As most of our readers will know, the Swatch Group has decided to stop selling spare parts for their watches to independent repairers such as us. This will come into force on 1/1/2016.
This will affect the owners of the following watch brands:
- Union Glashuette
- Harry Winston
- Glashuette Original
- Jaquet Droz
- Leon Hatot
- Calvin Klein
- Flik Flak
The main argument heard is that the Swatch Group wants to assure the same service level across their brands, and prevent unqualified people tinkering with their watches.
In reality, it’s all about cutting off the reasonably priced repair sector, and to make sure that everyone owning one of the above brands has to pay whatever Swatch Group wants them to pay.
There are of course approved repairers around, but the trend is to squeeze those out of business in order to centralise the whole service industry in Switzerland, and to make sure that everyone has to pay whatever they want to charge.
If you don’t own one of the brands, you still aren’t safe, as the Swatch Group has bought another 17 companies that make parts for watches, such as ETA for movements, Nivarox for hairsprings, and various companies that make hands, cases, crystals, etc.
If you, as a watch lover, would rather not be blackmailed by the Swatch Group, make sure that you buy from a manufacturer that sells parts to the independent trade, such as Nomos. Ask before you buy a watch, and make sure your jeweler understands why you aren’t buying a Swatch Group watch from him the next time around.
Only you as a customer can influence the Swatch Group – we as independent repairers can’t do that. They are trying to devalue the investment you have made by buying one of their watches.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that the argument of service quality can’t be the real reason. We put a lot of time and love into repairing your watches, and resurrect watches that the Swatch Group wouldn’t even touch. Without access to spare parts, we will not be able to do this in the future.
If you feel that this concerns you, feel free to tell the Swatch Group what you think of their decision by contacting them.
We here at WatchGuy aren’t too concerned about our future, as there are plenty of other brands around, and there is such high demand for our services, that we can easily live without Swatch Group watches. But the Swatch Group can’t live without you as their customers.
The British Watch and Clock Makers Guild (of which I am a member) has set up an Industry Action Fund as a vehicle by which anyone can join a cooperative effort to deal with the issues facing the industry. We have made a sizeable contribution to this fund, and would encourage any other companies, or concerned organisations and individuals to do likewise. The work of the Industry Action Fund will allow us to at least challenge this highly noncompetitive decision by Swatch Group. Such behaviour is unworthy of a company coming from a country with such strong democratic roots.
The Swatch Group will tell you that any watchmaker can apply for an account. That is true, but in order to get an Omega account, you have to make a £35,000 investment in equipment they require. We have all of that equipment, but from different manufacturers, so we would have to kit out our workshop from scratch again.
After a meeting with Swatch Group on 9/10/2015, where we discussed the issues outlined above, I received a letter dated 30/11/2015, in which the Swatch Group states:
“We would like to take this opportunity to highlight, and readdress any misunderstanding, regarding the level of investment required and also the overarching criteria of our brands. On the logical presumption that the applicant watchmaker or service centre for inclusion within our network is already established, the workshop would have watch service machinery and tools. To this end, any further investment required would be limited to any additional tooling and/or machinery required to service some of our timepieces. Whilst additional investment may be necessary, depending on the approved level of services which may be performed, we do not stipulate that the said machinery and/or tools have to be brand specific, i.e. generic machinery or non-Swatch Group machinery may be used and/or purchased. This is different to some other Swiss watch manufacturers. Thus, the view that inclusion within the spare parts distribution network will always result in additional investment is not correct. Also, it is not correct that the criteria of our brands are dissimilar. Whilst there may be some specific criteria which are only applicable to certain brands, in the main all brands share the same standards. Consequently one assessment of a workshop (including equipment, tools and watchmaker’s skills) may suffice for the workshop to be approved for other brands on the same or lower level.
That being said, we had hoped that following our meeting the rationale behind our spare parts distribution network was clear and appreciated. We are therefore surprised to note your post entitled “Swatch Group parts policy” which was posted on your website http://watchguy.co.uk on 30 September 2015. Whilst the post pre-dates our meeting, We cannot see any attempts to rectify the inaccuracies with regards to our selective distribution system. We should hope that the content of the post is rectified to address how the spare parts distribution network operates and the benefits of the same. Of course, we will be happy to further discuss this matter and any questions you may have.”
That sounds like it would be easy enough for established watch repairers to be part of their distribution network, but when I wrote to Swatch Group UK to enquire about a parts account, I got the following letter in 2013:
Thank you for the interest in Selective spare parts distribution.
I have looked at the pictures that you sent to Lynne and want to make the following observations.
Also I have listed the type of equipment I would expect to see on an assessment visit.
The workshop for assembly must be separated clean and un-cluttered with cupboards for tools and draws for materials, separated from contamination – lathe etc.
Ultrasonic cleaning machine ACS 900
Griener with ventilation
Witschi proofmaster S or MRoxer natator 125
Timer with co-axial programme Witschi 3
Quartz tester analyser Q1
Recognised watchmaker bench with Light
Microscope with 2 light sources and x 40
Small fridge for oils
Separated polishing room with motor and extraction.
Recognised qualification and experience
There are also Brand specific tools to purchase for Omega cost £6-4000 dependant on generic tools.
I hope this helps, please call me to discuss the workshop and equipment.
Kind regards, Peter”
This doesn’t sound like there is any room for manoeuvre regarding the equipment, as the letter from Swatch Group suggest.
I checked today (4/12/2015) with Peter from Swatch Group UK, and he confirmed on the phone that the full list of necessary equipment still applies.