The Rise Of Luxury Fashion Tech, The End Of The Swiss Watch Industry?
La Chaux-de-Fonds, the home of not even 40.000 people, and its smaller neighbour Le Locle, are two small towns in the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry since the 19th century.
Here, the watchmakers are trying to cope with a crisis not many understand yet. Trying to adapt to the changes while preserving the skills that drove past successes. The rise of smartwatches hammers the demand for the traditional luxury watches.
Top luxury watch manufacturers such as LVMH, Swatch Group, and Richemont demanded price cuts from suppliers and more in-house production, as the answer. However, that solution did not stop the crisis.
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Both, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle were hit hard. The core of the Swiss watch industry and the home to a network of subcontractors lost over 1.000 jobs in less than a year. The truth is that the figure is higher if we include the staff attrition and the temporary contracts not renewed.
Even worse, in January, La Chaux-de-Fonds had a jobless rate of 8.1 percent, one of the highest in Switzerland. A country where the watch industry accounts for the main share of its 11.000 jobs.
“We expect sales to fall up to 40 percent this year. Moreover, we have introduced the “shorter hours” from March.” said the company owner Raymond Leitenberg.
Still, he hopes to break even this year and is confident that if they add innovation to the expertise they already have, we would see the business through. “The Swiss watch industry is quite dynamic when it comes to the research. It has never been an industry that rests on its laurels.
The Upcoming Market Of luxury fashion tech watches
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The crisis is fueling creativity here. We have reached the bottom, and things have to improve. We just don’t know when. We have to hold out until they do.” said Leitenberg.
Once again, the need for fashion and tech collaboration becomes more evident than ever. A fashion tech collaboration that the Swiss watch designer Yvan Arpa presented even before the Apple Watch went on sales, almost two years ago. An idea that the media at that time took as a blend of humor and eccentric style.
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The truth is that Yvan Arpa saw long before a market in luxury fashion tech watches. For those of you not aware of his famous mockup two years ago, here it is again. A re-cased Apple Watch, in a solid gold case with baguette-cut diamonds.
If you read between the line, his message at that time was, “Do not worry; we can cope with what’s coming.” Let’s hope he is right.