Introduction to 2003 Watch Trek



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.