Luxury Watches: Local or Cosmopolitan?

Why do watch enthusiasts know the names La-Chaux-de-Fonds, Schaffhausen, Le Brassus, Plan-les-Ouates?

Le Brassus, Switzerland @CC

Le Brassus, Switzerland @CC

Why is the consistent industry message, maison after maison, ad after ad, that everything they do is local – design, sourcing, manufacturing, production, finissage are all Swiss, all domestic?

And before you are dazzled by the immaculate finishing, remember that part of enduring appeal of that watch is the association with grit. It is the quaint image of the watchmaker toiling away at his workshop, squinting under vanishing ambient light and suffering for his art. It is the image of the Swiss Alps, bucolic as they are, with no roads connecting anything.

It is as if contemporary Swiss watchmakers retreat from the fancy industry conclaves in Geneva and New York and Hong Kong and Dubai and Shanghai, to life as medieval shepherds, lonely but subtly and painstakingly reaping value from the earth improbable acre of isolated alpine meadow--suffering for their art--in arcadian isolation.

The industry mythologizes the local. 

Swiss watch companies bridge local and local all the time, diligently manufacturing locally in Switzerland (with some "limited" exceptions) and marrying it with the delicate and relentless campaign of marketing Switzerland itself, and everything associated with that particular local.

This makes good business sense. It fact it is the only way to do business today.

In marketing, the most obviously wrong thing to do is to go straight to the most obvious thing. Is that haute horlogerie watch so appealing because it is cosmopolitan (i.e. globally the same peerless luxury), or is it because it is a bridge between locals, between many hard to connect, implausible and whimsical locals?

Heritage, tradition, these words reduce to local. The opportunity is to be hyper global and hyper local. The value created by Swiss luxury watch marketers derives from this very idea. Hyper Swiss handmade, craftsmanship (and by extension: irreplaceability and imperfections from any/all work done by hand)  transformed into hyper-globalized modular flawlessness. To be strong in your local communities while also connecting to people who share something in common with you, in other countries, in the cloud; herein lies value.