“to Swiss or not to Swiss…”
Perhaps no other Invicta watch we have had in stock has generated as much discussion as the recently introduced Subaqua Noma VI. As an authorized Invicta dealer, we regularly have the opportunity to speak with our loyal customers and they are typically not shy in expressing their opinions, especially about the Noma VI.
If you’re a casual Invicta follower, a bit of background is in order. After a long, three year wait following the launch of the well-reviewed and popular Subaqua Noma V, Invicta has finally launched its successor, the “SAN VI”. But it did so with a bit of a surprise. For the first time in the Subaqua Noma series, Invicta introduced a new Subaqua Noma design without the inclusion of “Swiss Made” on the dial. Immediately, the questions began to fly. “Why did Invicta do this? Why is Invicta cheapening the Subaqua Noma brand?”
Before we provide our thoughts on the subject, let me first state that we at Time Visions have received no “inside information” on the topic from Invicta and as far as we know, Invicta has made no public statements regarding the omission of “Swiss Made” from the SAN VI. The following discussion is simply a statement of our opinion. You are free to disagree with it but we think that if you read between the lines, there is a good chance that you will concur.
The first question we asked ourselves was “how would Invicta benefit from omitting the Swiss Made designation from an important new timepiece?" The only answer that made any real sense is the ability to cut production cost. After all, Swiss labor is always going to be a premium to work done in Asia. Of course, unit cost is always an important consideration but as a brand, does it make sense to downgrade your image at a time when you cannot launch high end automatic models due to the extreme constraints on Swiss ETA automatic movements? It is a move that just does not seem appropriate in your flagship product line if you are looking to protect or even upgrade your brand image.
The Subaqua Noma series is indeed an important family within the Invicta lineup. It has even been publicly stated many times by Invicta’s CEO, Eyal Lalo, that the collection name “Noma” is an abbreviation created by combining the first two letters of his oldest children’s names (Noah and Mary). It has also been publicly stated that any engineering design change made to a Subaqua Noma requires sign-off by Mr. Lalo himself. Now I ask you…if it was your company and you had YOUR kids’ names on your signature timepiece, would you be looking to cheapen it? We think it is unlikely that this decision was driven by financial considerations and that some other external factor was at work here.
But what outside influence could force Invicta to make a decision that must have been as difficult and gut-wrenching as this one? To find the answer, we don’t think you have to look any further than what is happening in the Swiss watch industry itself. Back in June 2013, the Swiss passed legislation that was intended to strengthen the value of “Swiss Made”. It did so in the watch segment by stipulating that a full 60% of the production cost of a timepiece must be Swiss-based. This is a tightening of the existing standard required to allow manufacturers to stamp “Swiss Made” on the dial. The Swiss allowed for a transition period for manufacturers to adjust to this change. As it turns out, the enforcement of the new standard begins in January, 2017. Come January, watch brands have the choice of adhering to these new standards or risk a high-profile law suit from the Swiss federation (you can read the details discussing this from the link provided at the bottom of this blog).
Based on this information, we strongly suspect that Invicta’s production of the Subaqua Noma series met the previous requirements of the Swiss Federal Counsel but not the new, tighter regulations. In fact, we believe that they are being built by the same people in the same location who built the initial generations of the Subaqua Noma. But are there any clues within the product itself that can either confirm or deny this theory? This is where things get a bit subjective. We have sold thousands of the previous generation Subaqua Noma watches that carried the “Swiss Made” label. We think we have a pretty good feel for the build quality standard that has been used in these timepieces. We have also stocked all four models of the new Subaqua Noma VI and have compared the build quality of the SAN VI with its predecessors. With all sincerity, we cannot find any discernable reduction in the build quality. The specs are what you would expect in a Subaqua Noma: 500 meters of water resistance, flame fusion crystal, helium release valve and screw-down caseback. The watch even sports a new, patent-pending crown and function-pusher system that is unique to the SAN VI. If you look beyond the “spec sheet”, the comparison also holds up well. The SAN VI bracelet is a heavy-weight construction with a tremendous amount of precise CNC machining to create the “dragon scales” effect. The bracelet end links are definitely solid versus hollow which you might expect to find if cost-cutting where a prime consideration by Invicta. Everything we see from the actual watch indicates that the VI is of the same quality construction as its heritage would suggest.
So what does all of this mean? Is the Subaqua Noma VI a watch that Invicta enthusiasts should add to their collections? That really depends on the individual collector. Clearly, there are some purists who will not invest in a non-Swiss made timepiece…period. If you are one of those collectors, you can stop reading right here. Nothing we say will change your mind. However, if you appreciate the build quality associated with the first 5 generations of the Subaqua Noma series, we would encourage you to check out the new SAN VI. In our opinion, it is a sharp looking, attention grabbing dive-style timepiece that truly honors the “dragon” theme of the Subaqua Noma dragon logo. Work with a dealer who has a reasonable return policy and if you don’t like it, send it back. But honestly, we think this watch is a keeper.