All News & Feedback Welcome: Contact our Managing Director – Anthony Cousins Email: Anthony@CousinsUK.com
News Update: 25.7.17 - “When Corporatism leads to Corporate Governance Failure - The case of the Swiss watch industry”
Newly listed for sale or free to down load on the Cousins web site is a book titled “When Corporatism leads to Corporate Governance Failure”. Not a phrase you would expect to see amongst the watch parts, tools and consumables, but the story behind the stocking of this book shows what happens when watch repairers learn a bit more about Business Law, and the value of persisting in trying to get that knowledge out to everyone.
Part of my role in the fight for open parts supply, is to make sense of the legal process and describe it in plain English for a non legal audience. Another part is to communicate that information to the trade, and as such I spend quite a bit of time on various on-line forums passing on what we have learned and responding to the inevitable questions. To be honest, sometimes this work is utterly soul destroying. I can spend ages explaining what is going on in a Court case that will ultimately save thousands of jobs and businesses worldwide, and by way of response get hostile abuse because someone’s purchase from Cousins allegedly wasn’t handled properly. But it pays to stick with the communication plan for the nuggets of good stuff that appear, and so it was with this book.
A fellow contributor to one of these forums is someone calling themselves “topcat666”. In the middle of long and detailed debate explaining Competition Law, topcat666 slipped in a two line post that included a link to a web site and Chapter 7 of a book. The title of that chapter is “Market and political power of the Swatch Group”, and it quickly got my attention. A bit more digging and research revealed a book published in 2016 by Dr. Isabelle Schluep Campo and Dr. Philipp Aerni, two senior figures from the Centre for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Zurich. A bit more digging revealed the full publication and contact information for the authors, and I soon found myself in conversation with Dr. Schluep Campo. It seems that there are eminent people in Switzerland who are as unimpressed with Swatch’s behaviour as we are.
There is a small section in the book about the parts supply issue, and it quickly became apparent that the authors were not aware of the full history of this issue, or the current legal activity. The book is a rather damning inditement on how Swiss rules and regulations were effectively ignored in the formation of the Swatch Group, and how the current management have adopted a similar approach. The parts issue seems to be yet another example of this culture.
The point of the book is to demonstrate the importance of large corporations being made to follow the rules, and what happens when those rules are not properly enforced. If you are stll wondering why Cousins is stocking a book on corporate governance, it becomes obvious when you learn that the subtitle is “The case of the Swiss watch industry”. I strongly recommend that everyone in the Watch Repair business should read this book, and if anyone wants to learn more about how Competition Law helps in our efforts to restart supply of spares, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Steven Domb, Consultant to Cousins UK.
News Update: 28.6.17 - Swiss Court Rules against Swatch and in favour of Cousins
Late yesterday afternoon, our lawyers in Zurich received the ruling we have been waiting for from the Court in Bern. I am pleased to advise you that the Judge has declared the claim that Swatch brought against us to be inadmissible under Swiss Law, and has dismissed the case.
Cousins had originally given Swatch three weeks to resupply spares, or face legal action to be brought by us in the High Court in London. Their response was to bring a pre-emptive Negative Declaratory Action against us in the Berne Court. What Swatch were asking for, was that a Swiss judge should rule that they had done nothing wrong under British and European law, and that they were not obliged to resupply us.
Clearly, the best place to determine what British law requires is in a British court, so it was immediately apparent to us that the Swatch claim in Bern was a blatant attempt to waste time, and avoid facing the consequences of their unlawful parts embargo on the independent repair trade. As we have explained in previous news releases, it is a requirement of Swiss law that anyone bringing a Negative Declaratory Action must firstly show that there was little prospect of their opponent bringing the matter before the courts in their own right. As the action that triggered Swatch to make this claim was Cousins letter declaring its intention to bring an action in the High Court, this requirement was not met, and it is for this reason that Swatch’s case has been thrown out by the Bern Court.
It is important to understand that the Bern Court has not given any opinion or ruling on whether or not Swatch are obliged to supply us with spares, only that this attempt by Swatch to drag the matter away from the High Court is not valid under Swiss Law.
We are very grateful to the Bern Court for the equitable manner in which they have dealt with this case. We now have to wait until the end of August whilst Swatch decide whether or not to appeal against this decision, and will then be able to explain further how this case will progress.
In the meantime, we urge all who work in the Independent Watch Repair sector to understand that it is possible to beat the industry giants, and to be assured that Cousins is staying in this fight until it is won.
News Update: 27.4.17 - All submissions to the court are in, the Judge has advised that he will deliver his verdict shortly.
Many of you have asked for an update on the progress of the law suit that Swatch have brought against us in the Swiss courts. You will recall that we followed the required legal process of writing a letter advising Swatch that we would be taking the matter to the High Court in London if they refused to resupply us with parts. In response, they have attempted to prevent the English courts from hearing the case by launching pre-emptive action against us in Bern.
Our Swiss lawyers responded to their claim by pointing out to the court several reasons why this case was not admissible, and were successful in arguing (against Swatch’s wishes) that this issue should be decided by the judge before any arguments about the legality of parts restrictions are heard. I can now advise you that all submissions on these points of jurisdiction and admissibility have now been made to the court, and the Judge has advised that he will deliver his verdict shortly. We hope that this will be within the next six to ten weeks.
If the Swiss courts agree that the Swatch claim against us is not admissible, then we will begin the process of asking the High Court in London to hear the matter, and give a binding decision on whether or not Swatch’s refusal to supply spares is an abuse of their dominant market position.
We will update again on this process when the decision comes in from the judge in Bern.
News Update: 4.1.17 - Despite Swatch objections, Swiss Judge agrees Cousins request to limit the case
I am once again pleased to give you another positive update on the action brought against Cousins by Swatch in the Bern Court.
When our Swiss lawyers studied the claim Swatch made, they formed an opinion that Swiss law does not allow such a case to be dragged to Switzerland, and that the real reasons Swatch had made the claim were to try and intimidate us, to drain our resources, and to delay things for as long as possible. We are optimistic that the Bern Court will take a very dim view of such legal tactics.
In our response to the Court, we detailed all the arguments that support this opinion, and requested a ruling from the Judge that he suspend hearing the full case until he had decided whether or not the case was admissible at all. Logic dictates that it makes no sense to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on legal fees, and days of court time arguing about EU Competition Law, only to find out afterwards that the whole case was not admissible.
On receipt of our request, the Judge forwarded our arguments to Swatch and asked for their response. Unsurprisingly, Swatch did not agree with our challenge, dismissed it out of hand, and requested that the Judge give us very limited time to present our response to the entire case.
However it seems that our arguments about the legitimacy of Swatch’s actions are well enough founded and need to be considered, because the Judge has now issued an order in line with our request, and against Swatch’s preferred procedure. This order greatly simplifies and speeds up matters. In my opinion, this decision clearly shows that the Bern Court does not hesitate when it comes to ensuring that the rules are followed fairly, and to further ensure that the minnows have a genuine opportunity to defend themselves when attacked by the whales. I am grateful to the Judge for his actions in this regard.
The practical upshot of all this is that we will get a much quicker decision from the Swiss court on where the full case will be held. If our points of procedural law win the day, then ultimately the case will return to the English courts where it will be considerably easier to argue a matter of English and EU law. If the Swiss Court does not agree with our arguments, then we will have the more difficult option of arguing the matter in a foreign language some 600 miles away from home.
What Swatch should by now have learned from all this, is that whatever legal tactics they employ, Cousins resolve remains as strong as ever when it comes to obtaining a ruling that their parts embargo breaches English and EU competition law. We continue to do everything we can to support our trade customers in their efforts to provide the end consumer with quality services at a fair price.
News Update: 28.10.16 - Watchdog says Swatch must stick to movements deal
The origins of this Comco action are all about the dominant position that ETA has in the Swiss movement manufacture market place. There key rivals in this area are Selita and Soprod, who are minnows in comparison. Comco negotiated with ETA for a reduction in movements sold, the apparent motive being to allow rivals a chance of market share. ETA negotiated the timing of these limits and then unfortunately for ETA, the bottom fell out the Far East market for luxury Swiss watches, and they were left with a massive overstock, so they went cap in hand back to Comco to ask if either the limits could be temporarily raised, or the deadlines extended. No one in the industry is surprised that Comco have said “No”. In the last month, another Swiss movement manufacturer (ISA) has shut down, and whilst they mostly made cheap quartz movements, the result is less competition in the Swiss Movement market, not more, which is what Comco were looking for.
This story is all about ETA selling movements to all sorts of watch manufacturers, both in and out of the Swatch Group. Remember that ETA do not make complete watches, only movements and components. This matter is not about supply of spares to wholesalers like Cousins. Swatch and media reports use the term "watch maker" and everyone needs to be careful not to confuse the term “watch maker” (meaning in this context watch manufacturer) which is who ETA are trying to shift these movements onto, and “watch repairer”, which is relevant to the after sales repair and service market.
News Update: 14.09.16 - Swatch v Cousins. An Explanation and an Update
I am pleased to be able to give you a positive update on the progress of the Court case in Switzerland regarding the open supply of spare parts for repairers. However, the update will make a great deal more sense if I provide you with a bit of explanation first.
When we released the news two months ago that Swatch had brought an action against us, many people contacted me directly, or asked questions on various on-line forums as to how Cousins could be the defendant and Swatch be claiming against us, when clearly the supply chain was the other way around, and Cousins was claiming to be the injured party because Swatch was refusing to supply us. The answer and the update both come from an explanation of the type of action that Swatch have used. This is known as a “Negative Declaratory Action” or NDA. Like all things legal, an NDA has various clauses and options within it, and because it seems at first to be the reverse of common sense, it takes a bit of thinking about before the logic becomes apparent.
At heart an NDA has one principle purpose, and that is to allow an organisation that finds itself accused of wrongdoing by another, to have a mechanism available where it can force the issue into a court, and have the matter resolved. Imagine a circumstance where your company is being accused by another of breaking the law. You think you have done nothing wrong, but however many letters you write to your accuser telling them to take you to Court to settle things they just won’t do it, and their continued accusations are potentially damaging your business. This is a good example of where an NDA is appropriate. It gives you the right to bring your accuser into court, and make them prove the claims they have made against you, or give you the chance to publicly prove that their accusations are false.
For an NDA claim to be valid, there are various conditions that have to be met, and these can vary from country to country. As the case against us has been brought in a Swiss court, then the conditions applicable are as set out in Swiss law, and one of the most important of these is the principle of ‘Legal Uncertainty’. What this means is that an NDA claim can only be brought by a company if there is reasonable uncertainty that the other party who is accusing them of wrongdoing shows no real intention of bringing its own action in a court. So with this explanation in mind, I am now pleased to give you the following update on our case.
As you will have seen from our last announcement, the thing that triggered Swatch to bring this NDA against Cousins was our “Letter Before Action”. This clearly stated that if Swatch did not re supply us, we would be bringing an action against them in the English High Court. At the end of August, our Swiss lawyers submitted the first stage of our defence to the court in Berne. In it, they argued that there are a number of reasons why this NDA is not a valid action, and have requested that the Judge dismiss the whole case. I cannot go into detail about all of these reasons, but the most obvious one is that there was no legal uncertainty in this matter. Cousins made it quite plain that it would be taking Swatch to court in London if it did not resupply us, and this being the case, a Negative Declaratory Action is not a legitimate claim that the Swiss court needs to consider.
The Swiss judge, having looked at the arguments raised by our lawyers, has agreed that this and other issues need to be examined first, so we are now entering the next stage in which these points of law will be examined before he makes a decision. Depending upon what the Judge decides, the full case will then be heard either in Switzerland, or it will be returned to the English courts where we will ask for an expedited trial.
It may be a few months before we will have the verdict, so we may not be able to update further until then. However please do not take silence on our part as a negative, but be assured that we have assembled an excellent case, and are fighting harder than ever for the future of the Independent Repair Trade.
News Update: 04.07.16 - Reported on Watch Pro website: http://www.watchpro.com/swatch-and-cousins-set-for-court-battle-over-parts-embargo/
News Update: 04.07.16 - Cousins and Swatch Head to the Courts: An announcement from Anthony Cousins, Managing Director
All those involved in the Independent Repair Trade are being seriously threatened by the parts embargo by Swatch. Cousins customers will know that we have been very active in fighting to restore supply. Cousins is currently vigorously engaged in court proceedings against the Swatch group which is trying to challenge Cousins’ allegations of anti-competitive conduct.
The last 18 months have been an incredibly steep learning curve for me. I have had to learn far more about Competition Law than I ever imagined the owner of a small business would need to do. Engaging and working with major international Law Firms, and getting to grips with judicial processes in different jurisdictions has also added to the load.
Initially, Cousins attempted to have this matter examined in the European Courts by requesting permission to become an Intervener in the on-going case between CEAHR and the EU Commission. Unsurprisingly, the Commission objected to this idea, and despite an appeal to a higher court, our application was unsuccessful. At the same time as this process was taking place, I have been very active with the Industry Action Fund, including attending a meeting at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, which in turn led to a referral to the Competition and Markets Authority.
As our understanding of the Law and how to implement it grew, it became very clear that direct legal action was the necessary way to resolve this matter, and once we had exhausted all opportunities to be an Intervener with CEAHR, our London lawyers sent the required “Letter Before Action” to Swatch Group warning them that unless they restored supply, we would issue proceedings against them in the English Courts.
Swatch decided not to face us in an English Court, but instead launched their own action against Cousins in a Swiss Commercial Court, in an attempt to have that Court declare that they have not broken competition law. Cousins has engaged the services of a highly reputable Swiss Law Firm, and we are now preparing our response to the Court. We hope that the Independent Repair sector will take heart from our efforts, and give their support in gathering the industry and consumer information that will be needed.
.....................................................News Update: 01.03.16 - Message from the Industry Action Fund
As you will be aware, we have been in contact with both the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Competition and Markets Authority over the spare parts issue. Both organisations went to great lengths to recommend that we obtain proper legal advice, and this is a message that we took very seriously. Since the last update that we released, our efforts have benefitted from a continual dialogue with some of the UK’s best lawyers in the EU Competition Law sector, and a very great deal of progress has been made. However, the downside of discussing legal matters is that the rules on Confidentiality come into play, and frustratingly I am unable to give details at this time.
The 31st of December 2015 has come and gone, and the supply of spares from Swatch and ETA has ceased. Many in the industry are doubtless wondering how long the remaining stocks will last, and are having to consider making drastic decisions about the future of their businesses. I am not in any position to promise anything, nor for the reasons given above am I able to disclose what I know. However, what I can say is this. If you are intending to make any major and irrevocable decisions about the future of your enterprise in the next few weeks, can I suggest that you would be well advised to hold off for a just a few weeks more, and see what transpires.
If you think that the reason the British Watch and Clock Maker’s Guild IAF Project has been silent for the last couple of months is because it has given up the fight and gone away, please accept my assurance that you could not be more wrong.
Steven Domb, Project Development, Industry Action Fund
Xmas Posting Times - Our phone lines will close at 4pm on Wednesday 23rd December 2015 until 10 am Monday 4th January 2016. However our website is always available to take your order. Orders placed on our website between 24th December 2015 and the 3rd January 2016 will be processed on our return in the New Year.
We wish all of our customers a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year.
News Update: 03.12.15 - Industry Action Fund meets with government over spare parts supply
WatchPro magazine reports that the IAF on meeting with the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills took place in November
If you have not already given your financial support to the industry action fund, please email IAF@BWCMG.org with the amount you would like to contribute and they will send you full details.
News Update: 18.11.15 - The British Watch & Clock Makers' Guild Industry Action Fund Progress Report
from Steve Domb, project manager, BWCMG Industry Action Fund
Our Industry is faced with anti-competitive practices, and it is very difficult to be entirely open about the actions we are taking to combat these, without potentially handing an advantage to those who are intent on enforcing them by whatever means at their disposal. For this reason, you will have to forgive us for leaving out some of the details, but we have been working hard over the last few months, and are now in a position to report back.
From the Guild‘s perspective, the best solution would be for the Swiss to come to the realisation for themselves that they have made a monumentally bad business decision in refusing to openly supply spare parts, and of their own volition reverse this policy before they do any more damage to their Brands. The issue is, therefore, how to demonstrate to them what this damage is.
A couple of months ago, at the request of the IAF, Christian Dannemann wrote a very telling piece on his internet blog ( http://watchguy.co.uk/swatch-group-parts-policy/ ), in which he suggested consumers should avoid buying Swatch Group watches in future, and invited his readers to write directly to Swatch telling them so. The response of his readers was immediate, and the effect was very interesting. Within a few days, Christian was contacted by Swatch, and invited to Switzerland to “discuss” matters. A couple of weeks later, Christian was on a plane to Bienne, and whilst nothing new came from the discussions, at least a line of communications was opened.
When he came back, Christian decided to set up a Customer survey to get the views of enthusiasts and collectors (http://watchguy.co.uk/watchguy-survey-swiss-watch-industry/ ), with the intention of sending the results to the Swiss in order to reinforce just how much they are damaging themselves. The results made for very interesting reading (http://watchguy.co.uk/swiss-watch-customer-survey-the-results/ ) with the Independent Service Sector consistently outperforming the Manufacturers, and with over 98% of respondents wanting open supply of spare parts. Christian has duly forwarded the results to the Swiss Federation, and is waiting for their response. The survey was also reported in the trade press (http://www.watchpro.com/18458-watch-guy-seeks-answers-to-spare-parts-stoppage/ ), which will not have gone unnoticed. But what can we do if the Swiss are foolish enough to ignore the requirements of their customers? Like all situations where a change of approach is required of someone, there are two choices. Either they change their approach for themselves, or they are made to change.
A fight is best avoided, but sometimes avoidance isn’t possible, and it is always best to be prepared. The Guild believes that by refusing open supply of spares, the Swiss companies are in breach of a range of Laws and trade agreements. The IAF team have been looking closely at the options available, and the processes needed to have the Law enforced. Once again, it would be indiscrete to be public with too much detail, but we are pleased to release the following announcement:-
“A delegation from the Industry Action Fund (IAF) of the British Watch and Clock Makers’ Guild, met at the beginning of November with Senior Officials from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to discuss the Anti-Competitive practices being imposed by the Swiss Watch Industry, and how these are impacting both the Consumer, and the Independent Repair Trade.
Before the meeting, IAF Project Manager, Steve Domb, had provided BIS with a briefing paper on the background to the situation, and the issues that urgently need addressing. This was supported at the meeting with a more comprehensive information pack.
Steve reports: “When we arrived for the meeting, it was clear that the officials had studied the briefing and were well prepared. 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 manufacturer, and subsequently having the work done at an Independent Watchmaker for about one eighth of the price.”
The meeting worked methodically through all the issues relating to parts supply, barriers to entry created by the manufacturers requirements for specific tooling for each brand, and by product specific training requirements. The IAF highlighted the impact on consumers, and presented the results of Christian Dannemann’s recent survey. The IAF team also went to great lengths to highlight the true size of the market for watches in the UK (over £1 billion annually), the current actions in the EU Court, and the worldwide nature of the parts embargo being imposed.
The team from BIS provided the IAF with very helpful advice on the next steps needed, and have put us in contact with the Competitions and Markets Authority so that we can discuss the matter with them. The IAF will report again on progress in due course.”
There are those amongst us who have little faith in Politicians, or that anyone who has the power to enforce the Law has any interest in doing so on our behalf. However, if you want Laws enacted to support the consumer, and existing Laws enforced to ensure our trade can best serve their customers, then these are the people and organisations you must engage with. The fact of the matter is that Politicians can only provide support to a cause when they have the issues efficiently laid out before them, and a timely opportunity to raise them. The enforcers of the Law have carefully established processes which the aggrieved must follow if the Law is to be applied.
There is evidence to be gathered, documentation to be prepared, and meetings to be held. Please believe that we are working hard on all of these. Keep supporting the IAF, and encourage others to do so. Please also make an effort to work with everyone else in the Industry to present a united front.
I will report again soon.
Project Manager, BWCMG Industry Action Fund
News item: 06.11.15 - All future payments made using a debit card will be free of the banks processing charges.
But due to the high charges imposed by the banks for payment by credit card unfortunately we now need to pass these charges on.
We understand this will not be popular with our customers and ask for their understanding that only the charges imposed on us by the bank for credit cards are being charged.
For clarification there will be no fees for paying by debit card.
News Item: 31.10.15 - Today is the last day ETA Switzerland (Swatch Group) accept orders for spare parts and movements, despite the deadline they have stated being January 2016.
New Items: 20.10.15 - ETA (Swatch Group) new watch movement calibres available to purchase, E61series, E63series, E64series, G10.962 & G15.562 and many more all currently available and in stock.
News Update: 24.09.15 - Cousins application to apply as an intervener for CEAHR is currently being processed by the European High Court in Luxembourg.
News Update 29.07.15: Will Your Business "Survive" or "Thrive"
from Steve Domb, project manager, BWCMG Industry Action Fund
When monies for the Industry Action Fund arrive ( http://bwcmg.org/iaf.html ), they are often accompanied by statements from Contributors about the damage the Swiss policy on spare parts has already done to their business, and the devastating effect that the ETA embargo is likely to have. We get feedback from Companies that signed up long ago to become accredited Service Centres, who are worried by the restrictions on the calibres that they are allowed parts for, and some long standing and highly qualified Service Centres are finding themselves cut off altogether. The common question is “How will my Business Survive?”, but should you really ask “How can I make my Business Thrive?”
All businesses are at the mercy of external factors over which they have little or no control. What marks out the ones that “Thrive” from those that just “Survive” is the effort they put into preparing for potential issues, and responding effectively if they occur. But Small Businesses and One-Man-Bands just don’t have the resources and time to do an effective job, so what should they do? The answer is that they need to band together, and commit a small but sensible amount of resources to an effective collective effort, and that is exactly what the British Watch and Clock Makers’ Guild, and the Industry Action Fund (IAF) are all about.
There are resources out there that can help us overcome those external factors that threaten us, and can also help us to take advantage of the factors that can benefit us. But to get at those resources, we need to make a solid case, and that starts with having clear information on the size of our industry, the number of people who work in it, its economic value, and what its views and requirements are. The first task of the IAF is to conduct a comprehensive survey of the industry, and then use those findings to get the support we need to fight off anti-competitive practices, and obtain a proper share of the education resources for training and apprenticeships. To do this type of work properly, we need to raise £70,000. That is too much to ask any single entity to fund entirely, but is it too much to ask 700 One-Man-Bands to put in £100 each, or 70 mid-size firms to put in £1,000 each, or even 7 large organisations to put in £10,000 each?
Take a moment to think about how much time you waste, trying to track down parts for timepieces you are eminently qualified to repair, but are refused access to by some faceless manufacturer who won’t even talk to you. Or the work you have had to turn away from long standing customers for the same reason. If you are trying to expand your business, where is the training for the next generation of Watchmakers coming from so you can get the staff? And if you are looking to retire, shouldn’t there be a new generation wanting to buy your business for a sensible price, rather than you just shutting down and selling off your tools?
Since its’ launch, the Industry Action Fund has had contributions ranging from a few pounds to many thousands, and it is the volume of contributions that is as important as the amounts. It demonstrates an industry committed to a vibrant future and strengthens our case even more. If you have already made a contribution, many thanks for doing so. If you intended to contribute, but didn’t get around to it, please take a moment to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact details and the amount you would like to pledge. If you think your few pounds wouldn’t make any difference, then please think again and email us also. We need to add your voice to the collective effort.
Life is a lot easier when you can stop worrying about how to “Survive”, and instead move your efforts into thinking about how to “Thrive”. If you want to reach that point, please work with those who think like you, and support the Industry Action Fund.
News Update 29.05.15: Industry Action Fund seeks to Raise £70,000
The British Watch and Clock Maker’s Guild has set up of an Industry Action Fund and is looking to raise an initial £70,000. The recent Guild Conference to discuss a future strategy for the UK Watch and Clock Industry proved to be an excellent start point. In addition to the topics discussed, the Conference has resulted in a significant increase in discussions between the industry bodies, and clearly demonstrated a willingness within the industry for a coordinated approach, and also showed what can be achieved in a short time scale when the proper resourcing is applied. The money raised will be used to implement action plans and activity on the most pressing issues identified.
After his work in devising and implementing the Guild Conference, Steven Domb has been tasked with taking forward this next stage of development.
“The Conference unsurprisingly showed a wide range of opinions on the topics discussed, however, a common stumbling block to progress on all the issues was a lack of basic data on the economic value of the industry to the UK economy, the number of people employed, their requirements, and their opinions on the key issues. Without this fundamental information, it is impossible to obtain support from Central Government and many other organisations on issues such as Restrictive and Anti-Competitive practices, and Training and Apprenticeships.
A credible set of data along with a competent analysis is the key starting point for any strategic plan, so the first project for the Industry Action Fund will be to build a database of all individuals and organisations involved in the industry, and to conduct an active survey of their needs and views. The next stage will be to take the results to the relevant authorities as part of an overall plan to maintain consumer choice, raise the profile of the Trade, and obtain a proper share of the support resources available.
The Guild has been offered a number of sources of data on industry names and contacts on a confidential basis, and initial research by one of them has revealed over 6,000 individuals and organisations who describe themselves as part of the Trade. This would suggest that there could be as many as 10,000 people who earn all or part of their income from watch and clock making in the UK. We were originally estimating that the survey would cover around 4,000 individuals and companies, but we may have to increase that number.”
The Guild needs to raise an initial £70,000 to pay for this important work. All monies given to the fund will be kept apart from the Guild’s regular income, will be accounted for separately, and will only be used for actions in line with the aims of the Fund. All contributions will be receipted.
Everyone involved in UK horology can obtain a direct benefit from the results that this project will produce. It is essential for any industry to have clear and current information on its make up, and even more so when it is seeking meaningful dialogue with resource providers. The Guild are asking all individuals and organisations to support to whatever level they can.
If you would like contribute to the Industry Action Fund, please send an email with your contact details and the amount you are offering to email@example.com . The Guild will respond with instructions on how money can be paid in.
Breaking News: 27/05/15...We all must Contribute to the Future of the Industry: - An open letter from Anthony Cousins
The British Watch and Clock Makers Guild has set up an Industry Action Fund, and I am asking all of Cousins customers to contribute whatever they can to it.
The fund is to initially be used to pay for a data gathering and research project on the current size of the UK industry, and its views and requirements on critical issues such as the forthcoming ETA Parts Embargo, along with Training and Apprenticeships. Once the research is complete, the fund will then be used to approach relevant bodies to obtain Government support for our industry’s needs.
The recent Guild Conference (Report) demonstrated a strong desire to grow the UK industry, and a willingness to work together in a manner that has not been seen for many years. However it also revealed how the lack of basic data is preventing us from putting a credible case before the relevant bodies for the support we need in developing the next generation of Watch and Clock Makers, and from effectively tackling the anti-competitive practices that the Swiss are now imposing. The Conference was an event for talk, and it was a valuable first stepping stone in developing proper cross industry communication, but if it is not followed up with some serious action, then it will have been for nothing.
Gathering that information is the vital first step, but equally important is the ability to demonstrate that those of us who work in the industry believe in a vibrant future. That is why it is so important for all of us to contribute something. If you are a self-employed out worker, I am sure you could afford to contribute £50, and if you are a large Corporate it should be many times more than that.
We must all remember that it is the end consumer who ultimately pays our wages, and they are already suffering. The practices being imposed by the Swiss on the watch servicing market are drastically reducing customer choice, and pushing up prices to artificially high levels. The shortage of trained staff is resulting in unacceptably long repair times, with the resulting frustration that this delivers.
It is the people who work in the Industry that are the Industry, and if we individually take the attitude that contributing to the future is someone else’s responsibility, then there is no future to be had. If it isn’t our collective responsibility to tackle these issues, then whose is it?
We all take great pride in delivering high quality service and value for money to our customers, but are we really doing the best for them if, by our collective inactivity, we fail to counter the threats that we face, or ensure that there is a new generation of trained professionals to carry on our craft?
Please take two minutes out of your day to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org enclosing your contact details and how much you would like to donate, and the Guild will respond with how to pay in and obtain a receipt.
Thank you in advance for your support.
Feedback: 1/05/15 Name Supplied
I’ve been following the argument of part restrictions with interest whilst at the same time trying to see the argument from both sides. Not wanting to rock the boat with any companies I am authorised to work for i’ll keep individual brands out of this. My point is quite simple, I would say at least 95% of watch repairers are able to service (for Example) ETA 2824/2892/7750 and ETA derivatives of them to chronometer specification, and certainly 955.112 to a manufacturers standard. The company I am authorised to work for fully appreciates the above statement. If company ‘A’ authorises me to repair a 2892 chronometer spec movement, why can’t companies BCDEF etc?
I suppose my point here is, most will agree that a watchmaker should only service a watch that they are capable of, and materials should be universally available for persons that have sat an exam for the basic calibres and unless you’ve sat an exam for say an omega 9300 you cant have parts for it. And to that end, the right watch repairer, repairs the right watch and no having to deal with ‘a friend of someone I know’ to get me a part for a watch that i’m very capable of servicing. I suppose to the extreme, we could have a world and industry wide database of watch repairers that contains information as to what calibres a person is authorised to service and who gave authorisation for it. furthermore, i’m sure a company like cousins could have their system automatically query that database before releasing parts.
Response: My idea I proposed to Swatch around the table in Switzerland 3 years ago was for us to develop a portal for customers to be registered to access spare parts, even at the different levels they specified, with the one prerequisite that it would be available to all, along with the ability for all to access training courses on the more complex watches. They verbally agreed and I chased them for a further 2 years to implement this, when out the blue their positioned completely changed which coincidently was 2 weeks after EU Commission preliminary ruled in their favour in Jan 2014. March that year I got the letters stating parts to cease Dec 2015.
This is about consumer choice and a free market. The Swiss are working towards a vertical distribution system and it will not be long before their in house capability can do without authorised repairers as well. Once in house they can change their repair processes to conveyer belt or swap out processes rather than traditional repairing without fear of losing prestige. That is a bit cynical of me, but there goal as laid out with EU Commission is to state that the primary and secondary markets are the same, stating that the secondary market (aftersales, repairs etc.) is insignificant, despite the fact there is a global independent supply network which has traditionally always been in place, a fact that CEAHR has I believe dropped the ball in their argument. I have applied to intervene in the Luxemburg court appeal hearing which I am still waiting permission from the court.
Training and education is the way forward not restrictive practises (which by the way is against the law), this Swiss argument that a few botched repairs is damaging the brand is totally untrue, it is more about arrogance and greed that they can totally control the global market from Swiss based companies. Swiss brands are already starting to put unrealistic demands on independent authorised repairers through unnecessary over expensive specific branded tooling and equipment, having multiple tools for different watch brands doing the same job. Even to the extent that next they will be insisting that you buy the equipment through them, at an inflated price no doubt...Anthony.
Trade News: 30/04/15 Conference Report by WatchPro Magazine: Report
Trade News: 07/04/15 Conference Report by Paul Roberson – Chairman, The British Watch & Clock Makers’ Guild
For many years, members of The Guild have expressed their concerns regarding the spare parts issue for watches which has become more worrying this year with a letter from ETA to all their suppliers which is printed in the latest issue of Timepiece. There is also a feeling within the trade that training is no longer adequate to ensure its future and that we may be reaching a stage where if something is not put into place soon then the trade as we know it may cease to exist.
Whilst the Board were considering the way forward, we were approached by Steve Domb, who is well known to the Board from our association with Epping Forest Horology Centre, who have been providing training at the entry level into horology for a number of years and are an exam centre for the BHI Distance Learning Course. Steve spent eight years with EFHC, two years as Chairman. During his time as Chairman, he concentrated on raising the profile of the Centre and helping to steer them through their conversion into a Registered Charity.
The initial meeting was with myself, the Vice-chairman and the Secretary followed by discussions with the whole Board, prior to which a Situation Report written by Steve had been circulated to ourselves and a small number of other individuals he had been talking to on the matter. It was felt that the way forward would be to hold a Conference.
Having read the Report, long time Guild member and industry stalwart, Anthony Cousins kindly offered to fund the Conference, as he felt that after a lifetime spent in the trade now was the time “to put something back”. Anthony told me that he had been following the parts situation with increasing concern for a number of years and had said many times that cutting supply to the independent trade, was, in his view, only the first stage in a Swiss plan to take everything in house. He felt it was only a matter of time until they also cut supply to those companies who had signed up to Agency Agreements.
As all Board members are still working and have little spare time, it was agreed Steve would, on behalf of the Guild, set up the Conference to which representatives from all areas of the trade would be invited.
Titled “Developing a co-ordinated action plan to support the growth of British Horology”, on the 11th March over 70 senior figures from our trade – some having travelled a considerable distance - met at The Elton John Suite at Watford Football Club and spent a most interesting and exciting day in discussion on a number of topics, the most urgent being the spare parts issue, which as mentioned above, which will cause vast problems to independent watchmakers at the end of 2015.
The Conference commenced with a short presentation by myself on “The Conference and its’ Objectives”. I explained how the Conference came about and emphasised how essential it was for us all to learn from past mistakes and not to waste any time or energy on ascribing blame or picking over old wounds from past disputes. The two objectives for the day were to start the process of developing a strategy and looking for areas where we could all work together without giving up our individual competitive advantages, and the second was to try to ensure that everyone had an opportunity to give their view without fear of being criticised for it, and more importantly, leave knowing that their views had been listened to and noted.
The tone for the day was very much discussion rather than lecture, and to achieve this we employed a technique called “Listening Panels”. For each of the topics we covered there was a small panel of relevant individuals on the platform, along with myself as Chair and Steve Domb as Moderator. We wanted to ensure that we stayed on topic and to bring up any points or questions that had been raised in advance of the event. Paul Cradock ended up being the scribe for the day and he summarised the points that delegates made, which were read out at the end of each session and corrected if necessary.
“A Strategists point of View” was the next presentation by Steve on fundamental business strategy issues and applying them to the current situation in the watch marketplace. He pointed out the need for our industry to grow in size in order to justify the necessary investment in education and reskilling, and to leave us less vulnerable to outside attack. He proposed that we set, as a long term objective statement for the strategy we wish to develop, the wording : “To return British Horology to its’ historic position of pre-eminence in world markets for innovation, design and manufacture of quality timepieces” and the Conference was happy to accept this as a starting position for our efforts.
Our first panel session was titled “What does the Industry need from its’ Trade Organisation?” The panel consisted of myself, my Vice-Chairman, Chris Papworth, the Guild Secretary, Paul Cradock and the Guild Treasurer, Lionel Blowes. With over 200 years experience in Horology between us, I feel that this is one of the strengths of the Guild, that all our members are professional horologists or work in the allied trades. I then introduced Chris Papworth who stands to be elected as The Guilds’ new Chairman at the AGM in a few weeks’ time and he spoke about the background of The Guild and what our objectives are. There then followed several questions.
Obviously, the biggest section of the day was reserved for the discussion on the parts situation and our next speaker was David Perry. David was a solicitor for 25 years, working on international Mergers and Acquisitions, Competition Law and Intellectual Property. Eight years ago he decided on a career change and now works as a restorer of mainly military watches and marine chronometers. David provided the source material for Steve Domb’s Report and he gave us an update on the current situation along with some of the legal options that might be available to us. There then followed a good selection of questions from delegates.
A tea break followed and it was interesting to note that many people stayed in their seats having in depth conversations with their neighbours.
After the break it was our second Panel Session entitled “Parts Supply, Other Options and Approaches” with Anthony Cousins from Cousins Material House, Luke Gleave from Gleave & Co and David Perry, our previous presenter. As you can imagine, there were a wide variety of opinions expressed during this part of the day. The history of the supply of Rolex material was raised and how this had created a demand for generic Rolex material. It was suggested that the restriction of parts supply may be part of a ‘planned obsolescence’ strategy by the Swiss intended to drive customers to buy replacements watches instead of having them repaired, and it was pointed out that many consumers are buying these watches unaware of servicing costs, or that in maybe five years’ time they will be unable to have their watch repaired.
You will understand how in depth this session was when I tell you that it lasted almost an hour and a half and discussion continued all during lunch with many ideas being exchanged as peopled became more relaxed about expressing themselves in such a forum.
The first session after lunch was “Education – What does the Industry need? How should it be provided?” and we began with a presentation from Lewis Jones a PhD Research Student at Loughborough University. He gave us a fascinating insight into a project being developed at Loughborough to help Design and Technology teachers. Research has shown that the vast majority of D & T teachers come from an Arts background rather than from Engineering, and that they have had little instruction in the use of the tools and equipment available to them. They almost exclusively focus on design, which enables them to meet the needs of the D & T syllabus. Most schools are now equipped with laser cutting machines, vacuum forming and some have 3D printing, however, many D & T teachers are not confident in using this equipment. Loughborough has tackled the problem by providing a ready prepared CAD/CAM drawing which allows children to make a simple working clock from MDF by using a laser cutting machine. They have supported this with a Teacher Training service to make teachers more confident in using the equipment, and hopefully this will restore the engineering content of the D & T qualification. They are looking to provide courses to around 1,000 teachers every year, and as a consequence, they hope there will be almost 100,000 young secondary school pupils making a working mechanical clock every year. The importance of this was not lost on delegates. It is a golden opportunity to get young children interested in Horology and could lead to a steady supply of apprenticeship candidates within a very few years. The Guild will certainly be following up with Lewis to see how we can support this work further.
The discussion panel of Lewis, Jeremy Hobbins (Head of Horology at Birmingham City University) and Dudley Giles (Chief Executive Officer at the BHI) looked at the wider education issue. There is clearly a wide range of skills needed by the industry and it appears that there is a shortage of available places to deliver the training, however there also appears to be a distinct demand for the reintroduction of apprenticeships.
This proved to be a lively and very interactive session, and after our final break we reconvened with our last panel entitled “The Issues Surrounding Products Branded as Brand British”. We welcomed Robert Loomes from Robert Loomes and Co to the platform and he gave us a fascinating presentation explaining how difficult the law is to interpret. How in some cases it is possible to import a watch, take it apart, make some very minor improvements, re-assemble it and then being able to call it “Made In Britain”. Robert has made a study of many case histories on this subject and spoke knowledgeably on the issue. It was clear from the questions which followed, that the issue is mostly about clarity to the consumer. One suggestion was to try to devise a Voluntary Code of Conduct on how a product is described and labelled. This could allow the more responsible vendors to demonstrate transparency to the consumer and enhance their reputation.
The day concluded with Chris Papworth and myself summarising the day and speaking about our possible next steps. It is clearly important that we keep the momentum going and continue to work on improving communication. One of the biggest issues that emerged, particularly when looking at the Parts Supply and Education issues, is the lack of any comprehensive up to date listing of all the professionals involved in the industry or any current survey data on their attitudes and requirements. This is an issue that The Guild is looking into urgently.
We are still working our way through all the feedback forms and it will take us some time to collate all the information that was gathered on the day. All the comments so far have been extremely encouraging. All delegates appreciated the fact that we had managed to get so many people from the trade in one place at the same time. We were told that a discussion forum like the Conference was long overdue and asked when the next one would be held.
The overwhelming verdict is that the Conference was a great success and we will continue to keep Guild members up to date with progress.
Trade News: 03/03/2015
A groundbreaking meeting of British horologists is due to take place in Watford next week as the British Watch and Clock Makers’ Guild (BWCMG) looks to set the agenda for the future of British horology.
The Industry Strategy Conference on March 11 is titled ‘Developing a Co-ordinated Action Plan to Support the Growth of British Horology’ and will see the big names in British watchmaking meet at Watford Football Club to discuss the possibility of co-ordinated British strategy for the future.
Topics of conversation will include ‘Uniting the Industry’, which aims to draw a line under ‘past divisions’ and seek a cooperative future; ‘Parts Supply’ which seeks to combat restrictive practices through legal and political means; ‘Education and Recruitment’ to address the limited number of students available to the UK industry and ‘Brand Britain’ which looks to defend British horologic heritage from ‘foreign abuse’.
Around 90 of the most prominent figures currently working in British horology have confirmed their attendance.
The invitation from the BWCMG reads: “The last ten years have seen a remarkable resurgence of interest in British Horology, and a significant increase in sales of mechanical timepieces. There is new investment in education, and a number of companies bringing back manufacturing facilities and increased employment opportunities.
“However, at the same time there is a serious increase in anti-competitive practices from major foreign watch houses, and an equally worrying trend for historic British brands to be used to sell inferior foreign product to unsuspecting consumers.”
The invitation continues: “Unity, openness, common interests and future thinking are the key themes of this conference. Our interest in the past is limited to what we can learn from it, so delegates can be assured that absolutely no time will be wasted looking backwards, all constructive ideas for the future will be welcome, and no debate will be constrained by past methodologies.”
Attendance is by invitation only but WatchPro will be there to cover the conference in full as well as take part in what promises to be an historic discussion.
The BWCMG is a trade association representing 800 individuals and organisations involved in British horology.
Trade News: 02/12/2014
Announced in the trade press this last week is that Swatch Group brand Tissot opened its first ever UK boutique on London's Oxford St. The new flagship boutique is on the site of the former Omega Boutique next to Bond St station.
Comment: It’s ironic that the trade press seem to take great satisfaction in publicizing this sort of expansion on behalf of these brands thinking that their own kudos is increased, when in fact most independent retailers (the majority who distribute their watches) see this as a stab in the back from the brand. I bet the bosses at Watches of Switzerland who have recently invested and opened up Europe’s largest showroom in Regents St are not too impressed!!
Feedback: 21/11/14 Anglesey
Given the recent Swatch Group announcement, I thought you might be interested in an example of what restricting parts supply to authorised repairers can do for the customer. A couple of weeks ago I was sent a vintage IWC automatic for an estimate to service, fit a centre seconds hand, and an original crown if available. The problem was that someone in the past had removed the c/secs pinion and friction spring. Friction spring was no problem but the pinion and crown are both restricted. Still, i managed to hunt them down with about an hour of googling and duly quoted. Total parts price will be about £100, I've spent an hour so far and will need the time it takes to service (it's running ok so shouldn't be a headache job). So I quoted on that basis, the jeweller put his margin on, and the customer jumped at the total quote of around £500. The only other price he'd managed to get was from an "authorised repairer", with easy access to the parts needed, of £1300 "because the parts aren't generally available, Sir". That's an extra £800 for the same parts (probably cheaper and certainly easier to source) and more or less the same work to complete! How long until all those Swatch Group owners out there find themselves in the same situation?
Response: Sooner rather than later hopefully, especially with the news that Omega are set to open yet another boutique this weekend in Oxford St, one of London's busiest shopping districts.
Feedback: 13/11/14 Don
As a customer of Cousins of some 10 years, I appreciate your attitude towards the spectre coming soon of the restrictive practices by the Swiss manufacturers(ref your comments on the HJ). Very soon it will be well nigh impossible to obtain spare parts for many Swiss watches. However, I feel that the Swiss are shooting themselves in the foot. I think that with this embargo pending, the Chinese will jump on the bandwagon and extend the range of generic parts which they now have available to the West. We have already seen creditable copies of ETA 2824 and 2892 movements now for sale. If the Swiss persist in this illegal practice then they will suffer the consequences.
Response: You are completely right, the Swiss have always been arrogant in this respect, even when in a business partnership it’s been more like dictator & subordinate. Also the news story for the media is that as a consumer purchasing a Swiss watch you are inadvertently tying yourself up for a life time of charges and expense and are at the mercy of the watch brand you purchased it from.
Interest: 13/11/14 The Story of the Most Complicated Watch in the World
News Update: 11/11/2014 - On Going Action
We all need to start to correspond with our MEP whilst we wait for further action from the European court. In the meantime I have asked the President of CEAHR on the possibility for a specific detailed template letter to “collaborate” the complaint and the appeal which we can all use.
News Update: 17/10/2014 - CEAHR Appeal Delivered
CEAHR having now submitted their appeal await the Court to come back with possible further questions or to fix a date for the hearing, unfortunately this can take up to at least 2 years.
News Update: 08/10/2014 - CEAHR Appeal Delivered
Following the EU Commissions final decision rejecting the CEAHR complaint (29.7.14), CEAHR have now submitted (yesterday) the appeal against the decision before the General Court of Justice.
Feedback: 2/10/14 Mart
I guess there is One more route to take, suggest all watch repairers using your Company contact the CMA explaining how the Swiss watch part restrictions effect their business and their customers. I will be printing a bundle of the contact forms for Customers to Bombard the CMA until they take notice. Regards Mart
News Update: 30/09/2014 - ETA writes to Cousins Material House to Confirm Parts Restriction
ETA Customer Support supplies movement spare parts to enable watchmaking brands to repair defective ETA movements via their own customer services. In order to further improve this service, in the future we will be focusing on watch brands which produce their watches using ETA movements.
We will therefore not be supplying you with any further spare parts from 1st January 2016. We are informing you now to enable you to adapt to the new situation.
To allow all open orders to be processed, we will accept spare part orders from you up until 31st October 2015.
Our service level will be maintained until this date. This means that we will continue to supply you with your previous standard quantities of spare parts for 2014 and 2015.
ETA SA Manufacture Horlogere Suisse
Pierre-Andre Buhler - President
Jean-Claude Eggen - Vice President
News Update: 25/09/2014 - A letter to our American Allies
The AWCI set up sounds similar to the BHI where Rolex specifically also has it's claws into them, however at this year's BHI AGM (which I attended part of) the board members recognised the massive conflict of interest, plus if spare parts are restricted and all watch houses continue to be allowed to progressively service & repair in house they (the BHI) become increasingly redundant as there will be a diminishing need for independent service centres and repairers.
I have had some positive news from the European members of CEAHR, which is, the majority have voted in favour of going to back to Court and the lawyers have until 9th October to lodge the appeal.
The situation in the USA is exactly the same as Europe and the rest of the world, which is that the Swiss structure they are imposing restricts consumer choice. The EU Commission has voted in favour of the Swiss Federation because the original arguments and scope of investigation that the EU Commission applied did not take into consideration two fundamental points.
1, the scale of the aftermarket (the established network of the independent supply chain)
2, restricting consumer choice.
The first stepping stone is the Commissions lack of understanding of the problem for the consumer. The court of appeal needs to understand that the EU Commissions priority settings, scope and the inclusion of such attribute values like prestige & luxury have totally misrepresented and distorted the subsequent investigations.
The priorities and principal categories are:
1, Consumer Impact
2, Trade Structure
4, Precedents (car parts industry)
Also the scope of accepting Swiss watches as luxury & prestige and only watches worth over a 1000 euros were worth repairing had also a fundamental impact on the mis-understanding of how the worldwide trade works.
So rather than luxury & prestige they should be just called Swiss Made, and the value is totally irrelevant, consumers choose to get there watches repaired for the 4 following primary reasons:
Factors that determine if a repair is done:
a, consumers current financial position
b, consumers sentimental value (a gift from a loved one, inherited or passed down a family line all of which do not have a monetary value)
c, consumers convenience and ease of available service outlets
d, consumers just liking the watch they have
Hopefully the appeal will deal with these fundamental issues and common sense and the truth will prevail.
News Update: 11/09/2014 - Smartwatch, some interesting facts in this article including:
“An industry source acknowledged that watches priced between 500 euros and 1,500 euros ($646-1,940) could feel the pinch. Investors have singled out diversified industry heavyweight Swatch Group, which makes 20 percent of its sales in the low- and mid-priced ranges, as most at risk.”
So much for Luxury & Prestige, more like “JUST” Swiss made
News Update: 1/09/2014 Horological Journal's most important editorial report in a generation
The official journal of the British Horological Institute, The Horological Journal, publishes in this month’s September edition two articles under the title “What next on spare parts supply”.
In the first the Institute's CEO Dudley Giles explains the history of the dispute and the actions of the Swiss watch brands, the European Commission and the CEAHR and the current state of play.
In a second article, Anthony Cousins explains the position of the Material Houses and why they should join forces fighting these restrictive practices. Printed is the full schematic which demonstrates the strategy of the brands to create a single revenue stream that they control.
News Update: 27/08/2014 CEAHR to vote this week
A formal vote to approve the decision for going to Court and appeal the Commission decision is to take place later this week.
Feedback: Anthony Cousins:
I strongly believe that a major contributing factor of the Commission two rejections was based on the flawed understanding of the trade structure. My big concern is that this omission is the central issue that has not been explained or exposed to the Commission and if not explained in great detail to the court, the court itself will deliberate on selective distribution as a justifiable alternative to a non-restrictive supply.
From the Commission point of view the complaint was Swiss brands not supplying watch repairers, when in fact the structure is Swiss brand supplying Wholesalers supplying watch repairer. This is key to demonstrate consumer welfare, the importance of the independent distribution chain in providing unfettered supply provides opportunity for new entrants to the market and growth to existing watch repairers, anything less than this damages consumer choice.
News Update: 21/08/2014 EU Commission Final Ruling - Announced 29 July 2014
CEAHR can now appeal against the decision before the General Court of Justice. They have an 8 week deadline in which to do this.
News Update: 31/07/2014 EU Commission Final Ruling - Announced 29 July 2014
Commission closes its investigation into the refusal by several manufacturers of prestige/luxury
watches to supply spare parts to independent repairers.
The European Commission has closed its antitrust investigation in the sectors of the supply of spare
parts and the provision of repair and maintenance services for luxury/prestige watches in several
member states (notably France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK).
The investigation concerned watches which are typically worth repairing and maintaining (in that
regard, the Commission focused on watches sold above a certain retail price). The Commission
investigated, further to a complaint by the European Confederation of Watch and Clock Repairers'
Association ("CEAHR"), whether the discontinuance of the supplies of spare parts by prestige watch
manufacturers to independent watch repairers (i.e. repairers that do not belong to their respective
official networks for repair and maintenance services) may constitute an infringement of EU
competition rules on restrictive agreements and abuse of a dominant position (Articles 101 and 102 of
the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, respectively). Following a comprehensive investigation, the
Commission has concluded that there is limited likelihood of finding such an infringement in the
The Commission has accordingly decided to close its antitrust probe.
• In 2004, the European Confederation of Watch and Clock Repairers' Association ("CEAHR") lodged a
complaint, alleging that manufacturers of prestige/luxury watches infringed EU competition law.
According to the complainant, since 2002, watch manufacturers engaged into anticompetitive practices
that threatened to foreclose independent repairers.
• On 10 July 2008, the Commission decided to reject this complaint for lack of community interest. The
Commission considered that it concerned a sector of limited economic importance, that national
authorities and Courts were well placed to investigate the case and that the likelihood of finding an
infringement of the EU antitrust rules appeared limited.
• In December 2010, the General Court annulled the Commission's decision to reject CEAHR's
complaint, ruling that the Commission had committed errors of assessment and insufficiently
motivated some of its conclusions.
• On 1 August 2011, the Commission decided to open formal antitrust proceedings in order to further
investigate the allegations and take account of the General Court's judgment (see IP/11/952). The
Commission has fully taken into account this judgment during its new investigation of the complaint.
This is all about consumer choice and we know that the EU Commission has found in favour of the Swiss Federation of Watchmakers incorrectly for the following reasons:
• The Swiss have been able to convince the Commission that “ALL” Swiss watches are categorized as luxury and prestige.
• The existing established worldwide after-market supply chain that has existed since WW2 is ignored
By way of example of my first bullet point above, the certain retail price is 1000 euro’s (referred to in this link and the whole argument), however Tissot Swiss Brand (owned by Swatch) has an entry level of 200/300 euros and will be restricted.
Categorizing watches as luxury & prestige and over 1000 euros is the commission first mistake (which is what the Swiss have been able to achieve) as all decision subsequent are based on this false premise.
Whilst the brand might be Prestige/luxury the watches that have complicated workings can generally be categorized in the price bracket costing over 40,000 euros. 80% of all Swiss watches produced from all brands together have a basic/simple movement in which is not complex which independent repairers have been repairing for decades (since WW2).
The Swiss have been able to convince the Commission right at the start of three points which are NOT correct:
1, that all the watches are luxury/prestige
2, only watches over 1000 euros are worth repairing
3, that there is no independent after-market & supply chain
INFO Update: 24/07/14
Below shows a small selection of brands and the history of gradual restriction of parts that AF Switzerland and thus Cousins and all other wholesalers in the world have been subjected to.
Brand – Date the Brand Restricted Parts – Date the Brand started Supplying Parts
• Rolex (stopped supplying September 27th 1984) - Supplied since original agreement September 1st. 1960
• Jaeger-LeCoultre (stopped supplying March 14th 1996) - Supplied since early 1970s
• Omega (Restriction Announced for Dec. 2015) - Supplied since original agreement January 20th 1960
• Tissot (Restriction Announced for Dec. 2015) - Supplied since original agreement June 1st 1961
• Certina (Restriction Announced for Dec. 2015) - Supplied since original agreement October 1960
• Longines (Restriction Announced for Dec. 2015) - Supplied since original agreement November 1960
• Blancpain (No date announced Suspect Dec. 2015) – Supplied since April 1st 1975
• Calvin Klein - (Restriction Announced for Dec. 2015) –Supplied more than 3 years
• Frederic Piguet (Termination announced for 2015) – Supplied since more than 20 years .
• ETA, formerly Ebauches SA – (Circuits completely about 3 years ago, restricted supply of other parts since approx. 2 years) – Supplied more than 60 years
• Vacheron Constantin (Stopped Supplying 2004 Approx.) – Supplied more than 30 years
• Girard-Perregaux (Stopped supplying 2006 approx.) – Supplied more than 20 years
• IWC (Stopped supplying 2011 approx.) – Supplied more than 30 years
• Lemania (Stopped supplying except for two calibres) – Supplied more than 40 years
• Zenith (Parts still supplied – no termination date “Yet” announced) – Supplied since original agreement January 1960
From 1945 to 1976 and in parallel to the supply with the Swiss independent distributors the company Herni Picard & Frere Ltd (Est. 1857) which was based in London, Switzerland & France (my father worked in the London warehouse in 1950’s – 1960’s) supplied watch & clock spare parts to the independent trade in Europe and the commonwealth - Anthony Cousins
News Update: 14/7/14 ETA Switzerland
Anthony Cousins asked ETA to specifically clarify if Swatch Group’s selective distribution programme is going to include no longer supplying Cousins with “ETA” spare parts beyond December 2015?
ETA's Roland Oesterling (Key Account Business Unit) states "so far we have no instruction from the head quarter to stop selling ETA spare parts" (beyond December 2015).
Feedback - 8/7/14 Anthony
I have just come back from the London Watch Show where there was an awful lot of interest and the seminar debate was well attended and very positive towards the independent argument. The press editor is very interested in the situation.
Feedback: 2/7/14 Geoff
Reading with horror what is happening. I think it is fair to say that on comparison watch servicing costs are not small to in comparison to the price paid, in fact many Swiss watches could be purchased again for the cost of two or three services and the companies are overcharging the owners and often offering bad advice.
Response: Yes, I think your correct on all points. How Swatch group UK are going to handle the demand when every Tissot and all their other mass selling brands need spares from them (one central, controlling source) I don't know, it's difficult getting through to them now, sometimes it takes a day or two for them to pick up the phone. Thanks Anthony
News Update: 1/7/14 EU Commission
Panel Discussion - "Join the argument, have your say" Next Sunday (6th July) at 3pm at the London Watch Show 2014, Anthony Cousins
Article 101: Prohibits Cartels and other agreements that could disrupt free competition.
Article 102: Is aimed at undertakings who hold a dominant position in a market from abusing that position.
Prohibited examples across both articles include:
• fix or unfair purchasing or selling prices
• limiting or controlling production in a market
• Prevention of shared markets or sources of supply
• applying dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with trading parties, competitive disadvantage
• making the conclusion of contracts subject to other non-connected obligations
• other unfair trading conditions
Block Exemption Regulation (BER):
Allows a business to prevent activities which may create competition. The EU Commission admit that the Swiss manufacturers don’t qualify for this.
(the new 2002 BER, which came into effect in 2003, specifically focused on the automobile industry).
EU Commissions Rejects Complaint:
The very successful marketing strategies of the Swiss brand image is central to the core misrepresentation that the Swiss have successfully delivered to the EU Commission in that they categorise all their watches as luxury/prestige and therefore not informed them of the realities of their products. 80% of production are in fact simple, common, traditional movements, nothing sophisticated or complex that does not qualify (in my opinion) for a selective distribution system as the volumes of units are far too great. It is these watches that are now 10, 20, 30 & 40 years old that the independent repairers are being asked by the consumer to repair and specifically the Swiss have interrupted the delivery of the appropriate spare parts.
Examples of misrepresentation within The EU Commission Rejection Report:
• for the purposes of this investigation watches over 1000 euros are hereinafter luxury/prestige
• there is an increase in complexity of mechanical watches (Tourbillion, minute repeater, perpetual calendar etc.)
• there is a decrease of qualified watch repairers following the quartz revolution in the 1980’s
• this decrease has resulted in selective repair & maintenance systems
• the fact that watch manufacturers used to supply and now have generally stopped is unlikely to be sufficient for finding an abuse
• any such findings must still be based on the existence of exceptional circumstances for interruption to constitute an abuse
• Swiss are motivated by reasons relating to quality of repair and preventing counterfeiting
• the investigation has shown no anti-competitive incentives to significantly limit the number of authorised repairers
• there is no indication that manufacturers want to capture the profits of the repair market
• they instead opt to deal with contracted partners outside their own groups
• entry into the market for the supply of parts would require substantial investment and therefore no other company is likely to become an alternative source of spare parts.
The above examples are easily answered if the Commission were to correctly understand the history of the supply chain (which was mainly independent) dating back to just after WW2. The historical role of the spare parts wholesaler in supplying the independent watch repairer guaranteed consumer choice and value for money, only when Swiss brands started introducing restrictive (selective) supply in the 1980’s the decline of the independent watch repairer started.
The quartz revolution boosted watch repairing for a while in the late 1980’s & 1990’s whilst at the same time underlying attitudes of watch repairers was one of resignation as more and more Swiss brands pull back parts supply.
The consumers choice of where they take their watch for a service or repair will now be determined by the Swiss brand which decides (under contract) where an independent service centre will be, who becomes one and where (not two in close proximity I bet) and with no wholesalers holding vintage parts (todays models are tomorrows vintage) the premature stopping or limiting of supply of parts along with who and where, all now comes from one central outlet, the Swiss brands national company, which by the way is taking its direction and instruction from the Swiss mother company.
Car industry Parallel:
According to the UK Department of business, education & skills the empowerment created by the new 2002 BER provides competition in the automobile industry as vehicle owners now have the freedom of having their servicing and repairs done at their chosen workshop and not at the main dealers reducing the amount of spend thereby providing Customers with more choice and better value for money.
The EU Commissions disagrees with the parallel drawn with the watch industry, stating that the motor vehicle sector has been subject to sector specific legislation since the 1980’s and the characteristics of the watch sector differ significantly from the car sector.
1, authorised watch repairers do not sell parts to end consumers (as car repairers do, customers do not buy parts to repair their watches)
2, the after sales in watches does not constitute the high profit-making segment (the primary market is)
3, over the lifetime of a watch the servicing charges are small by comparison to the cost of the actual watch, whereas with cars it’s the opposite.
4, it is not important to have repairers close by for watches as they can easily be transported, e.g. by post, unlike cars
5, cars need repairs and maintenance more frequently than watches
The above reasons are a total misnomer by the Commission, remember they have categorised “all” Swiss watches as luxury/prestige so how can they be compared to all cars. A fair comparison would be Luxury/prestige watches to luxury/prestige cars (Rolls Royce handmade/hand finished parts can be through selective distribution but not all general car parts so how are general Swiss watch parts, it’s just because the Swiss label them luxury/prestige).
Our industry has not had the advantage of large independent companies like the “AA” or “RAC” in the automotive trade to fight restrictive practices and just because the watch part restrictive supply was not challenged back in the 1980’s does not constitute that consumer choice and value for money in today’s world is not severely effected and compromised, which it most certainly is.
News Update: 25/06/14 EU Commission (2nd updated)
2014 (June 30th) - Monday CEAHR A.G.M. (UK Representative attending Dudley Giles C.E.O. of the B.H.I)
2014 (March) - EU Commission inform CEAHR they will issue shortly (within 2 months) a negative final decision to their complaint.
2014 (Jan) - EU Commission Director informed CEAHR that despite their long answer to the preliminary decision in October 2013, they (the Commission) considered that CEAHR did not bring new elements to convince them any differently to the preliminary decision they made last September.
2013 (Oct) - CEAHR respond with submitted observations (which is their right under section 4.1)
2013 (Sept) - EU Commission announces letter of intent to reject complaint
2011 – EU Commission announces, it will now further investigate
2010 – EU General Court annul the EU Commissions decision
2008 – EU Commission rejects CEAHR complaint
2004 – CEAHR files an abuse of dominance against the Swiss
Feedback: 22/06/14 Joe
I've been watching the growing storm amongst indie repairers with interest. It seems that the industry is pretty well unanimous that this is a Bad Thing but we're effectively powerless to prevent it as long as the people who do have the power (ie: the EU) seem to be happy for it to go ahead. Their initial decision of "no community interest" made it pretty clear what the final outcome will be - they may have been forced into investigating, but they can't be forced into making the right decision!
The people who do have the power to change this are the customers - the potential buyers of new watches from the affected brands, who will suffer two likely effects. Obviously they'll have their choice of servicing options removed but they're also likely to see a reduction in the medium term to resale values as people start to realise that a 10 year old Omega will have to be sent back for sevicing at factory prices. Currently a lot of my customers are owners of watches around this age who, like used car owners, don't want to pay "main stealer" prices for repairs.
I'm actively warning my customers of this change, partly to prepare them for the time when I may have to refuse their jobs and partly to warn them off the brands concerned for future purchases if they don't want to take the hit on service prices. If I could afford the costs I'd be tempted to take out a glossy advert or two in the Sunday mags (preferably placed opposite appropriate watch adverts) as a public service but I can't quite stretch that far.
Perhaps if all repairers made a point of "spreading the word" amongst their customers the 18 months or so remaining would be long enough for people to start asking about this in dealers at the point of sale?
Response: The sad reality is the longer this goes on the stronger the Swiss become due to there being less & less repairers. The Swiss categorize their watches as luxury or prestige citing the need for “special” aftercare, when in fact, 80% of these watches have simply, non-complex movements in them. This is the core misrepresentation that the Swiss have delivered to the EU Commission, which has resulted in the Commissions recent incorrect analysis and findings.
It is very insulting to the independent repairers, considering for decades the Swiss did not want to know about after sales markets (spares & repairs/maintenance), but now all of a sudden despite studying for years at Horological school plus years of experience working independents are now not deemed worthy enough - Thanks Anthony.
News Update: 18/06/14 Panel Discussion
The London Watch Show 2014 is next month (July 6 & 7th) and there is talk of a panel discussion which I have been asked and have agreed to take part in.
To register to attend: http://www.londonwatchshow.com
We have purchased a stand (A04) at the 2 day show and I look forward to meeting all that attend.
P.S. I did invite Swatch to the London Show, but they declined.
Feedback: 18/06/14 Clive
Q: Do you think the generic parts manufactures are going to try to fill the parts market?
Response: I am sure there will be an increase of generic parts, however like the Rolex generic it will not be all encompassing. For example out of the 50,000 different parts available for Omega there could only be 500 generic parts eventually made, that's the sort of ratio with Rolex - Thanks Anthony.
Info update: 17/06/14 - Cousins Home page link "about us"
Ted was a watchmaker who also began to supply the occasional parts to other local repairers. Our company is now run by Ted’s son, our current M.D. Anthony along with his son Sam and employs 40 staff serving the horological & jewellery trade with jewellery, watch & clock tools, equipment, consumables, jewellery findings and millions of component parts for watches and clocks.
The Cousins management team firmly believe that the combination of our global collaboration with the biggest and best manufacturing names, plus some significant acquisitions along the way and highly motivated staff have been the bed rock for progress and has positioned Cousins at the forefront for service and value.
Our Microsoft Software computer stock control, make a reality of our pledge to our customers of “same day mail order dispatch, from stock at highly competitive prices”. From large machinery or a tiny wheel, the pledge still stands.
News Update: 14/06/14 - Why is it different for watches?
Anti parts restriction law in car industry, EU
Block Exemption Regulation is an exemption in a business line or industry, which debars organizations in the industry from some business activities in order to create competition. The regulation is highly known in the automobile industry due to the effect caused by the BER regulations from the European Commission. BER has changed the automobile industry in the last decade. Prior to 2003 automobile owners in the EU region risk nullifying their vehicle warranty when the vehicles were serviced or repaired in workshops not belonging to the vehicle manufacturer or its dealers. This barrier was broken in October 2003, when the European Commission (EC) passed a law allowing vehicle owners the freedom of having their servicing and repairs done at their chosen workshop.
According to the UK Department of Business Education & Skills, the empowerment created by this law provides competition in the automobile industry as vehicle owners now have the opportunity to repair and service their vehicle at alternative workshops to the automobile manufacturers. BER provides automobile users the flexibility and benefit to reduce the amount spent on servicing, thereby providing consumers more choice and better value for money....
News Update: 14.06.14
Interesting reading Omega’s recent response on selective distribution, (WatchPro Website 6th June - link below), I think their response demonstrates exactly the restrictive nature of what they are doing, basically they are explaining that with a contracted outlet they dictate the level of service and no doubt the cost a consumer has to accept.
I assume the 800 + agreements they say have been issued are not new accounts but already existing outlets that have had to sign up to a “new” selective distribution parts contract to receive spare parts like watch straps and other Swatch basic level 1 items, so that retailers can continue to provide basic services like shorten a watch bracelet or fit a watch strap, I pretty confident that there are not all of a sudden 800+ watch repairers out there receiving Swatch level 2 or 3 items which includes actual inside watch movement parts for complicated repairs & servicing - Anthony.
News Update: 13.06.14
JUDGMENT OF THE GENERAL COURT 15 December 2010 - Link below
News Update: Omega Respond 06/06/14
Response from Omega that WatchPro magazine have published on their website.
NEWS SUMMARY: EU Summary 03/06/14
2004 – CEAHR files an abuse of dominance against the Swiss
2008 – EU Commission rejects CEAHR complaint
2010 – EU General Court annul the EU Commissions decision
2011 – EU Commission announces, it will now further investigate
At the same time EU Commission announce:
• There is no legal dead line to complete inquiries
• National Courts must avoid giving decisions whilst it’s on going
Surely if there is a dispute in progress or pending the status quo should remain, so Swatch Group announcing this restrictive policy now in 2014 makes you wonder if they know something we don’t.
I have contacted our CEAHR UK representative for clarification.
NEWS UPDATE - 02/06/14 - Linton Feedback
The news regarding supply of parts is pretty grim for independent watchmakers worldwide. Wondered if you could respond to these:
1. Could you and others challenge this collectively? The restrictive practices will have a huge effect on the industry. Just imagine if car parts were restricted in the same way - I can't see that ever being allowed.
2. Could you comment on what will happen to the availability of vintage parts? Will parts for vintage movements by Tissot, Omega etc be restricted? What about the old brands like FHF, ST etc?
There is always a law of unintended consequences and only time will tell what these will be. Bergeon certainly won't be selling so much equipment for one. Could the big material houses work together and link up with a Chinese manufacturer to produce very high quality generic parts?
There is the “Confédération Européenne des Associations d'Horlogers Réparateurs” (CEAHR) which consists of nine members from nine different European countries, the British Horological Institute (BHI) being a founder member and our UK representative.
CEAHR was set up in order to combat, what they considered, the “abuse of a dominant position” of the Swiss trying to take advantage of their monopoly position. CEAHR lodged a complaint in 2004 against the Swiss to the European Commission which the Commission failed to treat properly.
On 10 july 2008 the Commission decided to reject this complaint for lack of community interest. In December 2010, the General Court annulled the Commission's decision to reject CEAHR's complaint, mainly because the Commission did not sufficiently motivate why it concluded that there was a not enough Community interest to pursue the investigation. The Commission will now further investigate the allegations, in order to take account of the General Court ruling.
That was back on 05/08/2011.
Whilst Commissions investigations are on-going, the national courts must avoid giving decisions which would conflict with a decision contemplated by the Commission in proceedings that it has initiated, so currently it looks like my/our immediate options are limited. I am currently pursuing this to see if there has been any update or news as to when an announcement may be made. (EU link below)
On the subject of vintage part availability, like current models, all parts old & new, once the independent suppliers no longer have stocks, the customers who own the watches will have no choice other than to take it to an official contracted jeweller and be subjected the T&C’s of the watch brand. If the Jewellers cannot service it because they are not deemed at the correct service level or the brand has decided certain parts are not available (like a circuit) they will be told to send it back, then send it back they must or return it to the customer undone (no doubt in the hope they will upgrade to a new one).
The generic market will no doubt take off, but like the Rolex parts they have not fully comprehensively covered the entire range.
Thanks - Anthony.
NEWS UPDATE - Swatch Contact Details 30/05/14
Swatch advises Cousins that people sending requests about spare parts should contact James Avery
The email address is: James.Avery@uk.swatchgroup.com
Otherwise they can write to him at: FAO: James Avery (Head of Customer Services) The Swatch Group (UK) Limited, Charter Court, Third Avenue, Southampton, SO15 0JA
NEWS UPDATE - Swatch Confirms 24/05/14
Swatch confirms to Cousins that the change in distribution strategy does not only apply to Omega, but to all Swatch Group brands worldwide.
NEWS: Postal Charges Reduced!
Postal Charges Feedback: Chris 23/05/14
Feedback: I am writing to you to register my concern over your postal charges. I received a parcel from you containing a £3.90 watch glass with a £4.17 postage and packaging charge. The glass arrived in a jiffy bag with first class postage. I estimate this to have cost you about £1.
Responce: Thanks for your feedback. I have reviewed our carriage charges and adjusted them down. We reduced the percentage margin set aside for the cost of packing materials like the padded envelopes, packing crisps, bubble wrap, tape etc. & also labour.
The £4.17 charge will now be £2.95, the cost the Royal Mail charge to us for deliveries weighing 1g to 999gms is £2.61 (small parcel rate, letter rates do not apply and the Royal Mail are very strict on this). Below are the published charges from RM today, as you can see the personal charge is £3.20 for the same service. (£2.61 is our business rate due to volume) - Thanks Anthony.
Letters and Large Letters
1st and 2nd Class mail
1st Class Letter will cost 62p
- 1st Class Large Letter (up to 100g) will cost 93p
- 2nd Class Letter will cost 53p
- 2nd Class Large Letter (up to 100g) will cost 73p
Royal Mail Signed ForTM
Royal Mail Signed ForTM 1st Class letter will cost £1.72
- Royal Mail Signed ForTM 1st Class Large Letter (up to 100g) will cost £2.03
- Royal Mail Signed ForTM 2nd Class letter will cost £1.63
- Royal Mail Signed ForTM 2nd Large Letter (up to 100g) will cost £1.83
Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed®
• Our Guaranteed service offers next day delivery great value features, generous compensation and market-leading quality of service. Prices start from £6.40 for 1pm delivery and £18.18 for 9am delivery.
Small and Medium parcels
- 1st Class Small Parcels prices start from £3.20
- 2nd Class Small Parcels prices start from £2.80
- 1st Class Medium Parcels prices start from £5.65
- 2nd Class Medium Parcels prices start from £5.20
Royal Mail Signed ForTM
1st Class Signed For Small Parcels prices start from £4.30
- 2nd Class Signed For Small Parcels prices start from £3.90
- 1st Class Signed For Medium Parcels prices start from £6.75
- 2nd Class Signed For Medium Parcels prices start from £6.30
NEWS UPDATE - Recent Experience: 23/05/14 - Terry Feedback
FB: I received a couple last month who were visibly shocked.
They presented me with a two and a half year old Rolex. Wanting to get the gents Datejust serviced on two years he offered it to a Newcastle Rolex Jewellers, They quoted him £230.00 for a service, this seemed expensive so decided to take the watch away and think about it. A week later they went back to the shop to get the watch serviced, the price had risen to £430.00 pounds, they had a chat amongst themselves and well it is a Rolex OK. The watch was sent to Rolex. The couple showed me the quote from Rolex HQ, £1,096.00 !! We serviced the watch which looked well cared for, for £260.00 refurbished, pressure tested and returned to the customer in 14 days. The customer is delighted. The restrictive practices are detrimental to the owners, They have the right to say I will accept a lightly scratched glass and a faded dial. Restricting genuine spare parts, service tools and manuals, and training LEADS to botched repairing not lessens it.
Response: You sum it all up in a nut shell. The consumer will have no choice, having multiple authorised service centres (contracted by Swatch) does not constitute freedom of choice. To sign a Swatch contract & also meet the “qualitative criteria” is still a selective process that Swatch only control and is oppressive to the trade as they only will choose where they are located and how many are authorised, and therefore controlling:
• Part availability (including starving the market or prematurely ending a supply)
• Who becomes an authorised service centre
• Service centre locations
• Amount of service centres in a location
These specific levels of control are felonious when the brand, or the companies authorised by the brand, is itself the only controlling central point of distribution which then excludes independent distributors like our self who supply independent watch repairers, thus giving the consumer no choice other than to be subjected to the service demands & financial charging demands that retail jewellers or Omega boutiques that are all under a contract controlled by Swatch. This is the case with many brands already (Rolex, Cartier etc.) however I was hoping that Swatch was going to do the right & lawful thing of setting up selective distribution incorporating the independent distributors which would of set the bench mark for success across our industry, shaming or educating the non-participants brands into action - Thanks Anthony.
Latest News: 21/05/14 - Watch Pro News
Cousins addresses components crisis at LWS 2014
21/05/14 - Andy Feedback
Feedback: I have been repairing watches for 40 years and love doing so. I can remember when if I had a Rolex in for repair I ordered the part from Beech & Son and the part arrived within a couple of days…..but now I absolutely despair the fact that most of the top brands will not provide spares. I own an Audi and do all my own servicing and when I go to my local Audi garage they happily supply the genuine parts so what is different with watch spares !! Sadly I have stopped my membership with the Horological Institute ( not a full member) because they do not seem to care about us and the problems we independents are facing. How on earth are we going to attract young people to take up Horology when this situation continues! I wish I had a lot of money to take this problem to an International Court and challenge this restrictive practise!
Responce: unfortunately your views on the BHI has been a view that the majority of professional repairers I have spoken to over the years do share and not without foundation. Over the two / three years i have been working (i thought closely) with Omega Switzerland in preparing a selective parts distribution programme, which unlike Rolex was going to be open to all (which was a key agreed principal) only to find a month ago out of the blue i get notification of a complete U - turn. Basically Omega have stabbed us in the back and come December 2015 they are going to cut our throats.
As I have said below the real law breaking issue is that customers (watch owners) have no other choice, surely this can be challenge at a national level all these brands have UK based companies. My understanding is that Brussels ruled in favour of the consumer, however implementation of the decision is just not happening, I am unsure why? - Thanks Anthony
Current Repair Waiting Times: 20/05/14 - Name Supplied
Below is the average waiting time that a Retail Jeweller is experiencing when they have to send the watch back to the Brand, because the brand will not supply the parts required.
• Rolex 6 weeks
• Jaeger 12 weeks
• Omega 8 weeks
• Breitling 10 weeks
• Cartier 8 weeks
• Iwc 8 weeks
• Panerai 8 weeks
• Tag Heuer 8 weeks
The real law breaking issue is that customers have no other choice, and that they have to pay the top Swiss brands demanded price which often includes a commitment to work that has not been requested or required.
If you are undergoing simular problems then email Anthony Cousins direct with your experience.
Recent Experience: 17/05/14 - Julie Feedback
A Breitling agent advised on a 14 week wait and 4 weeks to get a estimate for a battery replacement.
Swatch Group advises Cousins that the global supply of watch parts is to totally cease after December 2015, this will affect all Omega parts (however, we are seeking confirmation on other brands like Tissot, Certina, Rado, CK and Longines, now confirmed, it does include this brands).
I think Swatch Group are grossly under-estimating the level of service the independent wholesalers and repairers provide in support of their brands - Anthony Cousins
15/05/14 - Paul Feedback
Feedback: I specialize in the repair, restoration and servicing of early electric and electronic watches and a very significant percentage of this involved the Omega f300 tuning fork watches from the 1970s. I'm currently working on 5-6 of these per week and from many countries.
While many of the crucial movement parts (index wheels, coils, etc) have been obsolete for many years and are not stocked by Cousins, I have managed to source those from other places. But I rely 100% on Cousins for all Omega case parts i.e. crystals, crowns, case screws, bezels etc. Generic Sternkreuz crystals are not really up to the task for the f300 models, so I have always bought genuine Omega. Chrono models like the Omega f300 Speedsonic have unique crystals with their integral tachy / tension rings, so I'm totally dependent on Cousins / Omega / Swatch for this item.
So a few questions if you don't mind:
1) I assume I will no longer be able to buy Omega crystals once your stock runs out after Dec 2015?
2) Probably impossible to answer, but how long after Dec 2015 would Cousins continue to be able to supply items like Omega crystals? As an example, PZ5106 is one I often use.
3) Are Swatch likely to reverse their decision?
This is bad news for the many Omega f300 watch owners out there. For financial reasons, many owners will not want to send their watches to companies appointed by Omega. Despite the initial outlay, I'm seriously considering building my own stock of the more common Omega f300 related items that I buy from Cousins. Do you have any objections or reasons why I should not do this?
Responce: Unfortunately no matter how much stocking up anyone does at some point in the future you will run out and usually the first part to run out is the most popular and if you have a job that requires two parts and one is the popular part you can no longer get therein lies the problem, including the value of the stock you get left with.
I have purchased customers surplus Omega & Rolex parts and the same principal applies, the most popular items are always the smallest quantities on the list (if at all) so I have to be careful, there is no point in having a thousand centre wheels in stock for a specific calibre when we only sell 10 a year. Like you I would purchase a 1000 index wheels & coils for the F300 if only they were available, but they are never offered up for sale.
There are already restrictions on quantities that we can purchase and so we need to reflect that. If Swatch does change their decision I suspect that it will be due to a consistent deluge of customers complaints on the time it takes them to repair the watch when their own department in inundated with jobs and they are giving out a 6 month turnaround time, only then the realisation of negative feedback (brand damage) from their customers will becomes a priority, alternatively they may continue to keep their head firmly in the sand where I think it is at the moment - Thanks Anthony.
14/05/14 - Dave Feedback
Feedback: Can you confirm whether Swatch are ceasing the supply of spare parts in the U.K. completely or to Cousins or worldwide?
Responce: Unfortunately they advise us that this is a global policy to no longer supply watch parts to independent wholesalers beyond December 2015 - Thanks Anthony.
13/05/14 - Paul Feedback
Feedback: If parts are no longer being manufactured, or existing stocks have dried up, I can accept the fact that they can't be obtained. The fact that they are being made unavailable owing to a policy decision by Swatch Group is fr less acceptable, it seems crazy. If you feel there is any point in trying to challenge this decision I would readily lend support in any way I can. I`m sure there are many independent repairers who feel the same.
Responce: It is very frustrating that decisions Swatch group have made, have been made with no communication or correspondence with the wider trade, they have corresponded with me but only in a dictating way, I have given them every opportunity to implement successful automatic auditing on us (which seem to be a requirement moving forward) only to “out of the blue” receive a phone call saying that I am to receive official notification (which I did) stating the supply to independent wholesalers globally is all stopping come December 2015. There is every reason to challenge such a crucial decision, this should have been the case when previous brands restricted parts, if only we had a trade body that realised this - Thanks Anthony.
12/05/14 - Christian Feedback
Feedback: Pretty bad news for all of us. I do mainly vintage Omega watches, so that is going to hit me pretty hard. I guess a sizeable chunk of your turnover is Swatch parts as well, so you will have to make some adjustments, too. Are there any generic parts out there? You already stock some generic Rolex parts, and I was wondering if any manufacturer would be interested in taking up the slack that Swatch Group is creating.
Responce: There is no hiding it, Omega, Tissot etc. are important brands to us, as it is to many watch repairers also. We already stock a selection of generic Omega parts, which 2 years ago in a meeting with the Swatch top brass in Switzerland they pulled me to one side and suggested I stop selling them. I said that CousinsUK did not create the demand for generic parts they did by putting the price up so much they made it profitable for others to make. I am confident that there will be many Omega generic parts additionally made just in the same way the Rolex generics parts have increased, a point I was at pains to make to them which clearly made no impact - Thanks Anthony.
11/05/14 - Ian Feedbaclk
Feedback: What absolute snobbery on the part of Swatch. How are they hoping to cope with all the repairs this move will create ? Surely they must realise that any watchmaker who is any good will be an independent. They will be employing the dross. I will be displaying this news in my shop under the headline "REASONS NOT TO BUY" I will certainly advise all my loyal customers on this matter who may be considering buying OMEGA,TISSOT, CERTINA etc. of this outrageous move by Swatch to do a "ROLEX" on them.
Responce: They have specifically explained (over the phone) that they are fed up receiving botched repairs back at HQ from so called watch repairers (their words) where the public blame the brand causing brand damage. As I am an independent supplier, I try not to take that too personally, however I did propose an auditing process for us and our independent watch repairer customers via a web portal, but their decision stands.
08/05/14 - Russ Feedback
Feedback: Hi Anthony just read the news regarding omega parts not being supplied after dec 2015, but does that include ETA movements and parts aswell.
Responce: No it does not, well not for now, ETA are already restricting us completely on circuits and limiting the quantity on a lot of general parts, but as of yet we have not experience too many problems of being without the correct levels of stock. This is terrible news for all independents - Thanks Anthony
News - April 2014:
CousinsUK Launch Safe & Secure – Shop with Confidence, Verified by VISA & MasterCard SecureCode
Card issuers are offering more protection for customers shopping online, 3D Secure allows customers to verify transactions by entering a secret password of their choice as an additional layer of security. Think of 3D Secure as the online version of Chip & PIN.
MasterCard® SecureCode and Verified by Visa are a part of the 3D Secure scheme which is the generic term for the software used by card issuers enrolled in a scheme. 3D Secure pages are controlled by your card issuing bank. This is why all navigational links are removed from these pages.
At Cousins we take the security of your data extremely seriously and want our customers to feel as safe and secure as possible when shopping with us. Registering is quick and a one-off process. Your card issuer recognises whether you've registered previously or not. If you haven't already registered for 3D Secure with your card issuer, you will see a secured registration page during the checkout process.
You'll be prompted to create your secret password and verify yourself by entering some of your card information such as the CVN number (the last 3 digits from the rear of the card on the signature strip). Once you've completed this stage you are registered. The next time you shop online using your card, you'll be prompted to enter your secret password during the checkout process via a secured screen.
Our Customer Service team are not able to advise you on what to enter on the 3D Secure page. The information is confidential that only you should know. Don't worry, clear instructions are on the 3D Secure page to tell you what to enter and where. If you have any issues we suggest contacting your card issuer.
NEWS - Jan 2014:
2kg super heavyweight (over 1000 pages) Cousins Brand New 2014 complete catalogue is available “FREE” to request your copy simply click on the feedback button at the top of this page, fill out your address details and ask for your "free of charge" copy.
Royal Mail now consider Lithium Batteries as dangerous goods and will no longer carry them, they will destroy any packages containing them without warning.
Alternate carriers are automatically available to you at the checkout stage of your order.
Royal Mail are destroying parcels without warning or compensation.