As of 1st January 2016 Swatch group no longer supply spare parts to anyone other than authorised Swatch group service centres. This means that if you own one of their brands you will probably have to spend a small fortune for a service or repair. Charges for a service can cost anywhere from £300 to £1000’s depending on the watch!

This will affect the owners of the following watch brands:

Longines
Omega
Rado
Union Glashuette
Breguet
Harry Winston
Blancpain
Glashuette Original
Jaquet Droz
Leon Hatot
Tissot
Balmain
Certina
Mido
Hamilton
Calvin Klein
Swatch
Flik Flak

The main argument heard is that the Swatch Group wants to assure the same service level across their brands, and prevent unqualified people tinkering with their watches.

In reality, it’s all about cutting off the reasonably priced repair sector, and to make sure that everyone owning one of the above brands has to pay whatever Swatch Group wants them to pay.

This is a very big deal for us independent watch repairers as it effects our livelihoods.

The British Watch and Clockmakers Guild are taking Swatch group to court to attempt to attempt to have the decision reversed. the following is the most recent statement from Cousins.

I am pleased to be able to give you a positive update on the progress of the Court case in Switzerland regarding the open supply of spare parts for repairers. However, the update will make a great deal more sense if I provide you with a bit of explanation first.

When we released the news two months ago that Swatch had brought an action against us, many people contacted me directly, or asked questions on various on-line forums as to how Cousins could be the defendant and Swatch be claiming against us, when clearly the supply chain was the other way around, and Cousins was claiming to be the injured party because Swatch was refusing to supply us. The answer and the update both come from an explanation of the type of action that Swatch have used. This is known as a “Negative Declaratory Action” or NDA. Like all things legal, an NDA has various clauses and options within it, and because it seems at first to be the reverse of common sense, it takes a bit of thinking about before the logic becomes apparent. 

At heart an NDA has one principle purpose, and that is to allow an organisation that finds itself accused of wrongdoing by another, to have a mechanism available where it can force the issue into a court, and have the matter resolved. Imagine a circumstance where your company is being accused by another of breaking the law. You think you have done nothing wrong, but however many letters you write to your accuser telling them to take you to Court to settle things they just won’t do it, and their continued accusations are potentially damaging your business. This is a good example of where an NDA is appropriate. It gives you the right to bring your accuser into court, and make them prove the claims they have made against you, or give you the chance to publicly prove that their accusations are false.

For an NDA claim to be valid, there are various conditions that have to be met, and these can vary from country to country. As the case against us has been brought in a Swiss court, then the conditions applicable are as set out in Swiss law, and one of the most important of these is the principle of ‘Legal Uncertainty’. What this means is that an NDA claim can only be brought by a company if there is reasonable uncertainty that the other party who is accusing them of wrongdoing shows no real intention of bringing its own action in a court. So with this explanation in mind, I am now pleased to give you the following update on our case.

As you will have seen from our last announcement, the thing that triggered Swatch to bring this NDA against Cousins was our “Letter Before Action”. This clearly stated that if Swatch did not re supply us, we would be bringing an action against them in the English High Court. At the end of August, our Swiss lawyers submitted the first stage of our defence to the court in Berne. In it, they argued that there are a number of reasons why this NDA is not a valid action, and have requested that the Judge dismiss the whole case. I cannot go into detail about all of these reasons, but the most obvious one is that there was no legal uncertainty in this matter. Cousins made it quite plain that it would be taking Swatch to court in London if it did not resupply us, and this being the case, a Negative Declaratory Action is not a legitimate claim that the Swiss court needs to consider.

The Swiss judge, having looked at the arguments raised by our lawyers, has agreed that this and other issues need to be examined first, so we are now entering the next stage in which these points of law will be examined before he makes a decision. Depending upon what the Judge decides, the full case will then be heard either in Switzerland, or it will be returned to the English courts where we will ask for an expedited trial.

It may be a few months before we will have the verdict, so we may not be able to update further until then. However please do not take silence on our part as a negative, but be assured that we have assembled an excellent case, and are fighting harder than ever for the future of the Independent Repair Trade.

Kind regards

Anthony Cousins