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Smith and Smith will cease trading at the end of November 2015
Smith and Smith will cease trading at the end of November 2015

Watch company closes as spare parts dry up

The evolution of watch manufacturing has prompted one of Australia’s oldest watch and clock suppliers to close up shop.

Sydney-based business Smith and Smith, which was established in 1972, will cease trading at the end of this month due in part to Swatch Group’s decision to halt supply of parts to third parties.

Speaking with Jeweller, Smith and Smith director Michael Smith said, “Having worked closely with Swatch for over 40 years and built up a flourishing business as a result of selling Swatch product, it was clear to me I would not be able to make up for the loss in the short term by changing our business strategy.”

In 2011, Swatch Group initiated an investigation via the Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) that revealed its intentions to reduce supply of mechanical watch movements and components to independent watchmakers.

The group’s subsidiary, ETA, reportedly produces about two-thirds of all mechanical movements in Switzerland.

Michael Smith, Smith and Smith director
Michael Smith, Smith and Smith director

COMCO ruled in 2013 that Swatch was allowed to withdraw its supply – albeit on a gradual basis – and according to Smith, global distribution of spare parts to wholesalers will cease 31 December 2015.

Lack of support

Smith said he had observed the independent watchmaking industry face a number of challenges over the years. One example was the introduction of quartz watches that led to a decrease in mechanical watch repairs.

Smith noted that, at the time, understanding and adapting to the new technology was made easier because of the support from major watch manufacturers. However, he said today, this support was limited or, in the case of some companies, no longer existed.

“If you cannot get spare parts, your work volume is reduced and your ability to earn a decent living is compromised,” he explained. “Apprentices are almost non-existent and the teaching facilities once taken for granted are shutting down.”

Commenting on his own business, Smith said, “Staff numbers have dropped considerably over the last few years. We currently have four permanent staff and two part-time, down from 11 some years ago. All are kept busy as there is always something to do but we are not as busy as we once used to be.”

Smith emphasised he did not blame the closure of his business on Swatch, stating, “We had a wonderful working relationship and I am grateful for that.”

He said the timing of Swatch’s decision had encouraged him to pursue other interests. “I have spent almost 60 years catering for the needs of the industry in every way possible, and as much as I have enjoyed it, there comes a time,” he explained.

Smith and Smith’s stock will be acquired by Australian Watch and Clock Supplies, which also purchased product from jewellery and watch supplier Seiver’s Australia when it closed in 2014.

More reading
Swatch ordered to continue movement supply
Swatch forced to ease component restrictions
Australian watchmakers take a stand
Swatch steps up campaign to cut watch component supply
Another jewellery supplier closes its doors


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