History as a Marketing Resource. Luxury watchmaking in Geneva since 1815

Geneva is today the uncontested global capital of luxury watchmaking. This characteristics is commonly viewed by scholars, journalists and local politicians as the outcome of a long history, Geneva being already a place renowned for luxury watches during the 18th century. However, this paper argues that the contemporary luxury watch industry clustered in Geneva results from a process of social construction, that started in the 1960s and developed in the 1980s and 1990s, in which “heritage” and “history” were used by (mostly newly founded) firms to establish themselves as the heirs of a long tradition. Based on a broad range of sources, this research analyses the long-term development of the watch industry in Geneva, focusing on the issue of continuity and change in industrial organization, institutional context and product development. It contributes to the debate on the competitive advantage of the European luxury industry.

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