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Tech Insights - Warranties : the long-awaited extension

Tech Insights Warranties : the long-awaited extension

Long limited to two years, legal warranties are steadily being increased to three, five or more years. A welcome alignment between watchmakers’ claims and their actual services.

For more than a hundred years, the Swiss watch industry has been committed to a common goal : making its products synonymous with quality superior to that associated with their counterparts from anywhere else. French, English, German, Japanese and American watchmakers – to name but a few of the most important producers of timepieces claiming a certain quality – have never managed to create such a strong and successful association of ideas. This groundwork, undertaken by brands, conglomerates, cartels, umbrella associations and even cantons, has had such an effect that Swiss watch manufacturers have found themselves both buoyed and constrained by this image.

Warranties : the long-awaited extension

Pilot Double Chronographe Top Gun Ceratanium, eight-year warranty © IWC Schaffhausen

A double-edged sword 

Swiss watches are the natural choice when people are looking for a well-designed, well-manufactured, well-finished, high-quality product. This has created hope among the public. They expect their watch to run reliably and accurately for longer than any other. And therein lies the rub, because the “long time period” concept has ended up becoming so long in consumers’ minds that they find it impossible to understand that their watch might one day let them down. They even struggle to grasp the necessary of regular preventive maintenance. Yet alongside these promises of longevity and precision, Swiss watchmakers tended to make only minimal commitments. In fact, their “legal guarantee of conformity” long stagnated at just one year before generally being stretched to two years due to international regulations, such as those of the European Union.

Warranties : the long-awaited extension

Hourstriker Phantom, five-year warranty © Ulysse Nardin

Efforts rewarded 

Two years during which the brand has sufficient confidence in its products to take the financial, logistical and image risk of repairing them at its own expense if necessary. There is a huge gap between these two years and consumers’ expectations. So, in the course of the 2010s, some particularly smart brands opted to surpass these 24 standard months. They thereby showed greater assurance regarding the quality of their production and, above all, demonstrated a grasp of the reassuring, positive and attractive message that this sends to consumers.

Warranties : the long-awaited extension

RM33-02 TPT, five-year warranty © Richard Mille

High performers 

The roster of those offering three-year warranties includes Oris and, surprisingly, Festina, whereas many giants are lagging behind at one year less. The realm of five-year guarantees was long regarded as the ultimate and featured names such as Rolex and Tudor, Richard Mille, Omega, Ulysse Nardin and Bovet. Within this exclusive club, Breitling applies double standards and differentiates its in-house movements from others, for which customers must make do with the minimum duration. Then in 2019, four Richemont group brands decided to strike a big blow, with Cartier, Panerai, IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre now offering eight-year warranties combined with online maintenance advice platforms.

Warranties : the long-awaited extension

Santos, eight-year warranty © Cartier

A significant detail 

It was thus high time that brands agree to increase the value of their services, consistent with their communication and therefore their claims. Yet it should be noted that for most of them, such as Richard Mille, Oris and especially Panerai, Jaeger-LeCoultre or Cartier, these are not “native” or inbuilt guarantees, but rather complimentary extensions of the legal minimum. It is up to purchasers to make themselves known and to fill in detailed contact forms in order to benefit from longer support. It does not cost much, yet this extension thus comes at a price for customers. For the brands, any additional costs will be amortized through better public awareness and perhaps enhanced team mobilization on the theme of quality.

Warranties : the long-awaited extension

Presented at SIHH 2017, the Luminor LAB-ID limited series by PANERAI is guaranteed for 50 years ! © Panerai


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