Swatch Group and L'Orologio - Fourth Watchmaker Experience

Seven readers of L'Orologio visited the Swatch Group Italy Customer Service Centre and tried (successfully) to assemble their first mechanical movement. For the third consecutive year, L'Orologio, thanks to the availability of the Swatch Group Italy Customer Service, gave this opportunity to seven readers, selected from those who correctly answered the questionnaire published in issues 266 and 267 and on our website. The usual formula that 'the initiative was a success' is limiting. For one afternoon, seven people who did not know each other turned into a small class on a trip to Toyland. According to Marco Milani, Customer Service Director in Milan, 'The readers were very attentive and their passion was palpable. An ordinary customer cannot imagine how much work goes into a maintenance job. Work that starts right from the design of the rooms, not surprisingly the aspect that impressed the visitors the most. Having to manage all of the group's brands, nothing is left to chance at the Swatch Italia Customer Service and the various areas are distributed according to a rational criterion that reflects the stages of work. Almost the entire third floor of the Swatch Italia headquarters at Via Washington 70 in Milan is dedicated to Customer Service. It starts with reception, which is also open to private individuals, who can see for themselves who will carry out the repair. Once the dossier has been initiated, with the assignment of a code summarising the watch's data, the fault and the state of the warranty, it moves on to the offices where the administrative procedures are carried out, followed by the area dedicated to the final in-depth diagnosis. The entire repair process takes place in a large workshop, isolated from the rest of the building and with an air conditioning system that minimises dust, the enemy of every gear. In practice, there is a slightly higher pressure inside that continuously pushes the air outwards, while purified air is circulated. The core of the entire Service Centre is the large open space where the repair work physically takes place. The workstations of the technicians (among them many young people) are divided by brand and, therefore, type of intervention. Adjacent to the workshop, the room where cases and bracelets are cleaned and polished is the only 'technical' room to be separated, to prevent the dust produced by the lapidaries and grinders from getting into the movement gears. The Customer Service spare parts warehouse is a kind of 'treasure room': it contains around 30,000 types of parts, stored in a series of drawers and divided by type, brand and reference. Those most frequently used are in a more convenient area for the operators, but any spare part can be quickly traced thanks to the computerised filing system. "If a part needed for a repair is not available, it is sent to us from Switzerland," explains Marco Milani, "but it happens quite rarely, since we have the components of all the references produced by the group in the last ten to fifteen years. Particularly valuable spare parts and customers' watches are protected in a vault. The final part of the Service Centre is occupied by the offices where the new warranty (of two years on complete overhauls) and shipping is handled. Private customers can also choose to pick up their repaired watch in person, or have it shipped to their home or, again, to a group shop, as required. In a way, the very organisation of the Service Centre is itself a working tool at the disposal of the specialists who move around its premises. And all readers have noticed this. "The care and attention in the management of each repair is the aspect that impressed me the most" (Alberto Benech). "I did not expect such a structured and linearly industrialised organisation, so precise and capillary" (Andrea Crespi). "The welcome, the cleanliness of the environment, the organisation of the departments, the scrupulous order of the spare parts warehouse and last but not least the safe that provides additional security for customers" (Max Bonfanti). "The organisation and friendliness" (Riccardo Zamblera). "The thing that impressed me the most is undoubtedly the organisation of the spare parts room, which allows immediate availability of the parts subject to the most wear and tear, as well as the ingenious idea of placing those subject to the most use in central drawers" (Sergio Copoli). After the visit to Customer Service, readers were guided by Alessandro Marcucci, a Swatch Group technician and trainer, who gave a lecture on the operation of a mechanical movement in a training room equipped with workstations equal to those of 'real' watchmakers. It is no coincidence that in the same training room, refresher courses are held for Customer Service watchmakers. This is where the most exciting part of the visit took place: the practical disassembly and reassembly test of a hand-wound pocket watch calibre 6497. A cross and a delight for every enthusiast who, at least once in his or her life, has thought about dismantling his or her grandfather's old watch, but has given up because it is too difficult. Despite a few negligible skirmishes with the balance springs, they passed the test brilliantly. "For novices, the level is very high," Marco Milani noted with satisfaction. And for everyone, the experience was memorable. "The training gave us the opportunity to discover the mechanism of a mechanical watch in detail. It is an experience that I would recommend to other enthusiasts in order to learn more about the world of watchmaking' (Alberto Benech). "The practical test and the theoretical explanation of the movements was the most interesting moment. For someone like me who is passionate about watches, visiting a service or the factory of a brand or, as in this case, several brands, is an experience worth having. Then the Swatch group and L'Orologio made us feel like part of their staff' (Alessandro Cremonesi). "I appreciated the attention to questions and the precise and punctual answers, as well as the practical test. I would recommend the experience because, as I have a few watches now, I consider the after-sales service more important than the blazon of the object' (Andrea Crespi). "The moment I enjoyed the most was the workshop session with the very interesting slides. I will not fail to recommend the experience as it is very interesting to discover the different stages that make up the path that a watch follows within Customer Service and especially the practical session in the workshop" (Max Bonfanti). "The practical test is a unique experience for an enthusiast" (Paolo Leoni). "After the visit, I had the impression of a well-structured Group. It is also interesting that they train young watchmakers from school" (Riccardo Zamblera). "The moment I enjoyed the most was definitely the one in the workshop, where we were able to try our hand directly on a movement and see its beating heart. It was a wonderful experience, which gave us the opportunity to experience the Swatch Group reality at first hand. For us enthusiasts, the activity part on the movement is like being in the toy room. I would have liked to have had more time at my disposal' (Sergio Copoli). The readers' appreciation, beyond the ritual formulas, was sincere and unanimous and is summed up by Paolo Leoni's thought: 'An experience to be repeated'.