Monday, June 9, 2014

Saddle Up: Ralph Lauren’s SWISS MADE Stirrups

One of my weekend joys is perusing The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.  I love its over-sized, glossy advertisements and eclectic focus on contemporary luxury style and style makers. 

Its June 2014 cover featured Neymar da Silva Santos Junior (just Neymar to the adoring international press), the 22 year-old Brazilian soccer super star. Its back cover shone with a star of another sport, Ralph Lauren’s Stirrup Petite-LinkTimepiece with its inverted “U” center-page and its bracelet links securing it to the bottom and top of the end page. The image suggests timeless wearing of a design that is both assertive and elegant on a reining hand exercising unquestionable control.  

Beyond the right-on design of the watch, what caught my eye were the word’s above the cross bar of the flat-based stirrup loop, “SWISS MADE.’ So what does that thoroughbred sounding imprimatur actually mean on a dial?  

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) which has 500 members has an excellent explanation of  the appellation Swiss made on its website.  Below are some of the highlights of the FH statement:

  • " Watches, clocks and alarm clocks manufactured in Switzerland bear the designation "Swiss made" (or its abbreviation "Swiss") as well as the logo of the producer or distributor. This label ("place of origin" in legal terms) enjoys a solid reputation throughout the world." (Note:  In the case of the Ralph Lauren Stirrup Collection, the words Ralph   Lauren appear on the dial above the hands and the initials “RL” are on the top of the crown.)
  • "Swiss made" embodies a concept of quality that has been forged over the years. It includes the technical quality of watches (accuracy, reliability, water-resistance and shock-resistance), as well as their aesthetic quality (elegance and originality of design). It covers both traditional manufacturing and new technologies (micro-electronics)."
  • "While prestigious brand names have thrived, they have never relegated the "Swiss made" label to a secondary place. The brand names and "Swiss made" have always worked together in an alliance that provides the consumer with the best of guarantees."
  • "Moreover, a law "regulating the use of the name 'Swiss' for watches" sets out the minimum conditions that have to be fulfilled before a watch merits the "Swiss made" label. This law is based on a concept according to which Swiss quality depends on the amount of work actually carried out on a watch in Switzerland, even if some foreign components are used in it. It therefore requires that the assembly work on the movement (the motor of the watch) and on the watch itself (fitting the movement with the dial, hands and the various parts of the case) should be carried out in Switzerland, along with the final testing of the movement. It also requires that at least 50% of the components of the movement should be manufactured in Switzerland."

So how does Ralph Lauren fit into the FH's Swiss made stable?  It all stems from a 2007 joint venture agreement when Ralph Lauren and  Richemont a high-end luxury goods holding company, headquartered in Bellevue, Geneva Switzerland  created the Ralph Lauren Watch & Jewelry Company.  In forming this partnership, Ralph Lauren ensured that the company’s watches are legally entitled to use the Swiss made designation on its collection pieces as they qualify by virtue of their requisite 50% Swiss-based manufacture, assembly and testing.     

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