Thursday, January 15, 2015

Switzerland Abandons Euro Cap

And across the cantons of Switzerland where watches are made, undergarments that were previously "tidy-whitey" are now rife with the funk and hue of semi-digested fondue and sausages.

For those of you who slept late, the "Central Bank" of Switzerland decided to abandon their cap on currency.  So basically, it is safe to say that it was an interesting day.  Yours truly had spied a LOW LOW LOW airfare price to BaselWorld but decided to wait for a certain PR client to pay their 3 month over-due invoice only to see the price of his ticket increase by $500 overnight!  Spoiler alert, the price went back down by 8:00 PM Pacific Time and the ticket has now been purchased : )

What were the short-term consequences? Well, safe to say that Nick Hayek pooped his Wranglers via email:  “Words fail me,” Swatch Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said by e-mail. “Today’s SNB action is a tsunami; for the export industry and for tourism, and finally for the entire country.”  Now it begs the question - maybe the Swiss Banking Industry is trying "to encourage watch companies to be more self-sufficient"... 

sorry - too soon?

There was much rending of clothing and angst abounded.  And I wonder, is it possible that maybe Georges Kern is perhaps regretting (just a wee little bit) his bravado regarding the luxury watch industry with the subtext reeking of Gordon Gecko that "Greed is Good".  I suspect now that IWC and others are may be staring down the double barrels of canceled orders and (frankly) a shitty SIHH fair, maybe now he will be Gordon Gecko reborn warning us about "Moral Hazard".  Now, suddenly, Champagne Charlie is crying foul!  How could you SCREW ME like this?  Greed is bad!!!

Well, let's review... the watch industry might have started with honest, hard-working, humble farmers seeking an additional source of income during the long winter months - but frankly, it has morphed into a system of survival of the "least fit" - sorry, sticking with the Wall Street theme here.  The major groups set the agenda, they determine not only who can buy their watches and who can sell them, but with Machiavellian machinations, they collude to determine who will write about them.   

OMEGA dumped millions into Putin's "Potemkin Village" in Sochi.  And every watch Journo and Flack who enjoyed the largess of "Hayek-land" lapped up the freebies, enjoyed the spoils, turned a blind eye to what they opted not to see... Champagne wishes and caviar dreams as Robin Leach used to say.  Mr. Kern swanning about giving a lecture on how to pump steroids into a product and create a price based on emotion.  Well, sooner or later you have to pay the check.  And presuming that the shifts in the banking industry that took place this morning were not just for shock value, some chickens have come home to roost.

Let me try to put this basically - groups like SWATCH, LVMH, Richmont, Kering and a certain group of Asian based companies that are quietly gobbling up smaller independent companies are pulling the strings.  

Think about watch companies like A. Favre & Fils and Atlantic.  Two brands at opposite ends of the price spectrum, but both are equally screwed in the wake of something like this.  A brand like IWC will simply roll over, show their tummy, lay off multiples of staff - Kerns will probably get a bonus...

The game is rigged.  It hasn't always been that way, but it most certainly is now.  Nick Hayek can cry me a river, but the bottom line is he will still be able to "take his kids to Chuckie Cheese" while those brand owners who don't enjoy such a special lineage (and bank account) will be considering whether or not it's too late to go to truck-driving school.  It was a gilded age, and in fairness the industry is swollen with fat sheep, and again to quote Gecko the Great - "Sheep get slaughtered."

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