Swiss Watchmakers Close U.S. Center; Will Work Closer with AWA

The Federal of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) is closing its information center in the United States after 15 years.

The decision to close the center, located in Rochelle Park, N.J., was made by the FH board of directors at their annual general meeting on June 28 in Switzerland. The Federation wants to “adapt its structures to the changing trend of the U.S. watch market,” said an official announcement.

The Federation, founded in 1982 with the merger of two major watch groups and headquartered in Bienne, represents 90% of all Swiss watchmaking companies (about 500 companies). It has had an information center in the United States for most of that time

The Swiss watch industry has been active here for many years, with many of the top-selling brands in the market in all major price categories. In the past decade, especially, its position has gotten stronger. Last year, the value of all Swiss exports to the United States topped 2 billion Swiss francs ($1.1 billion), a new record.

Because of the “dynamic growth” in the U.S. market and the recent “structural changes [i.e., consolidations, acquisitions and mergers] in the Swiss watch industry, says the Federation’s June 28 report, both watch conglomerates and individual companies have “effective representation” here and “no longer need” the support of the Federation to conduct their U.S. business.

Because of this “changed reality” and the “significant increase” in operating costs due to the strong dollar, the “continued existence of our center is harder to justify,” says the report.

However, the Federation isn’t abandoning the American market. It plans to “intensify” its relations with the American Watch Association, based in Washington, D.C., which represents many of the major watch brands sold in the United States.

Peter Laetsch, president of the Federation’s U.S. operations, was not immediately available for comment. The Federation hasn’t said what will happen to its information centers in Hong Kong and Tokyo.