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September 9, the day when the Apple Watch was presented to the world, will probably stay in history as the date when the quiet, low-key Swiss watch world has been forever shaken up. Only the future will tell if the Swiss watch industry has been profoundly impacted or if, as some executives say, it is just a small bump in the road of an otherwise healthy industry. While the luxury watches market seems not to be at threat, it is hard to believe that the lower segment is not going to suffer.

But whatever the outcome may be, the Apple’s announcement, which was expected for several years now, illustrates quite well the reality that executives need to cope with in the midst of a major economic crisis.

Beyond the cliché, the watch industry, while representing a small but solid chunk of the overall Swiss economy, always contributed in an exceptional manner to the country’s brand image; one that the Swiss authorities have always counted on to promote the so-called “Swiss quality”.

So why, with their market dominance and unique experience, and with everything at their reach – including money and easy access to top-notch research – the Swiss watch manufacturers are seeing themselves being so abruptly pushed by a company that so far had no presence in this market?

It can be summarized in a few attributes that are emblematic to too many executives in well-established, incumbent companies: complacency, lack of innovation mindset and no-risk culture.

Examples of the past are numerous. Remember the same skepticism from Nokia executives after the IPhone was launched? Well, we all know what happened to Nokia…very sad indeed…

The Silicon Valley, and other thriving places in the world, are in contrary fostering an open and diverse risk-taking culture, on which innovation becomes the bread-and-butter of the myriads of big and small companies that are revolutionizing the way we all live and work.

What can we learn from this story?

  • Constant change is not only good, it is critical to adapt and survive in a global economy.
  • Risk-taking is not a choice; it is the way successful people and companies of our times should operate on a daily basis.
  • Openness to the world and diversity in society is not a threat; it is what will separate successful companies (and countries) from the lagging ones.
  • Beware of comfort, it can vanish very quickly if you stay too still and cozy.
  • Beware of complacency. Fight instead to secure a successful future for your children and generations to come.

The amazing Alps will remain for now, so no reason not to visit the wonderful landscapes that the nature is offering here. You can trust your Apple Watch to find your way.

You can follow me on twitter: @ishamgar

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