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Global Luxury pp 197-218 | Cite as

Crafting Time, Making Luxury: The Heritage System and Artisan Revival in the Swiss Watch Industry, 1975–2015

  • Hervé Munz
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter examines the connections between the luxury industry and heritage paradigms, with an anthropological focus on craftwork and techniques. In this regard, the current organization and recent history of Swiss watchmaking offer a useful case study. Indeed, the current dominance of the Swiss watch industry in the market of high-added-value timepieces and the unprecedented success that the concept of heritage enjoys in the Swiss watch world may best be understood, jointly, by going back forty years. At that moment, the Swiss mechanical timepiece industry was under extreme pressure from a structural crisis, which began in 1974. Since the beginning of the 1980s, the category of heritage has been used as a means for industry leaders to progressively update the value of their mechanical products and reposition them into the luxury market. An exploration of the Swiss watch industry also reveals that, in the 1980s and 1990s, many Swiss brands went upmarket by selling products in their traditional styles but incorporating high-end mechanisms created and developed by skilled independent craftspeople, who were experienced in repair and restoration. This shift of heritage products into the luxury market has, in turn, reshaped the notion of the craftsperson or artisan and led to the emergence of a new category of watchmakers called ‘independent creators’.

Notes

Acknowledgement

I would like to express my gratitude to Trevor Marchand and Marie Deer for their uncompromising proofreading of this chapter.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hervé Munz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geography, Geneva School of Social SciencesUniversity of GenevaGenèveSwitzerland

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