Tuesday, February 4, 2020

When the Other Penny Drops

Before we even start talking about watches, it is safe to say that the coronavirus is very serious, is not really "knowable" in terms of impact, and is nothing to make light of in any way, shape or form.  The shit is getting a bit scary.  And despite what some of my right leaning colleagues in the Fourth and Fifth Estate might muse, that it is "not even as bad as the flu..."  I think it is fair to say that this is a major health and welfare reality that no amount of swagger, jingoism or America First/Deep State Conspiracy Theory will explain away.  The coronavirus does not give two shits about who you voted for, or whether or not you believe in the reporting of the media, the reality of global warming, the earth being round, or buy into that other left-wing fairy tale, gravity.

With the SWATCH group's announcement yesterday to pull the plug on their (now not) annual Time To Move event some interesting questions have been raised beyond the obvious health concerns.

It is important to keep a few things in mind, not least of which is that most flights between the Chinese mainland and, well, anywhere else, let alone Switzerland have been suspended -

And per SWISS -


This also includes:  KLM, United, American, Delta, Air Canada, ANA, Korean, Cathay Pacific... and the list goes on and on.  My point being, if you are in mainland China, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get a direct flight.  Most of the international airlines will not "re-open" those routes until late this month/early March at the earliest.  And what does that mean?  Chinese customers and journalists will not be able to attend any shows.  And cynical though this may sound, I suspect that this is what is really at the heart of the cancellation of the event.  To the best of my knowledge, international conferences and trade fairs are (at least as of this writing) still planning to move forward, except in China and Hong Kong, of course. 

And what this really underscores is the now undeniable reality of just how dependent the Swiss watch industry is upon China.  Because at this moment the concern is about people's ability to travel from China to attend a trade fair.  But that is really just the tip of the iceberg.  What comes next is multi-faceted.

Actual watch manufacturing - despite what the FH and the regulations regarding Swiss Made might have you believe, you would have very few watches made anywhere without China and it's suppliers, assemblers, manufacturers and prototypers.  

So what?  Why does this matter?  These people don't have to travel to Switzerland!  Well, yes and no.  They do have to travel to the factory where they work, which for many now is...


The word around the campfires in Switzerland, Germany and Japan is that in China, more than a few (now) former loyalists were asked to enjoy their New Year holidays and, well, not come back.  In other instances, people are being forced to stay home to ensure that the virus cannot spread through a given factory.  And then the dominoes begin to fall.  Because even mighty SWATCH, Richemont and LVMH depend upon some (in some cases, many) things that are sourced from China.  That's just a simple reality.

Now, it goes without saying that we all hope that the virus will be successfully quarantined and if not eradicated, controlled from further spread.  But for right now, it might be a good time to put your politics aside, because it's about to bite everyone's ass on a global level, no matter what industry you're in. 

So spare a thought for the health of the people out there suffering.  And if you can't do it out of, I don't know, simple human decency?  You can always take the pragmatic view of the health of your bank account, that way you won't feel like a "snowflake".

We live in interesting times.

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