difficult to pinpoint, and who changes direction on a regular basis. Which way is his (or her) compass pointing right now? What can Fine Watchmaking do to make its power of attraction felt? What does the customer want to buy, own, see? Is he interested in growth percentages and how they relate to exchange rates, taxes or business development? Or is she more concerned with creativity that displays the authentic features of originality? Is he or she a young customer with a thirst for culture? A not-so-young customer who no longer has quite the means? A new customer who doesn’t yet know what makes him tick?
Understanding where the customer’s compass points can be vital to positioning the sails in the right direction. Because in the current climate, catching the right wind comes down to understanding the evolutions of an increasingly uncertain, bizarre, unfettered market. The free man has always cherished the sea, wrote Baudelaire. As for the customer, who is free to make his own choices, let us hope he continues to cherish the rich and well-stocked seas of Fine Watchmaking, and doesn’t turn towards the shallows where even the fastest ships eventually run aground.