Switzerland in the Recession: A case study of Cecil Purnell
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Switzerland in the Recession: A case study of Cecil Purnell

Nice : France | Feb 16, 2012 at 3:26 PM PST
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As with all economic crashes, the financial crisis has seen winners as well as losers. While some industries, such as the US auto industry, struggle to stay afloat, others have thrived. Among these are certain service industries, pharmaceuticals and entertainment.

This same truth applies to countries. While some have faced severe sovereign debt crises, others have weathered the storm more successfully. More often than not, these are the countries with strong exports such as Germany and Switzerland.

The key to a strong export economy is simple; do what no one else can do and do it well. For Germany this is a combination of high-tech industry, manufacturing and services. It is much the same for Switzerland, where more than 50% of products are sold abroad. While a strong Swiss Franc has recently been putting pressure on these exports, the Swiss economy keeps ticking due to specialised companies producing specialised products.

One such company is Cecil Purnell. Based in Geneva, the company produces high-end Tourbillon timepieces. Developed in 1795, the Tourbillon solved the most niggling problem with the timepieces of its day: the effect of gravity on the mechanism and the resulting loss of accuracy. To this day they are considered the peak of horological excellence.

The company was founded by Jonathan Purnell and Stephane Valsamides in 2006, named in honour of Jonathan’s grandfather who was an avid collector of Tourbillons. By 2009 Cecil Purnell had launched its first in-house Calibre. Today, the company has successfully established itself as the only watch brand in the world dedicated to exclusively crafting high-end Tourbillons to Haute Horlogerie standards.

Cecil Purnell produces less than fifty timepieces a year. Each is highly exclusive, often personalised and selling for between 60 and over 200 thousand Euro. The company is entirely transparent about the origin of its components, which are 100% Swiss. Compare this, for example, to the increasing amount of Tourbillon watches coming out of China, made with mass-produced components and retailing for a much lower price.

Faced with high-end products from these two famous exporters, what inspires a collector to pay more for a Cecil Purnell Tourbillon? Cecil Purnell timepieces command a higher price not simply due to their Swiss provenance. Rather, it is due to their indisputable quality, reliability and precision. Cecil Purnell provides such an interesting case study because it is proof that the golden rule of exports still applies even in a recession: ‘do what no one else can do and do it well.’

RachelBrenner is based in Basel, Basel-Stadt, Switzerland, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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