Patek Philippe, the gold standard in watch-making is a billion-dollar business yet still remain family-owned. Globalisation has put many watchmakers towards that same route contrary to what businesses are all about, in this industry, exclusivity coupled with tradition and values still triumph over the bottomline.

"My dream is only one, for Bover to make 4000 timepieces per year, and not a single more," said Pascal Ruffy, CEO of Bovet Fleurier. "We invest one million Swiss francs each year to train artisans and what is more important to me is to know the surnames of my 142 artisans we have in our house."

Edouard Meylan, CEO of H.Moser & CIE, echoed a similar sentiment: "If my dream was to reach that goal then my first mistake was to claim that H. Moser is very rare. If that is indeed the aim of the house then I am not the right person for it."

Fortunately, company reports do show that small houses can still be successful. "Our past report shows that there is room for independent houses, not selling their souls, transmitting their timepieces with passion, dealing with the human dimension."

Christophe Nicasie, CBDO of Seddiqi Holding, shares the difference between dealing with a large watch company and a smaller family-run one: "When we are dealing with a family business, we are looking at long-term relationships, we can build the brand and promote it. With big names however, their executives change frequently and you have to start a new relationship and there's also the pressure of selling watches the next day."

In the end, tradition and long-term goals win over short-term returns on investment. That however is a balance that these smaller houses must master.