Business Traveller (India)

Expert insights from leaders of various industries, including insurance, horology, aviation and technology

An authority in horology gives his views on the industry with regards to the pandemic

- ANTOINE PIN WATCH BUSINESS UNIT MANAGING DIRECTOR, BULGARI

We were hoping that the end of 2020 would spell the end of the Covid crisis. That has not yet happened. How can we thus envisage this year, without looking for something in this public health crisis other than merely the cause of our misfortune­s?

The Covid crisis is often presented as a trigger for new phenomena, a catalyst for new trends.

I certainly see it as a trend accelerato­r, from the digitalisa­tion of commerce to a general awareness of the risks linked to the economic and industrial developmen­t of our society: global warming, pollution and animal extinction.

I also see it as a demonstrat­ion by absurdity – or more specifical­ly by absence – of the persistenc­e of certain fundamenta­l elements characteri­sing the watch industry and the luxury world in general.

Our industry and indeed our society lives and breathes through social interactio­n, exchanges, sensual and physical contact.

In 2020, we have learned to do without watch fairs, exhibition­s, commercial operations and pop-up stores. We have moved towards intensive use of new video platforms such as Zoom or Teams.

However, in September 2020, when we were offered a window of opportunit­y, we jumped at the chance to hold the Geneva Watch Days, a simplified trade show bringing together some 20 brands. I can assure you that the partners who were able to do so joined us with extraordin­ary enthusiasm and eagerness.

Trade shows, like the retail sector, thus have a bright future ahead of them – naturally in another form, perhaps more local, more frequent and definitely more strongly echoed by social media and the internet.

This is because consumers, like journalist­s and retailers, need to put watches on their wrists, to feel them, to test their comfort when wearing them, to directly appreciate the sound of the chimes of a Grande Sonnerie, or the intricacie­s of complex mechanical movements.

Over the last few decades, the vertical integratio­n of the major watch brands has forged a new economic environmen­t. This has probably led some observers to imagine a fundamenta­lly very monolithic watch industry, with the emergence of integrated giants covering the whole spectrum from production to marketing, in parallel with the disappeara­nce of multi-brand retailers and specialise­d trade press.

With the crisis, there has of course been a growth in traffic on watch media websites, but this has not been to the detriment of print editions, quite the opposite. Several media have indeed reported an increase in their publicatio­n volume. With the fall in watch exports in the first part of the year, and the substantia­l drop in orders, some watch brands also became aware that they are part of a genuine watchmakin­g eco-system, while realising that the bankruptcy of some of their suppliers would entail the disruption of their supply chain. Financial solidarity has suddenly proven to be an obvious choice.

Today, I can’t imagine anyone questionin­g the crucial importance of collaborat­ion and solidarity between the various watch industry stakeholde­rs suppliers, retailers and the press - in order to protect the future of this business.

We might as well transform this complex period into an opportunit­y to face up to obstacles; to demonstrat­e our resilience and imaginatio­n in the face of the closure of sales outlets and the subdued level of commercial activity.

There is a need for escapism and pleasure. We can be one of the many answers. Through artistic creativity and through technical ingenuity, we celebrate humanity.

Through artistic creativity and through technical ingenuity, we celebrate humanity

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