For the Swiss-watch industry, Nicolas Hayek's shock 2002 announcement was akin to Intel withdrawing its microchip supply to two-thirds of the world's PC manufacturers. But instead of chips, this concerned the biggest fish in luxury timekeeping's pond: the Swatch Group's ETA facility.
ETA wielded a virtual monopoly on quality, white-label movements, affording hundreds of brands bona fide "Swiss watchmaker" status.
Hayek's decision to stop supplying movements served as motivation for watchmakers to diversify - and fast. The industry reacted quickly, with a group of in-house third-party suppliers such as Sellita, Christopher Ward and Louis Vuitton appearing in ETA's wake. This rise in proprietary mechanics is illustrated well by Baume & Mercier and its major watch launch of 2018 - the Clifton Baumatic.
Not only does the broadest slice of the Richemont Group's portfolio pyramid now have its own movement with plenty of technical interest in its own right, but Baume & Mercier is breaking the cardinal rule of Switzerland's closeted cottage industry by being totally open about the ins and outs of Baumatic's R&D process.
Maybe the company was wary that customers simply wouldn't believe the £2,500 price tag for its watch. Maybe it just wants to show how hard it's been working. Either way, it's a fascinating insight into Richemont's Swiss-wide skunkworks - the prosaically named Research & Innovation Management Services (RIMS).
"Our movement had to be better than the existing ETA or Sellita offering," says Baume & Mercier CEO Alain Zimmermann. "But we also had to deliver performance at the right price. It was always going to be more efficient to conceive in-house, then outsource the R&D."
True to Zimmermann's need for something more accomplished than an off-the-shelf offering, the resulting BM12-1975A caliber includes a number of useful, life-proof improvements, including three brand-new lubricating oils, whose durability extends servicing intervals to a potential ten years (the industry norm is five).
The escapement's key components are etched from silicon wafer, guaranteeing 1,500-gauss magnetic-field resistance. Plus, the winding barrel packs more than a weekend's worth of power reserve, so it'll still keep time for Monday morning. And you can be assured that the time is correct, because that silicon escapement is adjusted to better-than-chronometer precision, losing less than four seconds and gaining less than six per day.
As an exercise in open-source (though admittedly Richemont-exclusive) innovation, what's of interest next is seeing which Baumer & Mercier stablemate goes on to benefit from Baumatic's development. Montblanc maybe, given its comparable price points? IWC, even?
Whatever the downstream implications, as an answer to Monsieur Hayek's rallying cry of 2002, the Baumatic delivers beyond even his expectations. And as a £2,500 timepiece with all those technical benefits, it's almost too tempting to resist.