Student’s key takeaways from the Study trip to Brussels

A student group at the European Commission (photo: Florian Keller)

In order to find out and understand what students have learned during the Study trip to Brussels, short interviews with six students have been conducted.

The question that has been asked focused on the key takeaways from the study trip that included visits and presentations of various institutions. The students had the privilege to visit and talk to representatives of the following institutions: SwissCore, European Commission, MedTech Europe, Mission of Switzerland to the EU (Swiss Confederation), Digitaleurope and Economiesuisse.

The following question has been asked to six students:
What are, in your eyes, the key takeaways from the study trip to Brussels? (Things that you have learned, surprised you, or were new to you) Please formulate your answer in one to maximum four sentences.

 

 “I wasn’t aware that the EU was located in Brussels. For me, this trip highlighted how interconnected all of Europe is with all the different collaborating representatives.” –  Emily Reddish

 

 

“The work of lobbyists is very important for different industry sectors. Depending on cultural differences, their work is differently valued. European regulation is difficult and it takes a long time to implement – also, in national laws. On the other hand, it “opens doors” for companies, due to the fact that Europe is a huge single market.” – Martin Müller

 

“I was not aware lobbying for countries’ interest was a thing, and that it was so developed and transparently explained. “  – Clément Herpe

 

“I’ve been surprised by the impact of Brexit. During our discussions, experts always referred to it that it would affect regulations, policies and the EU system. Even though I was aware of the influence, I think speaking with experts made it even more realistic to me, that the EU is going under changes.” – Anne-Sophie Couvez

 

“What surprised me when being in Brussels and listening to the presentations, was that many organizations go there in order to execute their influence and to represent an economy or industry. Francois Baur, who is a lobbyist for Swiss industries, even referred to it as “the dark force”. A lot of decisions are taken in an informal environment, so I got the opinion that networking is part of these people’s daily business.” –  Ara Ankeshian

 

“I was impressed about the concentration of power in Brussels and the number of people involved. Moreover, I have learned how lobbying works and how lobbies represent Switzerland in Europe. Finally, it was important to learn the role that the politics play for the medtech and automotive industries.” –  Sofia Velez

 

To conclude the individual opinions of six students about the study trip gathered through interviews, it can be said that all students were impressed by the power and force of lobbying as well as the institutional constellations that are present in Brussels. In addition, the interconnectivity of each EU country was found as crucial, also when looking at the recent case of Brexit. The study trip surely enriched the knowledge about various European constellations of all students and contributed an important part for the academic development of each individual.

 

By Florian Graf

Swiss High End Watches in Brussels

Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is welcoming around 5 million tourists every year. Although the region is not widely known as a watchmaking cluster, there is a yearly meeting of the Belgium Watch Club, in which more than 30 brand representatives are meeting to discuss the industry and future trends.

When people buy a luxury Swiss watch, they are mostly at first oriented by buying a watch with a reputable name and secondly by buying the product specifications and watchmaking complication. Swiss watch brands should certainly aim at placing themselves in the top of their industry and compete with local Belgium and other international brands. Examples of reputable Swiss luxury watches are: Rolex, Jaeger Le Coultre, IWC and Patek Philippe.

All the above-mentioned brands are more or less in the same price class (roughly starting at 2000-8000€ for an uncomplicated piece up to several millions for the most extravagant and limited pieces). Instead of focusing on just building the brand name for social recognition, the Swiss watch brands should focus on the product specification and quality to address the practical needs of its target customers.

While Swiss watch brands operate in a high-end segment, best locations in Brussels would be Waterloo Boulevard and Galerie Royales Saint Hubert.

Galerie Royales Saint Hubert is a glazed shopping center, which is home to lots of luxury boutiques, watchmakers and chocolate shops as well as many high-cuisine restaurants. Therefore, the target customers for Swiss high-end watch brands are already formed at this place. Moreover, this location might be attractive for wealthy tourists.

Galerie Royales Saint Hubert

Waterloo Boulevard is on the other hand more appropriate for local citizens. It is a famous shopping street in Brussels, mainly for haute couture. Moreover, one of the most famous Swiss high-end watch brands “Rolex” is already located at Waterloo Boulevard. As observed in Switzerland, many watch brands are located on the main street of Zurich – Bahnhofstrasse. Having closely located competitors attracts the interest of customers and leads to mutual benefit of all brands. Hence, following this common way of Swiss watch-retailing, Waterloo Boulevard could be an attractive location for many Swiss high-end watch brands.

Waterloo Boulevard

A swiss-high end watch brand will face major competition. Major luxury watch brands are offering their products in flagship stores or noble boutiques. Rolex, for example, has three official retailers, Patek Philippe has one, Jaeger-Lecoultre has three as well as IWC, to name a few. In general, Brussels is offering all kind of high end watches, this, however, does not have to mean that the market is saturated, but that demand is high.

To conclude, the city of Brussels presents a strong potential for Swiss luxury watch brands mainly thanks to 500 million European consumers that are present in this city. Moreover, the city offers strong infrastructure, a good diplomacy cluster as well as multilingual experts in the watchmaking industry. In order to be successful and attract a large number of tourists as well as wealthy locals, the company should focus on language adaptation (primarily French, Dutch and English). We also recommend opening a flagship (brand) store in order to rapidly build a strong brand awareness and presence. Sponsorship combined with a solid marketing strategy will make Belgian and foreign consumers actively experience the brand. Overall, the business environment is highly favorable for Swiss luxury watch brands to enter.

Akshita and Anne-Sophie in front of the Patek Philippe store in Brussels

 

Group 7: A.Sophie Couvez, Florian A. Graf, Michelle Hoffmann, Akshita Jain, Dzhessika Mariia Kardakova & Ana Viljac