A Swiss success story with low-priced quartz watches

A Swiss success story with low-priced quartz watches

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – Switzerland is renowned for mechanical luxury timepieces. However, some watchmakers like the Mondaine Group thrive with low-priced quartz models. In this special case, a strong brand with a good story, an iconic design, functionality, innovation, and now sustainability help the watchmaker from Pfäffikon in the Canton of Schwyz to stay afloat in a fiercely contested market.

A Swiss success story with low-priced quartz watches

The “station clock” of Mondaine with the red second hand stopping for two seconds before reaching the noon marker.

Updating an iconic clock design

Exports of watches from Switzerland in the lower segment with wholesale prices below CHF 200 have declined over the last two decades from 23 million to 11.5 million in 2019. But the Mondaine Group continues to defy this negative trend. The Group benefits since 1986 from an exclusive license issued by Swiss Railways for its “station clock” design. Available as a wall clock, table clock, and wristwatch, it has been selling well for decades.

The challenge: Mondaine is not allowed to change the minimalist design. Thus, the company has innovated in other ways. One example is the stop2-go function: The famous red second hand completes its rotation in 58 seconds and then pauses at the 12 o’clock mark for two seconds while the black minute hand jumps forward, starting its next rotation – after receiving a signal from a central system. Since 2013, Mondaine has incorporated this function into some wristwatches. A second example is the addition of a “backlight” into the watch because the clock hands of the original design are not luminous at night. The company solved this problem by putting some luminous material on the back of the hands.

A Swiss success story with low-priced quartz watches

Luminox has become the most important pillar of Mondaine thanks to thriving U.S. sales (© Mondaine).

Glowing for up to 25 years

But the family business founded in 1951 and with 120 employees offers also the M-Watch, the Luminox timepieces, and fashion watches under the Pierre Cardin label. According to a recent newspaper report in Switzerland, the current driving force of Mondaine is the Luminox brand, owned fully by the group since 2016. Thanks to surging sales in the United States, this brand has become the most important source of revenue.

The watchmaker sees several success factors at work. First, Luminox watches meet the prevailing outdoor zeitgeist. Second, a unique glowing technology developed by the Swiss maker MB-Microtec 25 years ago sets it apart from all competitors because it can glow for up to 25 years without being exposed to sunlight. Third, Luminox can utilize an existing online store.

Innovation and sustainability

Besides, Mondaine develops new technological solutions to differentiate itself within the low-priced market segment. Among such innovations are the high-performance carbon long bar compound of the Luminox watches with its high strength and low water absorption, the integration of contactless payment technology with the size of a phone SIM-card into the watch strap, and a smartwatch for monitoring activities and sleep.

Finally, unlike the majority of watch manufacturers, Mondaine produces “just in time”. The watches are only assembled once an international order is received. This has the advantage that no stocks of finished watches are built up, which then find no buyers at best. Also, the group has become this year one of the first watch companies in the world to operate with net-zero carbon emissions across all four of its brands, encompassing the factory and offices and the manufacture of all the watches, watch parts, and packaging.

Text: Martin Fritz for SCCIJ; Top picture: Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0



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