2020 will be remembered as a traumatic year… but also a turning point. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted virtually all aspects of human life. As far as the watch industry is concerned, it has been severely hit by the sanitary crisis. Swiss watch exports have seen a decline of 23.5% over the 11 first months of 2020. The pandemic is also a catalyst for monumental changes for the watch industry. Many will describe it as the steepest learning curve of their professional lives. With brands under pressure to make their business model fit the times, the pandemic has intensified the need to manage change, to quickly decide and act, and to be agile.
Some brands simply seem immune to crisis and the industry is getting more and more polarized. Brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, or Audemars Piguet still have many of their watches on long waiting lists. Some ‘established’ independent brands, for instance, F.P. Journe or MB&F, still see their products in high demand. Sadly, some brands won’t survive the crisis. However, there will still be room for agile, creative brands and independent watchmakers to develop sustainable and profitable niches. While we have seen many brands literally paralyzed by the situation, the entrepreneurial spirit often paid-off… Fortune favors the brave! Here are 5 independent brands that made it through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Czapek was launched in 2011, reviving the name of an illustrious Czech-born Geneva-based watchmaker. This renaissance was orchestrated through an equity crowdfunding campaign, a rare case in high-end watchmaking. Since then, the brand has presented some pretty interesting watches and decided to enter the integrated sports watch category in 2020, together with the launch of their first in-house calibre. Not a small challenge. Against all odds, the brand presented the Antarctique Terre Adélie right in the middle of the first lockdown, with a 100-piece limited edition available on subscription. The inaugural edition sold out within two weeks. Better yet, Czapek introduced in December the Antarctique Passage de Drake edition, and this 40-piece limited edition sold out in just a few hours.
For more information, please visit czapek.com
If the brand has a rich history and has long achieved cult status among seasoned dive watch collectors, Doxa is still regarded as a niche brand by a mainstream audience. Yet, Doxa has been gaining momentum over the past few months with multiple interesting releases. In 2020, the super-cool SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung Sharkhunter was received with great enthusiasm. The brand’s collection was also enriched with fairly-priced dive watches such as the colorful SUB 300 collection or the SUB 200 C-Graph chronograph.
For more information, please visit doxawatches.com
Fortis is known for manufacturing rugged, functional watches with a forte for pilot and cosmonaut watches. A few months ago, the company was acquired by Jupp Philipp with the idea to focus on tool watches, and he and his team drastically redefined their execution. The first creations were presented this summer, with a convincing new Flieger collection – including the F-43 Bi-Compax, F41, and F39 automatic, and finally the F-43 Triple GMT with a Kenissi movement. The reception was very positive and since then, sales are on the rise too.
For more information, please visit fortis-swiss.com
Louis Erard operates in a challenging segment known as “accessible luxury”. Alain Spinedi, with the support of Manuel Emch, unveiled a new face for Louis Erard, in particular by completely revamping the collections, modernizing its core products in an interesting manner, for instance, its Excellence regulator. The new brand’s collaboration pieces with Alain Silberstein or Vianney Halter both sold out quickly. And the best is that the brand gained fame among an audience that probably never heard about it before.
For more information, please visit louiserard.com
H. Moser & Cie.
Besides the top-notch execution of its watches, this high-end independent brand has stood out in the industry, mostly because of the disruptive initiatives and creative mindset of its young CEO Edouard Meylan. Despite the challenging environment, H. Moser & Cie. reported double-digit growth for 2020. The brand has met great success with the introduction of their first sports watch with an integrated bracelet, the Streamliner. The inaugural chronograph limited edition sold out fast and the Center Second three-hander is only available on a long waiting list. Last, the cool and limited co-creations with MB&F were extremely well received too… and are sold out too.
For more information, please visit h-moser.com