While world annual requirements in
terms of watch cases in all categories amount to around 600 million
units, Swiss manufacturers account for only 6 million, or 1 % of
this total. These figures are an eloquent reminder of the framework
within which our industry works.
This situation is the result of many years of crises and restructuration.
1974 saw the start of the first major upheaval in watchmaking, which
was shaken to its very foundations and consequently reviewed its
structures and resized to fit the volumes and types of product that
it would be able to continue making and selling.
Watch-case producers did not escape this maelstrom and global Swiss
production dropped from 45 million to 6 million a year. It would
be unfair for the companies which currently excel in our field to
draw a veil over the difficult and uncertain years which each has
experienced in its own way.
In order to achieve the structures in place today, our sector has
shown courage, ingenuity, a taste for risks and above all faith
in the medium and top of the range which requires our services,
and which remains loyal to us in a spirit of genuine partnership.
Watch-cases are as much a watch component as are the dials or hands.
However beautiful or complicated, a case carries the watchmaker's
brand name, and the case manufacturer is not identified on the product
it sells. This is the strength of our profession which, by avoiding
any branding policy, eliminates heavy advertising costs.
This is however also its weakness, as we are all dependent on the
success (or lack of it) of our watchmaker clients who are sometimes
subject to a sudden and unexpected turn of events in economic or
fashion terms. Swiss manufacture of watch cases is structured into
small and medium-sized companies.
Few employ more than 150 people. Most
manufacturers are part of the Union Suisse pour l'Habillage de la
Montre (Swiss Union for Watch Exteriors). This professional association
comprises around 50 members. Ten companies alone account for 90%
of Swiss watch case production.
This industrial fabric, which is far removed from what one sees
in other sectors, where only large companies can hope to survive,
enables case manufacturers to stay closely in tune with demand,
to be supple and extremely quick in adapting their production means
- in a word to satisfy exacting clients who must constantly adapt
to demand and to the sometimes surprising effects of fashion. In
the highly particular luxury watch market, each company has had
to choose its path and its niche, as none of them can be effective
throughout the range of cases requested.
It is thus that, according to their choices or natural affinities,
companies find themselves working for the middle and top of the
range, and even peak of the price pyramid.
This positioning will determine the clientele of each company. In
all cases and depending on the performances sought, it is important
to insist in the fact that all watch manufacturers now active in
their respective niches are well organised, that they all demonstrate
know-how and ingenuity and have all equipped their factories with
modern and effective production facilities. Nonetheless, production
is not merely about technology and machinery. Men are needed.
One should note the excellent level of specialisation of personnel
working in our sector. Almost entirely concentrated within the Jura
region, our profession calls for qualified, loyal and multi-faceted
Each day we are met with new challenges. We have to make up the
products to order quickly and with no mistakes. No compromises on
the functionality and quality of the cases may be tolerated.
Impeccable quality and customer satisfaction is an integral part
of a watch case, representing its pride and its future.
Crafting watch cases is in no way an ordinary profession. It is
on the contrary a demanding and particularly fascinating field of
expertise, exempt from any routine.
Through their talent and their creations, Swiss watch-case manufacturers
contribute to the success of the watch companies which, by means
of their label, name or products, continue to enable people to dream
in the modern world!
What a fine reward and source of satisfaction for our sector!