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Monopoly row Swatch offers compromise in watch movements deadlock

Nick Hayek

Swatch CEO Nick Hayek has offered an olive branch to the competition commission.

(Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi)

Switzerland’s largest watch maker, Swatch, says it will limit the number of movements it makes for the industry in a bid to end a long-running stand-off with the anti-trust regulator.

At the end of last year, the Competition Commission (Comco) temporarily suspended deliveries of watch movements from Swatch’s ETA unit to big rivals from January 1, 2020. Comco said it would review the case later this year, probably not before the summer.

Swatch CEO Nick Hayek told the NZZ newspaperexternal link on Friday that his company had no wish to develop a dominant position in the market. He offered to limit production of movements to a maximum of  400,000 a year over the next two years.

This would guarantee that ETA produces no more than a third of all movements in the Swiss market.

Last month, Swatch reacted angrily to Comco’s decision to virtually freeze its watch movements sales. This was the latest twist in a saga dating back more than a decade when Swatch itself announced that it wanted out of the niche market.

The company agreed to keep on supplying watch makers until the end of 2019, but by then had revoked its threat to end production altogether. The last few years has seen the arrival of rival watch movements suppliers, one of which had overtaken Swatch as the biggest player in the market.

Hayek told NZZ that Swatch would be forced out of the market for the next two years unless Comco reverses or eases its position this summer.

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