Australian watchmakers take a stand
By Dean Millard
A movement has started to maintain Australian watchmakers’ rights to
access Swiss watch parts, with more than 1,000 people already showing
The group, Save-The-Time.org, is responding to the growing restriction of distribution of watch parts from major Swiss watch companies to independent jewellers, as reported in Jeweller late last year.
Save-The-Time.org spokesperson Nicholas Hacko said that when a number accounts of watchmakers who had worked with some major Swiss brands for decades, one almost 50 years, were closed as of April 1 a group of Australian watch makers decided enough was enough and took to the internet to seek support. They established the website save-the-time.org to push their case.
Hacko says that in the three weeks since then the group has been flooded with support, with more than 1,000 people already signing petitions to take to the ACCC in an attempt to force the Swiss watch companies to share the parts required to repair watches.
Hacko said similar movements had been attempted in the past but this was the first time one had used online as its key medium of communication and as such he was amazed how strong the response had been.
“We had been expecting maybe 150, so we didn’t really expect the support to the level we have received,” Hacko said.
He said restriction of distribution or parts by a range of Swiss watch companies had been forced many watchmakers out of business around the world as without the correct parts they could no longer offer a service or practice their trade.
The fear of Save-The-Time.org is the loss of specific skills that will result from the death of the industry. Hacko believes that consumers should be afraid of the actions of the Swiss companies which is creating a monopoly.
“As a consumer this means you no longer have the option of taking your watch to an independent watch maker to get a second opinion,” Hacko said. “The Swiss brands are taking full advantage of that because it means they can now charge whatever they want because everything becomes compulsory. If you take a watch in for crystal replacement because it is scratched they will want you to get an overhaul and bracelet re-polishing, new clasp, and you can’t go to someone else and get a second opinion.”
Save-The-Time.org spokesperson Nicholas Hacko
He said the loss of skilled independent watchmakers meant many vintage watches were now becoming irreparable because many of the original makers were refusing to repair them beyond a certain age.
Hacko said the ACCC had helped the automotive industry fight a similar problem in the past and Save-The-Time.org hoped the regulatory body would support watch consumers in the same way. He also believes Australia was one of the few countries in the world where a group such as his could take the fight to major, international brands and stand a chance thanks to the support of the ACCC.
“The Swiss watch companies are very powerful and they have money to fight this, we have no money to fight them, but we have people who believe that something is wrong. Australia is probably the last country in the world where you can still challenge big corporations and it costs you nothing because the ACCC is very keen to protect the consumer’s rights.”
Hacko urged watch retailers, jewellers and watch enthusiasts to go to the group’s website and read their arguments and if they agreed with them to also sign the petition in support.
“Other countries are looking at this and waiting for the result,” Hacko said. “We believe there is a way to force Swiss manufacturers to conduct their business in a more acceptable way in Australia. They might say this is how we do business in Switzerland, well that’s fine, but you are not welcome behave like a bully in Australia.”
Posted April 23, 2012