WARNING: Wearing Gold Lorex symbol of corruption

The luxury watch industry is taking a pounding and the finger is pointed at the crack down on corruption in China.

Global luxury sales and epic Chinese political corruption have become so inextricably intertwined over the last decade that the recent kerfuffles in Chinese politics?the investigations and convictions and pledges of propriety?have been nothing but trouble for the privileged few. That became clear last fall, when political disorder in Beijing made it difficult to know which faction would end up on top, and one luxury-brand representative told the?Journal?that sales were down because ?no one knows who to bribe.?

Some of the heaviest hearts are in the luxury-watch business. No industry has enjoyed such a warm embrace in China as the one that packs such enormous monetary value into a small, easily exchanged physical object. And, sure enough, the luxury watch business enjoyed a banner year in 2011,?growing forty per cent. But then China?s anti-corruption campaign began, and by September, Bo Xilai was in handcuffs, and watch exports to China suffered a devastating blow?down 27.5 per cent compared to a year earlier, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. China?Daily?quoted an industry consultant saying the anti-corruption drive ?hurts the luxury watch business a lot.??

Not just luxury sales either:

It?s not just watches. In 2009, the industry experts estimated that gifts to government officials made up nearly?fifty per cent?of all of China?s luxury sales. In some cases, a businessman would accompany his bureaucrat friend through the aisles, but if that was not convenient?because it would get them both locked up?then he would leave a credit card on file, to be charged as needed. In 2009, a foppish Chongqing official named Ding Meng, who specialized in trading land for bribes, was found to have amassed?two hundred pairs of luxury shoes, a collection of expensive ceramic tea pots, and a hundred Western suits at a cost of up to six thousand dollars each. At his sentencing, where he received thirteen years and wore a flattering high-collared black jacket, he chastised the prosecutor for her outfit: ?You?re a woman and you don?t even wear better shoes than I do.? Before he was led away, he urged her, ?Spend some money on shoe polish.?