Transparency: a changing world

Spurred on by consumers tired of the rhetoric of big brands and wanting to know the real value of the products they buy, the idea of transparency has gained significant ground over the years, especially in the fashion industry.

Unfortunately for these big brands, the golden age of consumerism - during which they could provide consumers with whichever products they wanted, at whatever price they wanted - is in the past.

Nowadays, the consumers play a fully-fledged role in their own purchasing habits. They closely follow the latest news on brands, and demand more honesty and transparency. They want to know exactly how the product was made, and by whom. They are now at the heart of the buying process, and are making their opinions known on both production and retail prices.

But what, then, are the repercussions for our purchasing habits, and how are brands adapting to these new consumer expectations?

Detailed explanations of costs and origin

In response to growing demand from their consumers, many brands are now being open about all of the costs and the origin of their products:

  • The cost of raw materials,  as a whole or component by component, as well as their origin
  • Labor costs, as a whole or stage by stage, as well as the manufacturing locations
  • The cost of transport

The American ready-to-wear company Everlane, for example, provides visitors to its website with all of the information on the cost and origin of its products. It even suggests that its customers ask themselves the following two questions for any purchases they are making:

1) Which factory made this product?

2) What are the costs of production?

The brand Maison Standards detail the production costs of their clothing item by item, stage by stage (materials used, assembly, dying, finishing, transport, margins...). They also display photos of their factories on their website.

How does this benefit the consumer?

The advantages of transparency on costs and origin for the consumer are clear:

  • Access to all information on the product: production methods, production cost, manufacturing location, margin added by the company...
  • The social impact: the consumer is part of a more responsible and ecological process.
  • Better quality products: a transparent company cannot spare any expense in terms of the quality of the components or raw materials it uses, so the consumer can no longer be misled.
  • A fairer price: the transparent company generally has to limit its own margin, in order to best reflect the production costs.

In fashion, sure, but watchmaking too?

As far as watchmaking is concerned, this movement towards greater transparency on costs and origins has not resonated with the major players of the industry. Watchmaking brands remain very risk averse, especially in terms of the origin of their components. While many ready-to-wear brands - from Zara to Hermès - no longer think twice about publicizing the origins of their collections, this is not the case for watches.

Opacity is still king in the watchmaking world, as its major players rely on a strong image. This image, which they have fought long to establish, could now by dented by transparency on origin, with the production of many brands now firmly rooted in China. Not to mention the slightly-too-high margins, which watchmaking brands are very much unwilling to reveal.

Will transparency be the norm in tomorrow's consumer world?

Here at CODE41, we sincerely believe that transparency is the future of the watchmaking market. This is why we have, of course, become trailblazers in the industry, furthering this concept in a world which until now has been shrouded in secrecy. Above all, this has allowed us to meet the growing demand for transparency of fans of fine mechanical watches, while developing a closer relationship with our members, ultimately enabling us to offer high quality mechanical watches at unbeatable prices.

We've gone even further with our approach to transparency, with the establishment of the TTO label (Total Transparency on Origin), open to all watchmaking brands.