Introduction to 2003
Why in 2003 did I change my usual pattern of visiting a vast
array of companies spread over a wide spectrum of industries
and multiple countries and instead focus on a specific industry
(watchmaking) in a specific country (Switzerland)? It's mostly
the fault of golfer Tiger Woods. This past year Woods ended his
relationship with Rolex and signed on with Tag Heuer. Why would
Woods leave one of the world's most well known and prestigious
watch brands for a less prestigious and less known name? Duh,
it's all about the money. Stories in the media talked about Woods'
lack of loyalty, loss of credibility as a spokesman and so on.
However, what really grabbed my attention were the accompanying
stories talking about the Swiss watch industry being a multi-billion-dollar
business with high profit margins.
By the way, do you know the real story as to why Woods signed
with Tag Heuer? Here's what happened: Woods brought representatives
from Rolex and Tag Heuer into a meeting room. He then said, "Show
me the money!" A representative from each company proceeded
to build a stack of money using hundred dollar bills. When they
were finished Woods looked at the noticeable taller Tag Heuer
pile of money and gave them the two thumbs up. The new contract
was signed then and there. However, it wasn't until Woods started
stuffing the money into a duffelbag (a Nike duffelbag to be more
precise) that he realized Tag Heuer had snookered him. How? The
middle of Tag Heuer's pile of money was stuffed with Hong Kong
$100 bills and not US $100 bills. Though Tag Heuer's pile of
cash was taller it was worth considerably less since it takes
almost eight HK$100 bills to equal one US $100 bill.
Okay, I'm going to fess up, the real reason I decided to visit
the Swiss watch industry was because I was looking for an excuse
to spend another summer cycling through picturesque Switzerland.
Friends said my plan to visit Swiss watch companies was a bad
one because the overwhelming majority is either family-owned
or privately held and, secretive. This wasn't a concern for me
as I've had plenty of experience visiting these kinds of companies.
Heck, just last year (2002) during my trek through Switzerland,
Austria and Slovakia I visited a bevy of Swiss private banks
and they don't come any more secretive or unfriendly as them.