Choosing Sides: Watch brands react on Russian Invasion of Ukraine
From charity initiatives to simply calling time on business in Russia, brands and international collectors are taking a stand.
Weeks into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, watchmaking brands have responded decisively to halt operations in Russia. According to the Federation of Swiss Watchmaking (FH), an industry group that tracks exports, Russia is the 17th largest market for Swiss brands. This number obviously does not include non-Swiss watchmakers, and the reality for some brands will be different. For the big names of Swiss watchmaking, including groups such as Richemont and Swatch Group that own non-Swiss brands, all have responded to the crisis by pulling back from business as usual in the Russian market.
Rolex confirmed to Bloomberg that no watches have been delivered after the invasion began; all models currently on sale in Russian boutiques are sold by retailers and independent players. Patek Philippe has also confirmed that it is temporarily suspending all shipments to Russia; this was in a report by WatchPro.com, which is covering this developing story extensively. The site even reported that it was the subject of alleged Russian hacking due to its reporting. In any case, some brands have commented publicly on this, not just with a few news outlets, with Breitling CEO Georges Kern noting that he had taken part in the first public protest in his adult life on this issue, at an anti-war rally in Zurich.
Linde Werdelin is raising money for the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal with the creation and sale of a special edition three-time zone watch, the 3 Timer Ukraine. It is priced at GBP5,500, limited to 33 pieces. You can register your interest here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“One can only hope (though hard to believe) that the Russian government will find their humanity and call an end to these atrocities while there is still time. Even if Linde Werdelin can do nothing to change this we can’t ignore it and move on as if it doesn’t concern us,” said a Linde Werdelin statement.
On a similar note, watch collecting community RedBar is holding an auction called #WatchFamforUkraine Solidarity to raise funds to benefit World Central Kitchen (WCK); WCK runs programmes for refugees in and around Ukraine. RedBar is working with our peers at Revolution, and we got the news via WatchBox’s Tim Mosso, whose own Sinn EZM 1.1 Mission Timer watch will be on the block. That is a watch that you cannot buy, but you can win, as Mosso notes in his Youtube video announcement about #WatchFamforUkraine Solidarity.
- READ MORE: Opinion: Russia — A Disaster, Live
In less positive news, we have received unconfirmed reports that grey market traders have gone into Russia looking for good deals, but have found few to none. This marks a new low for these sorts of traders, but it has happened before so there are precedents. This aside, retailers typically own all their stock so there are likely to be luxury watches still on sale in Russia in the near term. After Watches & Wonders, it seems unlikely that new stock will be heading to Russia — even if the war ends and sanctions are lifted, things will not return to pre-war levels immediately.
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