Word of Mouth - Swiss watches & corruption
Today Garry's talking watches; expensive Swiss watches.
The high end of the watch industry is struggling a little. Overall international sales dropped by 10% last year.
Watch companies are laying off employees. Much of the decline is in Hong Kong and China where sales have fallen by about 25% in the last four years since Chinese authorities announced a campaign against rampant corruption.
The government was pressured to act after a handful of Chinese bloggers began highlighting how Swiss watches had become a favoured currency of corruption among officials.
These crusaders – armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of models and prices - published photographs of the wrists of government officials.
The luxury watch became the achilles heel or should I say achilles wrist of corrupt officials.
One blogger who called himself the Secretary General of the Mountains of Flowers and Fruit, a title taken from the famous 16th century Chinese folkloric novel Journey to the West, published photographs of hundreds of officials and their watches.
High profile targets included China's then new railways minister, Sheng Guangzu. A simple search of photographs of the minister on Google revealed his impressive collection of Rolex, Piaget and Omega watches. Mr Sheng, was a former head of customs. He replaced the formers railways minister, who was also found guilty of corruption.
In another case, a former regional safety chief Yang Dacai was sentenced to 14 years in prison for taking bribes and “owning a large amount of assets of unknown origin”.
The case was dubbed ‘grinning watch brother’. The rotund official was photographed smiling inappropriately while inspecting the scene of a crash between a bus and a fuel tanker which claimed the lives of 36 people. The photograph of the insensitive official went viral. On-line activists trawled the web and published photographs of Yang wearing an array of Rolex, Omega, Vacheron Constantin, and Rado watches. They revealed he owned 11 luxury watches collectively worth more than CHF 100,000.
Swiss watches account for only two per cent of watches bought globally, but about 55% of the value of the watch market. In 2016 the world spent CHF 19.5 billion on Swiss watches,
There’s no panic in the market. As one manufacturer said in an interview "When you’re dealing with time, it helps to take the long view."