Guild conference
British Watch and Clock Makers' Guild meeting in March.

Industry Action Fund meets with government over spare parts supply

The British Watch & Clock Makers’ Guild has met with the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to discuss the Swiss watch industry’s restriction of supply of spare parts.

The Guild’s Industry Action Fund, headed up by former chairman of the Epping Forest Horology Centre Steve Domb, met with senior officials at the government department at the beginning of November to discuss what it describes as the ‘anti-competitive practices’ of the Swiss watch industry.

A number of Swiss brands such as Rolex prohibit the supply of spare parts to independent watchmakers which prevents all but authorised service centres from working on certain watches with official parts. Achieving brand authorisation often requires a significant investment in specific tooling and equipment required by the brands. While the equipment check lists issued by the various brands frequently feature equipment of similar specification, the brands often require equipment from differing manufacturers, which might result in an independent watchmaker or service centre having to purchase several different pieces of equipment capable of the same job if it wishes to work on watches from more than one brand.

The brands argue that by keeping servicing and repair work in-house or with an authorised service centre they can guarantee a level of quality and better protect the image of their brand.

The situation has been exacerbated by Swatch Group’s recent decision to restrict the supply of its branded spare parts to only authorised service centres for all of its brands, a measure which comes into force on January 1. But a senior figure within Swatch Group recently told WatchPro that despite the general perception that the Swiss powerhouse is not approachable on such matters, in reality it is ‘not inflexible’ and open to discussion should anyone have issues with the policy.

Before the meeting Domb provided the BIS representatives with a background briefing document on the situation and then handed over an information pack relating to how the situation will impact ‘both the consumer and the independent repair trade’.

“When we arrived for the meeting, it was clear that the officials had studied the briefing and were well prepared,” Domb stated. “We knew within the first minute of the meeting starting that we had a sympathetic and knowledgeable audience, because one of our hosts opened proceedings by removing from his wrist a vintage Swiss watch. He then told us about his recent experience of getting an exorbitant quote for service from the manufacture, and subsequently having the work done at an independent watchmaker for about one eight of the price.”

During the meeting Domb raised a number of issues including: parts supply, barriers to entry created by specific tooling and product training requirements of the brands, current EU court proceedings and the worldwide nature of the parts restriction, which no doubt relates to US antitrust legislation.

Domb also discussed the results of The Watch Guy Christian Danneman’s survey that aimed to discover the levels of consumer satisfaction with both independent and in-house service centres and generated 700 responses.

The meeting concluded with the BIS officials providing ‘very helpful’ advice on the next steps needed and contacts at the Competition and Markets Authority.

The news was revealed in an Industry Action Fund Progress Report issued eight months after the Guild hosted an extraordinary meeting of the British horology trade in Watford to discuss the supply of spare parts and other pressing matters such as training.

James Buttery

Editor of WatchPro, the WatchPro Hot 100 and The Luxury Report.

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  1. The Watch and Clockmakers of Australia is vitally interested in the results of your consultations with the UK government.
    As you have said this is a worldwide issue and a serious impediment to free trade for independent watchmakers.
    In Australia we have seen the number of material houses declining seriously as their ability to provide the materials required to support the trade have been taken away by manufacturers.
    The returns to independent watchmakers have declined to the point that the training of apprentices for the future has been greatly impacted on and the only remaining training program threatened.
    I look forward to any further reports on this matter

  2. Well, as I see it, this is because the lack of industrial promotion by some governments, prevent both manufactured in the watchmaker field as in others, putting stupid bureaucratic obstacles or high taxes that impede access to independent watchmakers who they have high purchasing power.
    The case of Spain for example, overseas investment as Panama or Asian countries are made by selling high-speed trains such as the populace is told that the country works and we are getting benefits, but we see that unemployment is a nonsense and we have a number of staff superlative those benefits are eaten.
    That is because no action is taken not interested.
    Term: This shield is terminated spares preventing the presence in other countries to those companies who practice it, because today there is enough to make Rolex or anything else you can think of technology.
    It is the opinion of a “SIMPLE INDEPENDENT WATCHMAKER”.

    Translated from Spanish (original below)

    Pues tal y como yo lo veo,esto ocurre porque la falta de promoción industrial por parte de algunos gobiernos,impiden la fabricación propia tanto en el campo relojero como en otros,poniendo trabas burocráticas estúpidas o con impuestos elevados que impiden el acceso a relojeros independientes que no tienen poder adquisitivo elevado.
    El caso de España por ejemplo,se hacen inversiones en el extranjero como Panamá o países asiáticos vendiéndoles trenes de alta velocidad por ejemplo mientras que a la plebe se le dice que el país funciona y que estamos obteniendo beneficios, pero vemos que el paro es un disparate y que disponemos de una cantidad superlativa de funcionarios que se comen esos beneficios.
    Es decir no se toman medidas porque no interesa.
    Termino: Esto del blindaje de los repuestos se termina impidiendo la presencia en otros países a esas compañías
    que lo practican,pues hoy hay tecnología suficiente para fabricar Rolex o cualquier otra cosa que se nos ocurra.
    Es la opinión de un ” SIMPLE RELOJERO INDEPENDIENTE”

  3. As this is a worldwide ban on supply of parts including Switzerland we should be putting pressure on a European level. Also a legal change at European level is required as well as a campaign for UK shops and suppliers not to stock these Swiss brands until they change their policy.

    I hope this helps .
    ian Franklin

  4. I have been in the horology trade since 1964 and I can understand manufacturers eg ETA wanting to make sure that the person has the qualifications to fit the parts correctly. Unfortunately there are people starting up in watch and clock making who have been on a few weekend or week courses and call themselves horologists. I trained for 5 years on watches and clocks but then did another 4 years improving on clocks which I enjoy, I don’t know if I am correct but is Swatch Group [Omega] getting a bit too big for their boots? Don’t hold us to ransom or you might not get the response that you wanted Yours F Burgess

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