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Editorial - The supplier – a crucial link in the watchmaking chain

Editorial The supplier – a crucial link in the watchmaking chain

These companies may not be as prestigious as many watch brands, but they play a decisive role in making what goes into watches.

There is a background story to my interview with François Billig, the CEO of the Acrotec group, which is published today on WorldTempus. After the group made several important acquisitions over the course of 2017, and based on the findings of the 2017 Deloitte watch industry survey, I suggested that consolidation among suppliers in the watch industry might be one of the things to look out for in 2018. I mentioned Acrotec by name and they got in touch with me following the article.

It was only after a two-and-a-half hour drive up into the canton of Jura that I discovered that a slight nuance in the French translation of my article made the reference to Acrotec sound more like a warning. During the thirty-minute interview Mr Billig was keen to point out that, while the group had some very ambitious medium-term objectives, it was certainly not targeting any kind of domination in the watch industry. The recent acquisitions, as significant as they may be, had come about by the companies concerned contacting Acrotec, rather than Acrotec itself actively pursuing potential acquisitions.

Nevertheless, Acrotec has an ambitious target of 300 million Swiss francs in turnover over the medium term, which is a 50% increase over the current figure. This growth will also come from acquisitions, but most likely from outside the watch industry in sectors such as medtech and micromechanics. Its most recent acquisitions will also help the group tap new markets. As an example, after acquiring the only two independent jewel suppliers to the watch industry, Gasser Ravussin and Pierhor, last year, Acrotec could apply the high resistance of jewels to use in other applications, such as high-pressure nozzles used for cutting metals.

Compared with many watch brands, 300 million Swiss francs in turnover is a sizeable figure and shows that an unassuming company nestled in the Jura and making little noise can be a major contributor both to the Swiss watch industry and the Swiss economy as a whole. It is thanks to companies such as Vardeco, from which the Acrotec group emerged, that the micro-cluster around Lausanne producing precision connectors for industry emerged. These companies may not be as sexy as many of the watches you will find elsewhere on our pages, but they play a vital role in making what goes into them.

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