What does an affordable mechanical Swiss Made watch look like in 2020? Louis Erard has the answer
It takes a lot of courage to launch a watch company these days. If you’re making watches at the lower end of the market, you’re competing with smartwatches, which have soaked up huge numbers of customers. In 2019, Apple was expected to sell more watches than the whole of the Swiss watch industry put together for the first time. At the higher end, let’s say over $5,000, the competition from heritage brands is so strong the chances you’ll stand out are close to zero.
For consumers though, this dichotomy leaves a gaping hole. What if you want a beautifully designed, mechanical, Swiss Made watch, but ‘only’ have a few thousand dollars to spend?
This space has opened up in recent years as watches made by the likes of Omega, Breitling and Zenith have become more expensive. That has left a raft of dial names, including Oris, Certina, Frederique Constant and Ball to offer quality Swiss mechanicals at so-called ‘affordable’ prices.
In 2003, Louis Erard entered the fray with what it called ‘rational arguments’, namely that there were plenty of people out there who wanted a quality watch at a reasonable price. Its backers were right. Within a few years it was selling 20,000 watches a year through more than 600 points of sale all over the world. Most of these cost under $1,000.
But then a number of things went against it. The Swiss franc got much stronger. Switzerland’s biggest movement manufacturer put its prices up, and then reduced its supply. Customers started buying online. And then finally the smartwatch. To keep its prices low, Louis Erard started making quartz watches. But these weren’t really Louis Erard watches.
So this year , Louis Erard is reborn. Gone are the quartz watches and in come a new range of mechanicals, priced higher than those of a decade ago, but most sitting between $1,000 and $4,000. There’ll be fewer models. Fewer points of sale. And later this year, there’ll be a new communication campaign. There’ll also be collaborations, with watches designed by legendary watch designers Alain Silberstein and Eric Giroud already in the collection.
It’s a boutique concept, if you will. And it sticks to those same ideas of nearly two decades ago – that a high-quality wristwatch doesn’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) have to cost the earth, and that there are plenty of people out there who want less, but better stuff. It’s an honourable concept, with great watches to back it up. Here are three watches that make the point.