Switzerland, with its stunning, rolling alpine landscape, has traditionally been the home of fine watchmaking. For hundreds of years, well established companies and the best craftsmen worked together to create some horological masterpieces, as well as a constant flow of mid-range, relatively affordable, fantastic quality everyday watches.
However, since the end of the last decade, with talk of ‘smart’ watches, the traditional watchmakers have had a tougher time. Unchallenged until now in their timekeeping excellence, technological advances meant that you could have a miniature computer on your wrist that happened to tell the time, but also let you read emails, check your daily step count and even take phone calls. For the younger, technologically minded generation, this was a winner. Who cares about precision and tradition when you can text your mates as well?
But, as with all technological obsessions, they are usually quite short lived, or at least move so quickly that people can barely keep pace. As there has been a swing back from mass production to bespoke, local or artisan products in the food industry, so we have begun to see it with watches as well. Anyone can go out and buy a mass produced smart watch, but far fewer can, or will, splash out on a handmade Swiss timepiece, and people always love exclusivity.
Since the beginning of 2016 there has been a marked increase in the export of fine Swiss horology, with a lot of it going to developing markets such as Asia. Omega, Rolex and Hugo Boss Orange watches are the perennial favourites, but higher priced models are faring well too. In a bid to further reverse this trend, or as some might say hop on the bandwagon, some manufacturers such as Tag Heuer and Montblanc have begun to create hybrid animals, containing both Swiss precision movements and digital ‘smart’ elements. We have yet to see how popular these will be, but it is encouraging to see that fine manufacturing and precision analogue instruments still have a place in the digital world we live in today.