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Who killed luxury? Answers in Fabio Bonavita's best seller

He addresses the question in  journalistic research published as a book, which is today among the top 5 best-sellers in French-speaking Switzerland. Watchonista answered his questions.

By Laetitia Artal

Bonavita undertook the challenging task of denouncing the insensitive but profitable policies of leading groups by writing about said practices.

High end production vs high sales

The decision to carry out this research came naturally to Bonavita after realizing that amongst the numerous books that have been written about luxury none of them focuses on the strategy of these leading groups. His research covers the following industries in over fifteen countries: fashion, gastronomy, jewelry, hotel and – most relevant to us –watchmaking.

And precisely when it came to enquiring about watchmaking – apart from interviewing CEOs and other leading figures – Bonavita called upon the expertise of Watchonista's editor in chief, Joel A. Grandjean. The aim was to try to shed some light on the subject of brand democratization as well as identity presevation in leading watchmaking brands.

Concerning the verticalization of groups, Joel A. Grandjean explained: "Groups take over watchmaking subcontracting companies that are able to offer high-end products. However, these companies are only able to do so because they have been producing lower-segment pieces in mass. The culture of "acquired skills" and "developed excellence" will unfortunately disappear if this society favors only high-end products and loses its essence and appeal. It is a sad and inexorable cycle: the quest for profitability is in total contradiction with the concept of "going the extra mile" or "the art of details".                                                                                                 

Fabio Bonavita Fabio Bonavita

During a television interview, Bonavita lamented the fact that craftsmanship and the preservation of quality skills are out of the picture only to be replaced by a focus on profitability, greater flexibility and, of course, an ever-increasing turnover. Luxury brands used to be accessible to a handful of privileged people. Then, the groups decided that they should make those brands available to a greater portion of the population arguing that middle classes should also be allowed to dream. To make more money, the groups thus adopted development strategies centered on mass production. The image of luxury was slowly deteriorating.

"Luxury died a more or less slow asphyxiation whenever entrepreneurs deviated from their long-term vision to satisfy the immediate logic of shareholders. Luxury is about survivors, often independent companies which, in all logic, should have disappeared for having resisted take-overs or recapitalizations", concludes Joel A. Grandjean about the watchmaking sector.

Bonavita, in turn, believes that some have skirted around the "made in" part of things by employing Asians in some European countries, such as Italy, and paying them next to nothing to make it look like the production was local and thus hoodwink clients into thinking that they are buying quality watches.

Joël Grandjean Joël Grandjean

The author: wordsmith and TV personality

Fabio Bonavita studied at the university of Lausanne and obtained a Master’s degree in Humanities. Later, he trained at the "Centre romand de formation des journalistes" (CRFJ) in Lausanne and started his career as a PR journalist. He is today editor in chief of a political magazine and of 3DECO, a financial TV show on the Genevan television channel Léman Bleu. He is also regularly invited to write for Watchonista as a contributor.

This should be enough to make watchmaking actors curious about his work, which is the result of two years of research.

Do performance strategies cause visible damage? Have they dented the image of luxury? This committed and accomplished book makes us reflect on the direction leading groups have decided to take and on the fact that popularization may well end up making luxury boring once the novelty wears off.

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