Portfolio James Bond, to the Rescue of Swiss Watches: Last Mission

I don't wear a wristwatch. I haven't used it for years. But these days I thought that I would put on one again that would allow me to carry those QR codes on my wrist that have become the new safe-conduct to move now in the world marked by Covid-19. QR, my love.

In the last four weeks, I have done nothing more than show QR codes when entering airports, planes, museums, hotels, restaurants and even taxis in Spain, Italy, France and Switzerland. The Venice Biennale is a QR display if you want to know what the show is about. An exhibition titled How will we live together? I have drawn my own conclusion: teaching QR codes at all times.

Now that I have traveled internationally again for work reasons after a season on homeland, I am no longer afraid of contagion but rather of losing my mobile or running out of battery and becoming an outcast in some country without a QR code unable to prove my status as a vaccinated subject and subject that has completed the digital paperwork of each country. Where have I put the mobile? I rummage through a Mary Poppins-worthy bag as I land in Switzerland.

Craig, with his Omega, at the premiere in London.Gtres

Geneva airport, with less traffic than usual, is that pleasant example of Swiss efficiency. It is at the same time a formidable watch brand showroom. The last time I was there I think there was more advertising for banks. Now they hoard everything. Those fancy watch ads that always show 10 hours and 10 minutes for aesthetic reasons and because the brand looks better. On top of the baggage carousels are big Rolexes, like the ones I've seen at Wimbledon.

Stores closed

The display contrasts with the fact that some stores are closed. Empty duty frees. I imagine the losses in the tax-free premises of the airports to be monumental during these last long months. And as I think about it, I notice an Omega ad. Daniel Craig. No time to die. I want to see her. It will be the first time I return to the cinema in almost two years. I'm curious, among other things, about Q's inventions. I'm sure my coveted watch with QR code reader pales before his wits.


The entrance to The Woodward Hotel.

The opening of a luxurious hotel, The Woodward, destined to become the best in the city, has brought me here. From the terrace of my suite in the beautiful building that was the Geneva headquarters of HSBC on Avenue Wilson, I look out over the calm waters of Lake Geneva.

On the other side, I see the main watch houses lined up. I look at their names and their logos. It is the front row of the prestigious Swiss Made. The story of why the Swiss make watches is an interesting one. I remember her while I observe the calm waters of the lake from the terrace of my suite. It's all because of the religious wars. Huguenots (French Protestants) were massacred in France and many fled to Switzerland.

Numerous Gallic goldsmiths and jewelers established there had to adapt to a Calvinist mentality that detested ostentation: they stopped making jewelry and ornate ornaments for churches, because they had no commissions, and they took advantage of their good work in the trade in the incipient industry of the clocks.

James Bond Portfolio, to the Rescue of the Swiss Watches: Last Mission

I like to remember it because Swiss watchmakers have formidable survivability. They overcome world wars, plagues, the passage of time, the competition of new and aggressive actors at stake.

Picture of 'The massacre of Saint Bartholomew' by François Dubois.

6.9 million fewer

Their first big crisis came when the Japanese brought out quartz watches. It seemed that everything had ended for them at the end of the 70s, especially in the segment of cheaper watches. Their counterattack was a resounding success: they created Swatch, a success story with the proper name of Nicolas Hayet that is studied in all business schools in the world. Colorful, cute, emotional, collectible, cheap but reliable and stylish. I also had one. From Snoopy.

Already on the street, I head to the shopping area thinking about the new enemies. After the Japanese, came the Americans, the Chinese, the digital world, Covid-19... 2020 has been a disastrous year for the watch industry in the Swiss country. According to official data from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, revenue from watch exports has fallen by 21.8%.

The second quarter of the year recorded a historical milestone with a drop of 61.6% in relation to the same period of the previous year. The number of watches exported during the year suffered a 33.3% drop, which means that they left the country for sale abroad, 6.9 million watches less than in 2019.

The decline, according to the same study, affects watches with less than 500 Swiss francs more strongly, which only reinforces the trend of recent years.

The reality in the main stores in Geneva seems to corroborate this situation in the domestic market. A simple glance at the locals on the streets of Rue de Rhône Rue and the more popular Rue de la Croix-d'Or is an example that they are not in the best of times. In the luxurious venues there is hardly anyone, so the contrast with the number of employees and security personnel is greater. I think of the number of times they put clocks in and out of shop windows at opening and closing time without, perhaps, having sold a single clock. Maybe one or two.

Swatch store in Geneva.V. v.

Omega shop with Daniel Craig.V. v.

The case of Swatch

In the colorful Swatch store I am not greeted by Snoopy but by James Bond. A life-size poster of 007 in this light gray suit that never seems to go out of style, a watch sticking out of the sleeve of his left arm, an Aston Martin parked behind, and that cool-guy air.

But wasn't Daniel Craig wearing an Omega at the airport? Why does he meet me at the main Swatch store? Swatch is not just a watch brand, it is also a large conglomerate that has 19 brands under its umbrella in different price ranges and segments. From Breguet (Marie Antoinette's watch, which reminds me of my recent stay in Versailles) to Omega, Longines, Rado, Hamilton...

I'm the only one in the shop. They don't have a Snoopy watch, but I discover, to my surprise, a limited edition Swatch designed by Q for the premiere of No Time To Die. Do you have a QR reader? I ask. I'm afraid not. And they show me some models that are used to pay in some establishments.

While I go to the Omega store I think about the war between the so-called smartwatches and analog watches and how the situation will be resolved in the future. According to data from Counterpoint Research's Global Smartphone Shipments Tracker, the sale of this type of watch increased slightly in 2020 and Apple consolidates its position, followed by Samsung and Huawei. Apple Watch Series 6 and SE sold almost 13 million units in 2020.

And the Rolex?

And as I continue my walk through empty watch stores I think of the curious paradox: any youngster today with a watch of this type has more features on his wrist than the watch he is wearing the super agent What a curious paradox, Mr Q. How could Ian Fleming have imagined such a scenario when he wrote the first installment of his character in 1952.

The writer, eager to make the character more credible, endowed him with real objects, with their own names, with the main purpose of making him more credible among his readers, to make him also a refined type, perhaps not very consistent with his military salary. James Bond, license to spend. Aston Martin, Taittinger, Moreland cigarettes, Tiptree Little Scarlet jam and Rolex.

Sean Connery wearing a Rolex.

Yes, the agent's original and genuine watch created by Fleming was none other than a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. In fact, it is the one that Sean Connery always wore. But we live without time to remember, in the times of product placement, in the times of fine-tuning complex machinery that has nothing to envy to tourbillons.

They are complex machines where advertising, marketing, brand ambassadors, red carpets, sporting events, celebrities, premieres, showcases in airports around the world and limited editions intervene.

When I arrive at the main Omega store in Geneva, whose address was given to me by the neighboring Swatch store, I find to my surprise that it is temporarily closed for renovation. It doesn't seem like the best timing to me, precisely the week of the premiere of the latest installment of James Bond. I'm heading to a smaller one nearby.

Omega is not only the sponsor but also has a very close relationship with the man of the moment, who is none other than James Bond. The film broke the opening weekend box office record for the franchise in the UK with $34 million. The premiere has caused the best three days at the box office in the 60-year history of the adventures of the most famous agent at the service of Her Majesty. When the cinema seemed half dead, James Bond comes to his rescue.

Will the same thing happen with the watches that you represent with such style? How many viewers of the latest installment wear a watch on their wrist? I think about this question on the plane back to Madrid, when I leave behind the empty duty frees at the Geneva airport, the shops with more watches than shoppers, the QR codes.

"I'm home now." No one. They have gone to the cinema to see the latest James Bond. Oh. No time for mom. My children don't wear watches either. My university students, for the most part, either. They look at the time on their mobiles. Has the time of wristwatches passed? Open question.

Jeff Bezos, after his trip to space, with an omega on his wrist.Reuters

What seems not to have passed is the time of James Bond, capable of outliving anyone and everyone. Included to Amazon. Amazon took over the James Bond production company, MGM, last May for $8.45 billion, at a defining moment for the entertainment industry. It has acquired the rights to all the films in the saga and may become a decisive player in the future.

Will we ever see their premieres on Amazon Prime? Another open question. At the moment, Jeff Bezos, made his debut in space with an Omega on his wrist. The Omega Speedmaster, known as the Moonwatch. Omega is now associated with James Bond but earlier, especially, with the watch worn by the crew of Apollo XI. The first watch on the moon.

Mind you, Bezos commissioned custom straps with the Blue Origin name on them. So it already has something in common with the newest creature in its extraordinary collection of acquisitions that will surely include all kinds of things that I can't even imagine in the future, such as metaverses and other inventions that I think are too big for me. In conclusion, I miss Snoopy.

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