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Editorial - Changing the guard

Editorial Changing the guard

Major management changes at Richemont, disappointing results at the Swatch Group, yet a positive outlook for 2017, not least thanks to some sensible new collections and trends.

The big news last week came from the world’s two biggest luxury watch groups. On the one hand, Richemont moved to confirm the rumours of big management changes that had circulated during the SIHH week. By the end of the week, we had received official confirmation that the CEOs of Piaget and Vacheron Constantin would be leaving their posts with effect from 1 April, with an announcement of the departure of Daniel Riedo from Jaeger-LeCoultre expected to follow. Our interview with Juan-Carlos Torres published last Friday already reads as a swansong, with a clear “mission accomplished” conclusion. At Piaget, Chabi Nouri will take over from Philippe Leopold-Metzger as CEO on the same date and become the first female CEO in the Richemont watch and jewellery stable.

Meanwhile the Swatch Group published its key figures for 2016 last week. They were even worse than analysts expected, with net income dropping 47%. Four years ago, when business was much better, the Swatch Group considered cutting movement deliveries to third parties from its production arm ETA, which resulted in a gentleman’s agreement with the Swiss competition commission for a staggered reduction in production until 2019. The aim was to encourage competition in movement production, both at other brands and from alternative movement suppliers (Sellita, Ronda, Soprod) and it worked. With the downturn in the industry, however, ETA last year found itself competing with these very suppliers increasingly scarce orders, which significantly eroded the Swatch Group’s bottom line. Nevertheless, there are signs of improvement, with sales for the group picking up in November and December last year, particularly in mainland China. Whether this will translate into the “healthy growth” that the Swatch Group predicted for 2017 in its statement last week remains to be seen.

On WorldTempus this week, we continue our look at some of the trends seen during the SIHH. Tomorrow, Olivier Müller looks at the growing number of unisex watches being launched, as brands attempt to streamline their collections and save costs by offering timepieces that can appeal to the widest geographical and cultural demographic. On Wednesday I review a relatively rare horological complication: the triple-axis tourbillon. Camille Gendre and Michèle Brunner will conclude the week with a look at the resurgence of yellow-gold watches and cuff-style straps respectively.

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