(MENAFN- Swissinfo) The world's largest watch fair is being held from March 27 to April 2 in Geneva at a time of historic growth for the industry. After the demise of the Baselworld salon, Watches and Wonders is emerging as the new key event for the global watchmaking community. This content was published on March 30, 2023 March 30, 2023 minutes
Journalist and deputy head of the swissinfo.ch editorial group for German, French and Italian. Earlier, worked for Teletext and Switzerland's French-language national broadcaster. more from this author | french department
«la communauté horlogère ne peut pas se passer d'un grand événement fédérateur» (original)
Nearly fifty watchmakers are unveiling their new timepieces at watches and wondersexternal link . The fair, which used to be the SIHH, aims to bring together major watch brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier and TAG Heuer, and attracts journalists from all over the world.
Between April 1 and 2 the fair will be open to the public for the first time. Smaller watchmakers are also able to take advantage of the thousands of visitors and exhibition participants to present their collections at a smaller nearby event, Time to Watches, and display their timepieces at hotels around Lake Geneva.
Geneva has become a new hub for watchmakers that brings together enthusiasts from around the world. Watches and Wonders and the support it generates within the watchmaker community is essential for the future success of the industry, according to Serge Maillard, editor of the specialist watch magazine europa starexternal link .
Serge Maillard, editor of the specialist watch magazine Europa Star. DR
SWI swissinfo.ch: After the financial setbacks that led to the cancellation of Baselworld, Watches and Wonders is now the premier watch event in spring. Is this good news for the Swiss watch industry?
Serge Maillard: Yes, certainly. The watch industry really needs a major annual gathering that brings together professionals, journalists, watch enthusiasts and collectors. This show brings together the entire community from around the world. Watches and Wonders is now THE place to be in spring if you have any kind of connection with this community.
For a long time, Geneva and Basel fought to be the leader of the world's largest watch show. With the demise of Baselworld, Geneva is now the main event on the calendar.
SWI: Geneva is a watchmaking region, which Basel was not. Do you see this as an advantage for the organisation of this fair?
S.M.: It is indeed an undeniable advantage for the Geneva brands. It's much easier to manage from a logistical point of view. These brands [such as Rolex or Patek Philippe] also take advantage of the opportunity to show their factories to retailers and journalists who come from abroad. If a new watch show had taken place in Zurich, for example, which is not a watchmaking region, it would not have had the same impact at all.
SWI: But is there really any need for such an event in our hyper-connected world?
S.M.: In the past we often heard these comments calling into question the usefulness of such events. Now we no longer get these kinds of questions. The model of the multi-brand watch show has not only survived online social networks and the Covid crisis, but it has emerged even stronger.
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I like to draw a comparison with the football World Cup. It is a global event that puts a spotlight on the sport and brings together the leading players. It is the same thing for the watchmaking industry: in an increasingly digital world, it is essential to promote a sense of community and to bring together the main players under one roof.
Watches and Wonders is a networking and communication event. As watches are tangible objects, people want to see and touch them in person if possible.
SWI: Baselworld was criticised for the excessive cost of renting exhibition stalls and overpriced hotels. These are two factors that contributed to the event's downfall. Is it different in Geneva?
S.M.: These kinds of problems are found at all major global fairs. There must be limits before they get out of control. But Geneva is used to organising large conferences, and the city has an infrastructure adapted for these types of events. For the many watchmaker brands based in Geneva, it is a lot easier because they do not have to find accommodation for their employees.
SWI: Watches and Wonders is mainly dedicated to high-end watchmaking and remains closed to many brands, which hold their own shows elsewhere. Could we imagine the salon expanding in the future?
S.M.: Several small entry-level and mid-range brands have joined the show, which is a positive sign. Other events are being organised in parallel and are attracting more industry players. The event will continue to grow in the coming years.
Increasingly, many brands, even those which aren't present at the fair, are timing the launch of new models around the dates of this event; it is set to become the new main fixture in the watchmaking calendar.
SWI: What about Swatch Group, the world's largest watchmaking group, which is not present at the show?
S.M.: For the moment, the Swatch Group is not set to join the show. But the Biel-based firm has its own infrastructure that allows it to organise separate regional watch events. Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille, two major players in the luxury watchmaking sector which are not present in Geneva, have developed alternative communication strategies for their new pieces and collections. But eventually, it would make sense for all the major brands to be brought together at the same event.
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SWI: This type of fair is an opportunity to identify the major trends of the moment. What are they?
S.M.: The Swiss watchmaking industry is experiencing a golden era. The unprecedented growth in exports seen last year is continuing, even if the current banking turmoil is a cause for concern. As you don't usually change a winning model, we are seeing more consolidation than a change of era. Each brand is focusing on its DNA and successful models. Sporty-chic metal watches with integrated bracelets and chronographs are still among the main current trends.
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