Swiss watchmakers have voiced despair at the Swiss National Bank’s decision to allow the franc to float freely against the euro and US dollar. The surprise move caused the franc to rocket by 20% against the euro yesterday, leaving the watch industry, which relies so heavily on exports, reeling.
Swatch Group chief executive Nick Hayek was stunned. “Words fail me,” he said in an e-mail. “Today’s SNB action is a tsunami; for the export industry and for tourism, and finally for the entire country.”
Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie, published an open letter addressed to the president of the Swiss National Bank in which he muses about whether to move his business over the border to Germany.
The letter, sarcastic at times to mask his exasperation, even hints that his watch brand and other boutique brands like his, might not survive. “Let me make my appeal clear to you, on behalf of the many small and mid-size businesses that employ so many Swiss people: I trust you have a strong plan that will help all of us make it through with you over the long term. Because otherwise, along with many other wonderful Swiss creations, H. Moser watches may just have become very, very, very rare,” he says.
The letter to the SNB president in full reads:
Dear Mr. President,
I wanted to personally and publicly thank you, regarding your dramatic move releasing the minimum Swiss Franc exchange rate of 1.20 to the Euro.
When I woke up that morning I had a strange feeling. As I checked the news, I wondered, “What am I going to do today?” aside from our usual business in January. There was no new conflict, no big news about emerging markets slowing down, and thank goodness, no new terror attack.
I am an entrepreneur, and I own a small watch manufacture called H. Moser & Cie, based in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Very Rare is our tagline at H. Moser & Cie. Very Rare, because we produce 1,000 watches, we are entrepreneurs in an independent, family-owned business that employs 55 people, and because we are a manufacture in the true sense of the word, developing and producing our own ingenious watches.
As an entrepreneur in a small Swiss company, I like a challenge; whether it’s the pressure from the big luxury groups in supply or distribution. Or, a fight to do more with small budgets against the avalanche of big advertising and marketing. Well, today, Mr. President, your dramatic move helped step it up a notch: over 95% of our watches are sold to people outside of Switzerland, and the first retailers called the same day to cancel orders.
So this morning at 10:38 when my CFO sent me an email titled “Breaking News”, I thought “aha, finally something to do”. Something that forces me to find smart solutions to continue our growth and improving profitability and to ensure continuity for H. Moser & Cie. and the jobs for 55 people working for me.
In fact, one thought crossed my mind: why not just move 2 kilometres into Germany and continue business as usual in the EU? I’ll even beat that other restriction on permits for workers from the EU that came up in February 2014 – around 20% of my employees are German.
Let me make my appeal clear to you, on behalf of the many small and mid-size businesses that employ so many Swiss people: I trust you have a strong plan that will help all of us make it through with you over the long term. Because otherwise, along with many other wonderful Swiss creations, H. Moser watches may just have become very, very, very rare.
CEO of H. Moser & Cie.