Stop the Bullying by Swiss Watch Companies - Sign the Petition!

It is time for Australian watch aficionados to press the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to act against large multinational watch conglomerates that bully customers into expensive service regimes and give them no choice in deciding where their watch is serviced.

In Australia, the Swiss watch industry has recently consolidated its MONOPOLY in the servicing and maintenance of watches within its stable of brands. How has it done this?  In a major blow against both competition and fair trade, the multinational conglomerates that own the majority of the most respected brands have acted to prevent the supply of parts to independent watchmakers across the country.

This action will cost Australian collectors and owners of quality watches a great deal of money over time. Let me provide you with a telling example.  I recently took two high-end 18k pieces to an official service agent and asked for both pieces to be “cleaned and oiled”. The manager, after oooing and aaahing over the watches, told me that it would cost me a minimum of $645.00 to have each piece “serviced” in accordance with the brands “service regime”!  My response was “Now, hold on, who is the owner of these watches?” “I have just told you that I don’t want the case polished or the dials touched in any way, or the crowns replaced or indeed any parts replaced without my express permission.” The answer?  “Well, we can’t service your pieces unless you agree to have your watches serviced according to our servicing protocol”.   Unconscionable, bullying behaviour, do I hear you cry?

Fortunately, I knew a busy watchmaker who would comply with my requests for under a third of the price as long as I was prepared to take my turn in the line and wait six weeks for their return. I happily complied.  But, had the watchmaker needed to replace any part (other than generic gaskets) of either watch I would have been have been in the position of either having to return to the official agent and being forced to conform to its servicing protocol (which may have included sending the watches to Switzerland)........... or live with unserviceable watches.

By refusing to supply parts for both vintage and contemporary watches to any non-connected or independent watchmaker, the few large multi-nationals who own most of the quality brands are cutting off the lifeblood of the independent watchmaking industry, an industry that has a rich and long history of providing quality servicing at a reasonable cost to millions of Australians for as long as this country has existed.   In establishing a monopoly on servicing and maintenance in this country, the multinationals have accumulated the power to manipulate pricing at the expense of watch collectors and owners. This type of commercial bullying is patently Un-Australian, and we must resist it.  For if we don’t, the following practices, already widespread, will become entrenched:

  • ·        You will be forced to go back to the brand itself to have your watch repaired.
  • ·        Your watch will be repaired under the terms dictated by the brand.
  • ·        The brand may refuse to repair the watch if they consider it to be too old (this happens with a number of high end production brands).
  • ·        Work carried out may include replacements for which you have not asked, but must pay for.
  • ·        Free competition no longer exists. Swiss watch brands are working to ensure that any repair work is carried out exclusively in their work shop, on their terms.
  • ·        Taking full advantage of the monopoly of spare part supply, the repair costs of watch servicing will continue to skyrocket. 
An organisation called Save-the-Time has sprung up to uphold the rights of Australians to have a choice of where to service their watch at a reasonable price and to protect the livelihoods of hundreds of independent watchmakers around the country who have served us well.  Click here to view the website, and, please, download and complete the petition, add your scanned signature and email it to the organisers.

Would you stand by and let the automobile industry restrict parts to its official dealerships and systemically and with commercial malice aforethought kill off the nation’s independent car repairers?  Of course not!   And we should resist, by any means, this parallel attempt by the makers of engines that sit on your wrist to  restrict your commercial choices.


  1. MikeN8:09 am

    Fully agree with your points Desmond - I would never send any of my vintage watches for servicing back to omega. However, is what they are doing illegal? Can they not choose to sell their product to whomever they want to sell it to under the guise of adhering to the highest standards that they claim only they can provide? Cars are heading in that direction as well (at least the newer ones) as equipment to diagnose these ever more complicated vehicles is beyond the means of most independent car service centers.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Restrictive trade and consumer legislation I believe could be invoked, particularly if evidence was provided to demonstrate that the practices of the big conglomerates was part of a process of destroying competition. Our legislation is somewhat more consumer-biased that a lot of US legislation, but the real issue is to get the watchdog bodies off their rather comfortable chuffs and do something about it.

      Nick Hakko sent me this link for the US actions and Rolexes fine of 750k - makes interesting reading in respect to what is happening in the US



  2. Anonymous2:13 pm

    Yeh it sucks, they are following in the footsteps of Rolex. Rolex only interest is to sell new watches, at least Omega created a historical reference site.

    1. Yes, we can be thankful that Omega supports vintage.

  3. George4:08 am

    Their trying to control the free market this way not only suffocates a part of knowlegeable consumers, who after all, advertise in the best way, their product's history, but also proves their interest in profit and not the watchmaking tradition they so pationately invoke. This is not only taking place in Australia, but also many more countries.

    Fortunately you are not lacking the means to counteract these practises.

    I applaude your effords!

    1. Thanks George,

      Yes profit I believe is the motive, and the spurious claims they make about independent watchmakers not be up-to-date is just arrogance and puff. The watchmakers I know continuously educate themselves because they love what they do.

      Your other point about dumbing down consumers is spot on in my opinion. Ive never heard of one of their service centres inviting a client to watch the servicing of their watch and engaging is conversation about various elements of watchmaking.

      Thanks for your post

  4. gatorcpa6:24 am

    As the Swiss watch manufacturers continue to move away from the traditional dealer-distributor model, the practices you describe are going to become more prevalent. In the case of the Swatch Group brands, I believe their goal is that all warranty and non-warrany repair work be funnelled through boutiques back to the few company repair facilities (only 3 for the entire USA) or to the mother ship in Switzerland.

    Under such a manufacturer controlled direct sales model, requiring access for independent repair shops to parts inventory is going to be a very difficult sell to governments once most of the authorized dealer network is taken out. That has just about happened in the US with Omega. While Rolex still has its large dealer network, the guaranteed profit they makes on sales is usually enough that Rolex AD's rarely complain.

    This is nothing like the automobile sales model, at least in the USA. Here, many states have legislated that auto manufacturers cannot own or compete against independent dealers. These laws have been in place since the early days of the automotive industry. GM and Chrysler ran up this when they were trying to cull out their dealer networks during their respective financial crises in 2008. Also, state laws protect auto dealers who choose to sell parts to independent shops.

    In the future, it will become more important for collectors to establish personal relationships with both independent watchmakers and the branded boutiques. In some cases, these boutiques have hired watchmakers who are given some discretion to perform minor service at a reasonable cost as a convenience to customers. At least that has been my experience with Omega.

    I applaud your efforts and certainly hope you are successful in getting your state legislatures or federal government to act on behalf of the Australian consumer. On our side of the Pacific, I fear the battle has already been fought and lost.

    All the best,

    1. Thanks for your post Evan...nice to hear from you.

      I agree with your comments in general and I've noticed how far down the track things have gone in the states. Hopefully something can be done before we get to that point.

      Some countries like Belgium have stopped them and so it's not impossible.