COVID-19 Hits Swiss Watch Manufacturing, Starting with Rolex

COVID-19 Hits Swiss Watch Manufacturing, Starting with Rolex

Over the last weekend, the COVID-19 novel coronavirus infections in Europe rose at a shocking level, with Spain, Italy, France and Switzerland jumping in infection numbers rapidly.

Switzerland experienced nearly a doubling of infections and deaths over the weekend, from 1125 infected to 2200 and 13 deaths in all. Italy has a total of 24,747 infections at the moment and rising, while Spain saw 2,000 new infections in a single day.

Across Europe governments are imposing strict lockdowns and travel restrictions, and in Switzerland, the government has imposed a ban on all public and private events starting at midnight today. That includes the closure of all bars, restaurants, sports facilities and cultural spaces, until April 19.

While there’s been no news that any watch manufacture has been exposed to the novel coronavirus, the biggest leader in the industry, Rolex, has taken a preliminary move to protecting its facilities.

In an internal memo (originally written in French, translated into English by Time and Tide), CEO of Rolex Jean-Frédéric Dufour, announced a closure of its four factories for two weeks. His letter is reproduced below.

The Swiss government -

Dear colleagues,

As I already said last week, we are facing a very serious situation. With the objective of protecting you, your familes and loved ones, but also to limit the risks of propagation and the spread of Coronavirus, we have decided to close our sites of production in Geneva, Bienne and Crissier from Monday 17th of March until Friday 27th of March. 

This date is subject to change based on the evolution of the epidemic. Certain services will stay open to answer imperative operational questions.

We will send more details on the subject. From here we ask you to respect the letter, and the measures of confinement specified by the authorities in Switzerland and in France.

I am certain this difficult time will pass and we will remain composed and contribute to stabilising the situation, to allow us to return to work in the best fashion.

Thank you for accepting the instructions of your managers to carry out this closure in good conditions. I hope it all ends, good luck for all the days to come and take good care of yourself. 

Meanwhile, the LVMH Perfumes and Cosmetics Division is temporarily converting its production of fragrances to hand sanitiser, in order to provide the French authorities and the largest hospital system across Europe with the liquid.

Across the pond, in Portland, a whiskey distillery is also doing the same, using the freshly fermented mash in the first round of distillation, and converting it to hand sanitiser, which they are providing to customers.

Richemont's Campus Haute Horlogerie. -
Richemont's Campus Haute Horlogerie.

While other watch manufactures have not taken as big a step as Rolex has, Richemont has closed its manufacturing facilities in Meyrin to all outsiders for some time now, to limit the exposure of its staff to the coronavirus.

We’ll be following these developments and keeping you updated with the latest information available. Stay tuned.