The watch world has been all but shut down by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Manufacturing facilities have been closed, and the high-wattage platforms watchmakers typically use to launch their painstakingly fabricated new watches—including the Baselworld and Watches & Wonders Geneva shows—were canceled.
Switzerland, a global travel hub where so many of the big luxury watch brands are headquartered, has been hit hard by the pandemic. At publication time, 25,931 infections have been recorded in the country, and 1,159 people have died from the virus.
In response, several high-end watchmakers (and luxury conglomerates that own watch brands) are aiding COVID-19 crisis relief efforts, both monetarily and through the production of essential supplies and equipment.
LVMH, which owns TAG Heuer, Bulgari, Zenith, and Hublot, has been helping on a few fronts. The company is using its perfume facilities to make hand sanitizer gel for hospitals and has secured orders for several million FFP2 surgical masks for French health authorities, as well as respiratory equipment, with delivery expected in April. The company also made donations to the Chinese Red Cross and supplied medical materials in Hubei province during the Chinese outbreak.
The Louis Vuitton brand is producing nonmedical masks at six of its workshops in France—and roughly 300 LV leather-goods artisans are working to meet a government request for alternative nonmedical barrier masks to help stop the spread of the virus.
Italian watch- and jewelry-maker Bulgari has donated thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer it’s produced (in collaboration with its perfumer partner) to Italian medical facilities. And Kering, owner of watch brands Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux, announced last week that it’s donated $1 million to the CDC Foundation to provide personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to health care workers in the United States, particularly in highly impacted states such as New York, New Jersey, California, and Florida, and locations in Latin America.
IWC has made moves to help control the swells of anxiety watch professionals may be experiencing these days by launching its “Time Well Shared” initiative, a series of online lectures, speeches, and webinars by IWC’s employees, brand ambassadors, and partners that are intended to “inspire people to make the most of their time and entertain and support them by keeping them connected and engaged,” according to its website. A recent spot in the series featured Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady discussing his NFL career.
Major U.S. luxury watch retailer Govberg Watches—which in addition to its namesake omnichannel business owns pre-owned high-end watch website WatchBox—is currently donating 10% of all profits from e-commerce sales to the COVID-19 Better Together Fund, which supports the teams working at Jefferson Health, owner of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, near Govberg’s headquarters.
Bob’s Watches, the largest seller of pre-owned Rolex watches in the United States, has launched an affiliate program entitled Partners in Time that allows jewelers to integrate their website with Bob’s Watches’ site, allowing consumers to shop from Bob’s Watches 500-plus assortment of certified pre-owned timepieces. When purchases of Bob’s watches are made from another retailer’s site, that retailer earns a 5% commission (commissions are capped at $1,000 per sale).
Bob’s Watches is also partnering with Frontline Foods to support health care workers fighting COVID-19. The retailer plans to match the first $10,000 it raises for the nonprofit, which supports local restaurants delivering meals to health care workers.
Lastly, watch brand Luminox is donating 10% of proceeds for every watch sold during the pandemic to Direct Relief, an organization that provides protective equipment for health care organizations in areas with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
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