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On time

From Grenchen to Beijing

No doubt that time matters a lot to a Swiss watchmaker like Breitling. Especially when it comes to shipping its high-end creations from Switzerland to the rest of the world.

Beijing, China. In the commercial and political heart of China’s capital city, at WF Central in the Dongcheng District, last year Breitling opened the doors of a luxurious new flagship boutique in its typical informal modern-retro style. Following a strong promotional marketing effort, Breitling was launching its push into the Chinese market. At the grand opening, guests included many Chinese celebrities, brand ambassadors and influencers. But the real stars– Breitling’s watches –arrived directly from Switzerland just in time to dazzle everyone.

The logistical journey of these high-quality watches began a few days earlier in Grenchen, near Berne. It is there that one of Switzerland’s most traditional and renowned watchmakers has its headquarters, in an idyllic location between the Bernese Alps and beautiful canola fields. In this small city, Breitling has mastered the logistical requirements and challenges to export well over 100,000 luxury watches every year.

The Breitling Headquarter in Grenchen, Switzerland. (Image: Breitling)

Hand assembled and individually packed

In line with the long tradition of Swiss watchmaking, every part of the luxury watch is hand assembled with utmost care and precision to become a unique piece of art. From the Breitling Chronométrie in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the precious watches are moved to the logistics center where they are prepared to be transported safely and securely. Regardless of destination and purpose – whether intended for an international trade show or a flagship store – each watch is individually packed.

“In recent years, we have constantly optimized and innovated our packaging,” says Massimiliano Gianotti, Head of Global Logistics at Breitling. “We made it more specialized and customized, for example for limited editions, but we also strive for multi-purpose packaging that is, in the end, more ecological.”

The assembly of a Breitling chronograph. (Image: Breitling)

Secure along the supply chain

There is much more to the process than innovation and customization. When it comes to the shipping of luxury goods, security is of paramount importance. On a journey of almost 8,000 kilometers with various touch points along the way, such goods must be secure and follow strict processes at every step. No compromises are allowed. Breitling has therefore developed several strict measures to ensure that the entire supply chain meets the highest security standards.

From the distribution center, the high-end watches are transported to the gateway of choice in Switzerland before they are delivered to Zurich or Geneva Airport. Only a limited number of specialists are qualified to transport these valuable products. Breitling prefers to work with specialists that can guarantee a global presence in all of its key markets and which meet the highest quality and security standards.

A sealed container for the shipment of valuable goods. (Image: Swiss WorldCargo)

Highly specialised transportation partners

Technology and digitalization are also both elements that have become increasingly important in the last years. “Experience in the transport of high-value goods is not enough for us,” adds Massimiliano Gianotti. “We really need partners that are specialized in luxury brands and share Breitling’s values.” Once the watches arrive at Zurich Airport, they are handed over to Swiss WorldCargo, which is then responsible for their delivery.

Milo Gerisch, Vertical Industry Manager Precious Commodities, Luxury Goods & Banking. (Image: Swiss WorldCargo)

To ensure that they are in Beijing just in time for such an important opening, handling operations must work seamlessly. “Operating at Zurich Hub, with its state-of-the-art infrastructures and fast transfer times, is a real competitive advantage when it comes to valuable shipments,” explains Milo Gerisch, Vertical Industry Manager Precious Commodities, Banking and Luxury Goods. “First and foremost, at Swiss WorldCargo we understand the importance of our services to our clients’ business success, and we are committed to the same values as Breitling, such as quality, precision and customer-centricity.”

Traditionally, the high-end watch industry is located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, with many small towns in the region dedicated exclusively to the trade. For international shipments, Breitling remains focused on the SWISS Zurich and Geneva hubs. “SWISS offers outstanding network coverage of intercontinental destinations to all our key markets,” says Massimiliano Gianotti. “This coverage, along with the joint understanding of the valuable community and their expertise, makes it our preferred carrier.”

The SWISS daily connection between Zurich and Beijing is operated by Airbus A330-300. (Image: SWISS).

A matter of time

Another requirement is speed. The luxury watch industry has changed in recent years, with a shift in marketplace trends leading to an increase in both local trade shows, as well as limited and special editions. This means that the whole supply chain must be adapted to a more time-critical, seamless flow. “That’s why we offer different solutions with customized products and services, and why we are in constant dialogue with the shipping and forwarding community to jointly develop solutions,” says Milo Gerisch.

After almost ten hours in the air, the Breitling watches arrive at Beijing Capital Airport. Just in time, the luxury goods are transported to the new flagship store and the magical opening ceremony can begin. Massimiliano Gianotti appreciates the seamless supply chain as well. “In the watch industry, we went from selling right out of the factory to building up and controlling the global distribution ourselves.” He adds, “It’s always about finding the right balance between logic and magic.”

The opening of the Breitling flagship store in Beijing, China (2018). Image: Breitling.
The partnership between Breitling and SWISS goes even further. The history of Breitling is closely interlinked with the history of aviation. Breitling has established a global reputation for high-precision timepieces, its pioneering role in the development of the wrist chronograph, and its uncompromising commitment to design excellence. With the brand’s story association with aviation, Breitling has shared the finest moments in human¬kind’s conquest of the skies. Renowned for its spirit of innovation, it has also earned a privileged role in the worlds of science, sport, and technology. Since 2016, Breitling is the official “On-Board Timekeeper” of SWISS with a strong presence on all SWISS flights. In 2016, SWISS and Breitling launched a special edition to celebrate the arrival of the SWISS Boeing 777. In 2018, the two Swiss companies extended their partnership by launching two exclusive Aviator 8 watches. The limited SWISS editions are available onboard SWISS aircraft and cannot be purchased anywhere else.