Vacheron Constantin, the oldest Swiss watchmaker in continuous operation, plans to expand its sales network in China this year even as demand in the Asia Pacific region industrywide shows signs of easing.
In the 1970s, Switzerland’s watchmakers were almost put out of business when they underestimated the importance of the quartz watch. Though the industry recovered and is prospering, today it faces a new technological challenge from “smartwatches” such as Samsung Electronics Co.’s $299 Galaxy Gear.
Vacheron Constantin, a watchmaking unit of Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, plans to double its workforce to 1,300 by 2020 as it spends 100 million Swiss francs ($109 million) on buildings and production, Le Temps reported, citing Juan-Carlos Torres, head of the brand.
McLaren Automotive Ltd., maker of the million-dollar P1 supercar, said it has yet to see signs of a recovery in demand in China since the ruling Communist Party began cracking down on conspicuous extravagance late last year.
A 20-karat-gold Vacheron Constantin from the collection of U.S. car manufacturer James Ward Packard (1863-1928) sold for almost $1.8 million at Christie’s International in New York today, more than triple the presale high estimate.
Twenty-five years ago, when Zong Qinghou was 42, he made his living selling soft drinks and popsicles to schoolchildren. He says he earned about $8 a month -- less than a third of China’s average wage at the time -- and was so broke that he once slept in a tunnel under the streets of Beijing rather than spend on a hotel.