"The Watchmaker Dilemma"

Levi Keswick rounds up the current state of the Swiss watch industry's shortage of skilled watchmakers:

The watchmaking industry is currently facing an unprecedented challenge—a severe shortage of skilled watchmakers and other professionals essential to the craft. This scarcity poses a significant risk to the industry’s growth, particularly for high-end luxury brands that heavily rely on manual craftsmanship.

It is true that there simply aren't enough watchmakers to go around. This has been the case for upwards of two decades now and I don't foresee the bean counters at the top being able to substantiate even satisfactory change without first removing the blinders that have had them focused on profit at all costs. While the decisions being made at the top have bolstered shorter term profits, the mounting costs to many (but not all) brands' reputations among watchmakers and the scorched earth of burnt trust they've left behind on a global scale isn't favourable for healthy, long term growth and success.

On the manufacturing side of the equation, the ramp-up in automation is addressing the gap more with each passing year for masstige brands. Meanwhile the high-end watchmaking entities that are respectful of the craft and treat their watchmakers with dignity literally have candidates knocking at their door.

On the after sales service side of things, overreaching parts restrictions and poor working conditions at brand-owned service centers have led to movement swaps becoming the norm, along with higher prices and longer turnaround times for consumers. It's getting dire and, with more and more clients feeling burned when it comes time to service their timepieces, I've witnessed firsthand the impact that it is having on the sales of new timepieces. An effect that is presently getting lost in the noise of booming sales that are being driven by the mass consumption and global one-upmanship frenzied by social media.

Talk to the retiring generation of boomer watchmakers that Keswick refers to and I'm confident you'll find most loved the work on an innate level. You'll also discover an unfortunately large proportion of them are grumpy about the how they've been treated by the brands since the turn of the millennium. It's not a good look and the up-and-coming generations are savvy.