Tag: Luxury

Will Apple’s ‘iWatch’ Rattle Luxury Watchmakers?

Apple’s much-anticipated wearable device, which will reportedly debut this fall, may not pose a direct threat to luxury watchmakers. But it does signal opportunity.

Apple iWatch concept by Martin Hajek and Adam Banks | Source: http://www.martinhajek.com

NEW YORK, United States — Ben Clymer, editor of wristwatch news site Hodinkee, spends his days reviewing and reporting on high-end watches. His recent stories have featured Montblanc’s Villeret 1858 Vintage Pulsographe — an “under the radar” style featuring a chronograph complication that costs over $40,000 — and Rolex’s “Paul Newman” Daytona family of watches. But amidst the Audemars Piguets and Girard-Perregauxs, Clymer has begun to acknowledge the arrival of another wrist-worn contraption: the smartwatch.

In recent months, he’s even reviewed a couple of smartwatches, including the Swiss-made Withings Activité, which has embedded digital technology but is designed to look like a mechanical watch. “There is a peripheral interest in smartwatches amongst our readers, in that it’s something that goes on the wrist,” he said. “They are innately interested in anything that goes there.” But Clymer also believes that, so far, smartwatch makers have yet to design something compelling enough to really hold the attention of watch-lovers. “They’ve been pretty lackluster to be honest,” he said. “Everyone is waiting for the iWatch.”

Indeed, they are. According to numerous market reports, the highly secretive Apple is set to launch a wearable device for the wrist, often dubbed the ‘iWatch,’ which may arrive in stores as early as this fall. In moves thought to be linked to the new product launch, Apple is thought to have collected hours of feedback from watch industry insiders. It has evenrecruited executives from several fashion and luxury brands, including watchmaker Tag Heuer’s former vice president of sales, Patrick Pruniaux, who is thought to be working on the project.

So will the new device pose a threat to luxury watch makers?

Despite the fact that traditional watches (whose primary practical function is telling the time) have been rendered virtually pointless by the ubiquity of mobile phones with clocks, the watch market is still growing at every price point. Sales of watches reached $61.7 billion in 2013, up 9.6 percent from 2011, according to Euromonitor International. Low-priced watches generated $16.5 billion, up 6.4 percent, while mid-priced watches reached $20.9 billion, up 9 percent. High-end watches saw the biggest jump to $24.3 billion, up 12.4 percent from two years before. And while a lot of that growth comes from developing countries, particularly in Asia, many mature markets also saw an uptick. In the US, overall watch sales reached $8.3 billion, up 17.6 percent from $7 billion in 2011.

That said, some expect large parts of the market to be swallowed up by smart, Internet-enabled devices. “In 2020, we expect 60 percent of all watches sold in the world to be connected with the Internet,” said Pascal Koenig, managing director at Zurich-based Smartwatch Group, an independent research company. He predicts that $2.5 billion worth of smartwatches will be sold globally in 2014. “The term ‘smartwatch’ will be lost — customers are starting to expect that watches can do more than indicate time.” And while there are hundreds of smartwatches currently on the market, Apple’s product will be a game-changer. “Apple will integrate many of the functionalities that are already out there and make them simple and intuitive to use. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is,” he said. “Today’s smartwatches are cumbersome to use. Compared to Android Wear, Apple has the big advantage of a closed ecosystem. And the improved design will significantly increase the target segment from male tech-nerds to the broad consumer market.”

While this prospect is likely to affect the lower-end of the market, it may not significantly impact the market for luxury watches, which, like all luxury goods, derive their value less from their functional attributes than their ability to send social signals, indicating belonging within certain social tribes and differentiation from others. This is largely rooted in the relative inaccessibility of their pricing. And while Apple produces personal tech devices with luxury-like appeal, the Cupertino, California-based company’s ‘iWatch’ will most definitely not be priced like a luxury watch; watches made by luxury brands like Montblanc and Vacheron Constantin (both owned by Swiss luxury goods conglomerate Richemont) can hit the five, six and seven-figure mark. In contrast, Apple’s device is expected to be priced in the hundreds of dollars.

Indeed, according to a recent report by Mario Ortelli, senior research analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, only one percent of watches produced by Richemont brands will overlap, in terms of pricing, with the iWatch market. Ortelli warned, however, that Swatch, which owns a number of high-end watchmakers as well as its famous lower-end namesake brand, could be exposed to revenue losses of as much as 3 percent if smartwatches capture 20 percent of the market.

Large luxury conglomerates like Richemont, Kering and LVMH should not ignore the iWatch, however, stressed Ortelli — and not just because Apple keeps poaching their executives. “It’s an opportunity,” he said. “I’m not sure if [the iWatch] will be a success. But if it is, it could get the younger generation used to wearing a watch.” What’s more, it’s highly possible that luxury customers could be interested in snapping up the iWatch in addition to their $40,000 Swiss-engineered timepieces. “It wouldn’t be surprising if watch collectors do buy the iWatch,” said Clymer. “It’s going to change things.”


10 Things To Know About How Rolex Makes Watches

10 Things To Know About How Rolex Makes Watches   look inside manufacture

Rolex really isn’t like any other watch brand. In fact, the privately held, independently run entity isn’t like most other companies. I can say this now with a lot more clarity than most people because I was there. Rolex rarely allows anyone into its hallowed halls, but I was invited to visit their four manufacture locations in Switzerland and experience first-hand how Rolex makes their famous watches.

Rolex is a universe of its own: respected; admired; valued; and known across the globe. Sometimes I sit back and think about all that Rolex is and does and find it hard to believe that at the end of the day, they just make watches. Rolex does just make watches and their timepieces have taken on a role beyond that of mere timekeeper. Having said that, the reason a “Rolex is a Rolex” is because they are good watches and tell pretty good time. It’s taken me over a decade to fully appreciate the brand, and it will probably take longer before I learn everything I’d like to know about them.

The purpose of this article isn’t to give you a totally inside look at Rolex. That isn’t possible because as of now there is a strict “no photography” policy at Rolex. There is a very real mystique behind the manufacture because they are relatively closed and their operations aren’t public. The brand takes the concept of Swiss discreetness to a new level, and in a lot of ways that is good for them. So since we can’t show you what we saw, I’d like to share with you some interesting facts that every Rolex and watch lover should know.

1. They Use An Expensive And Difficult To Machine Steel Because It Looks Better

Many watch lovers are familiar with the fact that Rolex uses a type of steel that no one else uses. Stainless steel is not all the same. Steel comes in various types and grades… and most steel watches are made from a type of stainless steel called 316L. Today, all the steel in Rolex watches is made from 904L steel, and as far as we know, pretty much no one else does. Why?

Rolex used to use the same steel as everyone else, but in around 2003 they moved their entire steel production to 904L steel. In 1988 they released their first 904L steel watch with a few versions of the Sea-Dweller. 904L steel is more rust and corrosion resistant, and is somewhat harder than other steels. Most important to Rolex, is that 904L steel, when worked properly, is able to take (and hold) polishes incredibly well. If you’ve ever noticed that steel on a Rolex watch looks different than other watches, it is because of 904L steel, and how Rolex has learned to work with it.

A natural question is why doesn’t everyone else in the watch industry use 904L steel? A good guess is because it is more expensive and much more complicated to machine. Rolex had to replace most of their steel working machines and tools to deal with 904L steel. It made sense for them because of the amount of watches they produce, and because they make all their parts in-house. Most other brands get their cases made from outside suppliers. So even though 904L steel is better than 316L steel for watches, it is more expensive, requires special tools and skills, and is overall more difficult to work with. This has prevented other brands (so far) from taking advantage of it, and is something special that Rolex has. The benefit is obvious once you handle any steel Rolex watch.

10 Things To Know About How Rolex Makes Watches   look inside manufacture

2. Rolex Has Its Own Science Lab

Given everything Rolex has done over the years it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they have an internal Research & Development department. However, Rolex takes it well beyond that. Rolex has not one, but several different types of extremely well-equipped professional science labs at their various facilities. The purpose of these labs isn’t just to research new watches and things that may go into watches, but also to research more effective and efficient manufacturing techniques. One way of looking at Rolex is that they are an extremely competent and almost obsessively organized manufacturing company – that just happens to make timepieces.

Rolex labs are as diverse as they are amazing. Perhaps the most visually interesting is the chemistry lab. Full of beakers and tubes that carry liquids and gases, the Rolex chemistry lab is full of highly trained scientists. What is it mostly used for? Well one thing that Rolex stated is that the lab is used for developing and researching oils and lubricants that they use in machines during the manufacturing process.

Rolex has a room with multiple electron microscopes and some gas spectrometers. They are able to take an extremely close look at metals and other materials to investigate the effects of machining and manufacturing techniques. These large areas are extremely impressive and are used seriously on a regular basis to remedy or prevent possible problems.

Of course Rolex also uses its science labs on the watches themselves. An interesting room is the stress test room. Here watch movements, bracelets, and cases undergo simulated wear and abuse on custom-made machines and robots. Let’s just say that it would not be unreasonable to assume your typical Rolex is designed to last a lifetime (or two).

10 Things To Know About How Rolex Makes Watches   look inside manufacture

3. Their Movements Are All Hand-Assembled And Tested

One of biggest misconceptions about Rolex is that machines build their watches. The rumor is so pervasive that even people at aBlogtoWatch believed it to be mostly true. This is because traditionally Rolex didn’t communicate much on this topic. Well the truth is that Rolex watches are given all the hands-on human attention that you’d like to expect from a fine Swiss made watch.

Rolex uses machines in the process for sure. In fact, Rolex easily has the most sophisticated watch making machinery in the world. The robots and other automated tasks are really used for tasks that humans aren’t as good at. These include sorting, filing, cataloging, and very delicate procedures that involve the type of care you want a machine to handle. Most of these machines are still human-operated though. And everything from Rolex movements to bracelets are assembled by hand. A machine however helps with doing things such as applying the right pressure when attaching pins, aligning parts, and pressing down hands. Having said that, all Rolex watch hands are still set by hand via a trained technician.

It would be an understatement to suggest that Rolex is obsessive about quality control. A predominant theme in the manufacture is that things are checked, re-checked, and then checked again. It feels as though their goal is to ensure that if a Rolex watch fails, it does so before it leaves the factory. Large teams of watchmakers and assembly people work on every single movement that Rolex produces. This is before and after their movements are sent to COSC for chronometer certification. And on top of that, Rolex re-tests their movements for accuracy after they are cased for several days while simulating wear before they are sent out to retailers.

10 Things To Know About How Rolex Makes Watches   look inside manufacture

4. An In-House Foundry Makes All Their Gold

Rolex makes their own gold. While they have a small handful of suppliers that send them steel (Rolex still works the steel in-house to make all the parts), all the gold and platinum is made in-house. 24k gold comes into Rolex and it is turned into 18k yellow, white, or Rolex’s Everose gold (their non-fading version of 18k rose gold).

Large kilns under hot flames are used to melt and mix the metals which are then turned into cases and bracelets. Because Rolex controls the production and machining of their gold, they are able to strictly ensure not only quality, but the best looking parts. To our knowledge Rolex is the only watch manufacture that makes their own gold or even has a real foundry in-house.

10 Things To Know About How Rolex Makes Watches   look inside manufacture

5. Technology Is A Watchmaker’s Best Friend

The philosophy at Rolex seems to be very pragmatic, if a human does it better, then let a human do it, if a machine does it better, then let a machine do it. In fact the reason more watchmakers don’t use machines is two-fold. First of all machines are huge investments and in many instances keeping people around to do it is less expensive. Second, they don’t have the production demands that Rolex does. In fact, Rolex is fortunate to have the ability to equip its facilities with robotic help where needed.

The epicenter of Rolex’s automation prowess is the master supply room. Massive columns of parts are attended to by robotic servants that store and retrieve trays with parts or complete watches. A watchmaker needing parts must simply place an order with the system, and it is delivered on a series of conveyer systems to them in about 6-8 minutes.

Robotic arms populate the Rolex manufacture locations when it mostly comes to repetitive or highly detailed tasks that require consistency. Many Rolex parts are given an initial machine polish by a robot, but amazingly they are hand-finishing and polished as well. The fact is that while modern technology is a huge part of the “Rolex manufacturing machine,” robotic equipment is there to assist what is a very real, human watch making operation.10 Things To Know About How Rolex Makes Watches   look inside manufacture

6. Fort Knox Has Nothing On Rolex

It isn’t surprising that Rolex is keen on security. At their foundry for example, I was given a bar to carry around that weighed in at just over $1,000,000 worth of Everose gold. There is a lot more of that, as well as valuable completed watches that need safekeeping. Rolex employs a series of extremely meticulous security checks and they had a James Bond-style safe that is located a few floors underground.

I noticed that rank and file watch assembly employees have an interesting system on their desks that required their ID badge be docked at all times after being identified with a fingerprint scan. Everything is scanned and cataloged. In fact, each Rolex watch movement has a unique serial number that is photographed and matched with a case that also has a different unique serial number. In the future when the watch is serviced, a watchmaker can learn everything there is to know about it.

Accessing the Rolex safe requires entering a bank vault door and passing an iris scanner that identifies you via your eyes. When Rolex parts move from location to location, they are transported in highly discreet unmarked (and likely heavily armored) trucks. Rolex is very serious about their safety, and for a really good reason since it is often said (in truth) that Rolex watches are just as good as money.

10 Things To Know About How Rolex Makes Watches   look inside manufacture

7. Dive Watches Are Each Individually Tested In Pressurized Tanks With Water

All Rolex Oyster case watches are thoroughly tested for water resistance. The way that this is often done at watch manufactures is with an air-pressure tank. A watch is placed in a small chamber that is filled with air, and if the pressure changes at all, it means that air leaked into the case. Each Rolex Oyster, as well as Oyster dive watches begins with this air pressure treatment. In fact, each case is tested both before and after a movement and dial are placed inside of it.

Dive watches receive a separate treatment all together. After being air pressure tested, Rolex proceeds to test the water resistance of each and every Rolex Submariner and Deep Sea watch in actual water. This type of test is much less common. Submariner watches are placed in large tubes that are filled with water to ensure that they are water resistant to 300 meters. The test is extremely complex because Rolex employs a complex system for testing if water entered the case.

After the watches exit the tank, they are heated up and a drop of cold water is placed on the crystal to see if condensation forms. An optical sensor then scans them for trace amounts of water. Less than one in a thousand watches fail the test. The story is much more intense for Deep-Sea watches. Rolex co-developed a special high-pressure water tank with COMEX to depth test each Deep-Sea watch. The pressure tank looks like something from a science fiction movie. Imagine something that looks like a several ton Gatling gun. This machine takes well over an hour and measures each watch to a pressure equivalent to 12,000 meters deep.

10 Things To Know About How Rolex Makes Watches   look inside manufacture

8. An Army Of Gemologists Work At Rolex

It has been said that Rolex has preposterous standards for the materials it buys from its suppliers. This includes things like metals as well as precious stones such as diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Rolex has a massive gemological department whose goal it is to buy, test, arrange, and set diamonds and other precious stones in a range of Rolex models. One of the things they do is check incoming stones to ensure that they are real. Using x-rays for example, they can test diamonds to ensure they aren’t fake.

Rolex reports that in the years they have been testing diamonds, only two in 20 million have been fake. That might seem like such a small amount it isn’t even worth their time to perform the test. Nevertheless, to ensure absolute quality, Rolex tests each batch of diamonds. This should also have an illustrative effect on the diamonds they use, which happen to only be IF in clarity, and D-G in color (the four grades closest to white).

Each and every diamond or precious stone (no matter how large or small) on a Rolex watch is hand-selected and hand-set. Rolex employs traditional jewelers to create custom settings for stones in their most exclusive watches, done using the same processes employed in creating the world’s finest jewelry. It was amazing to see this level of artisanship and delicate care inside what many people believe to be a mass producer.

10 Things To Know About How Rolex Makes Watches   look inside manufacture

9. It Takes About A Year To Make One Rolex Watch

An advertisement for Rolex long ago claimed that it takes about a year to make a single Rolex watch. As suspicious as that sounds, it is true even today. Rolex produces almost a million watches a year, but surprisingly, no shortcuts are taken in the manufacturing process from what I could observe (and I’ve been to a lot of watch manufactures). Rolex is however interested in quality and efficiency. Basically, the entire company seems focused on producing the best watches, and continually seeing how they can make them better.

If you look at Rolex watches over time, they are more about evolution rather than revolution. This idea of always improving versus changing goes right into their manufacturing process as well. They are constantly learning how to improve quality through better processes and techniques. The move from aluminum to ceramic bezel inserts is a perfect example. Nevertheless, from starting to shape the parts of the case to testing a completed watch for accuracy, the process takes around one year.

Of course Rolex could speed this up for certain models if necessary, but each watch requires so many parts and virtually everything is made from base materials in-house. Once all the parts for a Rolex watch are completed, they are then mostly hand-assembled and individually tested. The testing and quality assurance process is rather intense.

A good example is how Rolex makes each of their watch dials. All of the dial are made in-house, and one of the most impressive facts is that all of the applied hour markers are set individually by hand. Often times at other brands, machines perform this process, but Rolex learned that a human eye is better trained to spot problems. So individual hour markers are applied and riveted by hand. Dials are dropped from 20cm up in the air to ensure that none of the hour markers fall out. This is a careful and time consuming process, and it is among the many elements of making watches at Rolex that is done by a skilled human being. Taken together, because of Rolex’s rather fanatical dedication to quality across their huge production, watches take on average, about a year to produce.

10 Things To Know About How Rolex Makes Watches   look inside manufacture

10. Rolex Makes Virtually Everything In-House

After having said all of the above it probably doesn’t come as a big surprise that Rolex makes virtually everything in-house as a totally vertically integrated manufacturer. As of right now the only major parts that Rolex doesn’t make for all of their watches are the synthetic sapphire crystals and many of the dial hands (though I have a feeling the latter will change in the next several years). Rolex produces their own gold, cases, bracelets, dials, bezels, and movements in-house with incredible efficiency and quality.

It isn’t just that Rolex can afford all the most useful machines, but also that Rolex invests into processes and techniques that are tightly-held trade secrets. The real value inside the Rolex factory are their tools and know-how, which no one could replicate even if they had a copy of their facilities.

Making everything in-house allows Rolex to be truly independent. Watch collector’s often agree that there is the watch industry and then there is Rolex – the two just happen to make similar products. It is hard to love watches and not appreciate what Rolex is and what they produce. Traveling there I can fully understand why they aren’t only the most successful high-end watch manufacture, but why they are also one of the most successful luxury brands in the world.

If I had to say one last thing about Rolex, it is that even if you personally don’t like how their products look on your wrist (which puts you in a minority or people if after a few years you don’t appreciate at least some models), you simply can’t deny the absolute sense of confidence, reliability, and dignity the brand name communicates. I can personally attest to that. rolex.com

Source: http://www.ablogtowatch.com/10-things-know-rolex-makes-watches/2/



Par Elena Carotti – 19.12.2013

Giovanna Furlanetto gives us her insights on one of the most widespread Italian luxury brand and her involvement with contemporary art.

Giovanna Furlanetto gives us her insights on one of the most widespread Italian luxury brand and her involvement with contemporary art.

Which principles have influenced you during your 40 years career?

Giovanna Furlanetto: I have always been influenced by my father’s principles: utmost dedication, commitment and great passion for my work. He motivated and encouraged me to always go on and to fly high, offering me the opportunity to work in our field since I was very young. He used to say all the time: “You are like a vessel, and you have to fill it with contents”. If you add to this philosophy the constant drive for research, innovation and experimentation – intrinsic values of our company’s DNA – you will understand how you can always surprise and amaze people.

Furla turnover has been constantly growing for years. What is the secret of your success?

Giovanna Furlanetto: Furla’s success lies in its solid identity as a Premium Lifestyle Brand, which means to ensure its customers a luxurious shopping experience at a value for money. The sophisticated and, at the same time, all-purpose design, which characterizes all collections of handbags and accessories, emphasizes the concept of functionality and versatility required by modern life, firmly bound to an everlasting sense of beauty and elegance. Furla is timeless and contemporary at the same time, and much more than this. Our creative vision – which is always addressed to the incomparable tradition of “made in Italy” and to the time-honoured culture of the product – represents the driving force behind the unremitting and unconditional attention towards the whole product and the smallest detail of it.

During 85 years of activity, we have created a very transverse brand: “Essential, popular and edgy” at the same time. It expresses the right mix of creativity, wonder, fun and quality that makes Italy famous across the world.

95% of employees at Furla are women. What are the advantages of this strong presence in terms of management and creativity?

Giovanna Furlanetto: I think that this high percentage of women working at Furla is a natural choice, if we think of their sensitivity and understanding of a range of products dedicated to them and their everyday lives and needs.

Furla’s communication is closely related to contemporary art. In which way can art give an added value to the perception of a brand?

Giovanna Furlanetto: I believe that all initiatives, which connect Furla to the art world, represent a new way to discover and support the next generation of contemporary artists. Moreover these initiatives are a significant way to bring new exchanges and synergies, perceived by the company as a precious opportunity to broaden its horizons and feed its creativity.

The Candy Bag is your best-seller, also thanks to the innovative travelling tour called #candycool. How was developed this project and what kind of follow-up do you envisage for the future?

Giovanna Furlanetto: The #candycool project – firstly staged in Tokyo, and then in Seoul and Shanghai – fully embodies our desire to experiment new solutions and means of expression thanks to the participation of artistic talents and trend setters from all over the world. These special collaborators have been invited to interpret and customize the Candy Bag following our “glocal” perspective, which means that each local culture exalts the international appeal and flavour of our iconic bag. At the end Furla designers will develop a unique Candy Bag Limited Edition inspired by all the models interpreted and personalized by the different teams spread around the world. As a synthesis of this collective and multicultural collaboration, Furla will show its Candy Bag Limited Edition at the next Milanese fashion week in February 2014.

The Furla Art Award is the most important award in Italy for Italian emerging artist today. What are the objectives for the future editions?

Giovanna Furlanetto: Since I felt, more than 10 years ago, the desire to do something for contemporary art in Italy – where our success has its roots – Furla has been strongly committed to encouraging and promoting young artists, helping them to achieve visibility and creating a new interest in contemporary art. Since the first edition in 2000, this highly recognized award has been involving a wide network of art critics, curators, museum directors and prestigious art centres.

Our main goal for the future is to give continuity to this project and to increase the international visibility of our artists, catching the attention of foreign critics towards Italy and also giving the participants the opportunity to study and convey their vision abroad.

You have a tight link with Marina Abramovic, the icon-artist. Marina was the patron artist of 2009 edition of the Furla Award and Furla Foundation sponsored the film « Marina Abramovic Method » by Giada Colagrande presented at the Venice Film Festival last year. Do you envisage a further cooperation with Marina for her new project, the Marina Abramovic Institute?

Giovanna Furlanetto: Marina is a visionary and eclectic artist and her latest project demonstrates how keen she is to involve the public in performance art. She is able to create an exceptional fusion of art and people. In fact Furla has already been involved in the Marina Abramovic Institute as a supporting member.

How do you see the future of the company and the Furla Foundation, which seem to me tightly connected both for commercial and cultural reasons?

Giovanna Furlanetto: Furla is not only a brand of leather accessories but also a world of ethical and aesthetic values, which inspires and encounters the fashion world thanks to its creations together with a wide range of initiatives, which reconfirm our dedication to the time-honoured Italian heritage and beauty. That stated, the company and the foundation have independent and autonomous identities but they are strongly connected in values, creative perspectives and talent scouting. These connections, well rooted in all of our commercial plans, will continue to link the brand with all the artistic initiatives of the Furla Foundation.