Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Big Payback - ETA

So it seems the words binding and final probably mean something slightly different in French and German ; )

I refer you, gentle reader, to today's news from ARCINFO:

For those of you non-French readers, Google Translate gave a pretty fair English version.

ETA has essentially been given carte blanche to sell whatever they want to whoever they want for whatever amount they want.  COMCO essentially reversed their decision and now (if I have understood the translation correctly) ETA is free to sell, or not sell to whoever they see fit.

For those of you unfamiliar as to what carte blanche means, I refer you to that other great commentator on the watch business, Carroll Shelby as played by Matt Damon in Ford vs. Ferrari:
They said I had a carte blanche this time. I looked it up, it’s French for horseshit.  

Yes, I am well aware that is not a literal translation ; ). 
But just as in the movie, what is carte blanche one moment can shift depending on the intestinal fortitude of the regulators. Whether or not it turns out to be horseshit remains to be seen, but the message it sends to the competition right now is that they better get ready for the Big Payback. Payback not from ETA, but from their customers. Because sooner or later it's about sex appeal. And when it comes to buying movements for your watch brand, be it small or be it mighty? The letters ETA on your spec sheet give you the confidence of Popeye after a can of spinach. While other brands are going through their rebuttal books trying to explain that the movement they are using is just as good, or nearly as good as ETA, they are still not ETA. 

If you have positioned yourself as an available, viable solution, while pretty much sticking it to your customers as you fell down in terms of quality, late deliveries, etc., essentially telling them if they didn't like it, they could lump it? SWATCH is likely to open the floodgates. Get ready to say goodbye to a lot of your customers, and your dignity.

If you recently hosed a strategic partner on a newly developed movement, get ready to experience the irony as the karmic whirlwind is about to rock your world in a way that is probably best not discussed in a family outlet.

If you're ETA?  Get ready to start drinking from a fire hose, because your customers have you on speed-dial.

But then again, we need to consider some other factors - we are now in a different world than we were just 6 months ago. COVID-19 has knocked the watch industry's collective dicks in the dirt. So what this is all really going to look like in a few years' time is hard to know. 

COMCO is also drinking from a firehose.  The Swiss government at large has a lot of balls in the air, seeing as we're in the middle of both a global health and global financial crisis. And when you think about it, ETA represents a shit-ton of potentially out of work people that could be, well, working. Making more than a few people redundant is probably not so attractive a proposition.

But as mentioned previously - what is carte blanche today could be horseshit a bit further down the dusty trail. ETA is still being viewed as "dominant", so we shall watch, and we shall wait and see.

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