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Watches and Wonders Geneva 2023 is the first major industry trade fair since China’s borders reopened and Asian delegates were a considerable presence at the event. | Source: Watches and Wonders Geneva
Watches and Wonders Geneva 2023 is the first major industry trade fair since China’s borders reopened and Asian delegates were a considerable presence at the event. | Source: Watches and Wonders Geneva

What did we learn from Watches and Wonders Geneva in 2023?

MARTIN FOSTER reflects on the latest edition of one of the international watch industry’s most important events.

In the picturesque Swiss lakeside city of Geneva, Watches and Wonders 2023 closed on 2 April after a bustling week of presentations of the latest products from some of the watch industry’s most notable brands.

Few would dispute that Watches and Wonders Geneva is currently the most significant gathering for the global Swiss watch industry.

This year’s event was centralised at Palexpo; however, numerous individual brand presentations took place at hotels and venues across the city.

Now approaching 50 brands, the range of exhibitors has increased significantly since its origins in The Richemont Group’s break from Baselworld in 1991.

These include a mix of Richemont’s stable of ‘classic’ brands as well as Baselworld defectors returning to Geneva for their second showing at Watches and Wonders.

headshot-Matthieu-Humair-Fondation-de-la-Haute-Horlogerie
headshot-Matthieu-Humair-Fondation-de-la-Haute-Horlogerie
“Enthusiasts, connoisseurs, and collectors will have the opportunity to experience the exhibiting Maisons’ [brands’] novelties firsthand. With this new access we anticipate welcoming consumer guests from Geneva, across Europe, and beyond.”
Matthieu Humair, Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie

Patek Philippe, Rolex, Tudor, Chopard, Chanel, Zenith, and Hublot featured alongside independent makers such as Laurent Ferrier and Rudis Sylva.

Watches and Wonders Geneva 2023 is the first major industry trade fair since China’s borders reopened and Asian delegates were a considerable presence at the event.

From China alone, nearly 200 journalists and industry influencers from were in attendance and during the keynote presentations and Q&A sessions, these market viewpoints attracted close attention.

Additionally, the Alibaba digital marketplace created a 3D space on its app during Watches and Wonders for Chinese consumers to ‘try on’ the newly released watches in a virtual environment.

The Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI) appeared in the Masters of Horology area on the Quai des Bergues and issued a general invitation to attendees: “Meet, chat, and view the creations of our members in a relaxed and safe environment. Visit our conferences and share a glass or two of good wine during our gala nights”.

Many will regret the demise of the Carré des Horlogers which provided an introductory forum for specialist horological interests – both exhibitor and visitor alike.

It was a special opportunity to speak with the man who will actually make your watch!

It has now been two years since Baselworld capitulated to the discontent over its administration.

This was paired with the sentiment of the people and businesses of Basel itself, who were criticised for treating the historical trade fair as a never-ending ‘cash cow’.

With that said, the restlessness reaches back to 1991 when Richemont withdrew from Baselworld and initiated the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH).

That event has evolved over 30 years and today is what we know as Watches and Wonders Geneva.

Breakdown
Polished lapis lazuli Eternity Mk1 - Exclusive Grande Complication clock by Matthias Naeschke.
Polished lapis lazuli Eternity Mk1 - Exclusive Grande Complication clock by Matthias Naeschke.

Focusing again on the present, the organisers of Watches and Wonders reported a footfall of roughly 48,000. This includes nearly 1,400 journalists and other media figures which accounted for 35,000 hotel nights.

Retailers fixed more than 8,000 appointments confirming watchmaking’s enduring appeal - particularly in Europe which alone accounted for 70 per cent of visitors.

Over the weekend the doors were opened to the general public and all 12,000 tickets were sold.

Beyond these positive statistics, Watches and Wonders is proving its appeal to the younger generation as 25 per cent of the tickets were purchased by people under 25.

Indeed, the age of the average ticket holder was 35, suggesting that the next generation of the watch industry is already actively involved in the event.

These visitors were particularly attracted to the ‘LAB’ experience, which offered participants a practical workshop vision of the experience of watchmaking.

In an interview with the Robb Report Matthieu Humair, the CEO of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, revealed that he was “Thrilled that in 2023, Watches and Wonders Geneva will now have two days that are designated for the public to attend.”

“Enthusiasts, connoisseurs, and collectors will have the opportunity to experience the exhibiting Maisons’ [brands’] novelties firsthand. With this new access we anticipate welcoming consumer guests from Geneva, across Europe, and beyond.”

Of course, it must be said that one of the most important aspects of the event is which brands weren’t exhibiting.

During this reflection, it’s important organisers give thought to what is needed to attract other major brands to participate in the future.

Notwithstanding, we can observe that many brands and exhibitors find agreeable space ‘on the side’ of the major fairs by taking advantage of the drawcard of global publicity.

Time to Watches was one of these and in collaboration with Watches and Wonders, opened for the week at the heart of the Genève campus - University of Art and Design Geneva.

A similar event to the one introduced in December of last year is expected to be held this year, before the attention once again turns to Geneva in 2024.

It’s been described as “the most beautiful industrial site in Geneva, a symbolic meeting point between innovation and the international watchmaking market.”

Time to Watches attracted 55 serious mid-range watch brands with a footfall of 5,800 visitors.

The event’s independent status offered the freedom to open to the public throughout the week.

Where do we go from here?

Emerging from the disarray of the COVID pandemic years, Watches and Wonders has cemented its place at the most significant Swiss watch industry trade fair.

However, it is still only 20 per cent of the size of Baselworld in its heyday which boasted a roster of more than 2,000 exhibitors.

This was paired with more than 150,000 visitors and a media attendance of more than 4,300.

Nearby, Inhorgenta Munich is an attractive alternative for mid-range brands emulating the engaging elements of the best days of Baselworld.

It presents an attractive prospect for watch exhibitors in the coming years, as does the commercial relationship Watches and Wonders has developed with the southernmost Chinese island of Hainan.

A similar Hainan event to the one introduced in December of last year is expected to be held this year, before the attention once again turns to Geneva in 2024.

 

This year’s event was centralised at Palexpo; however, numerous individual brand presentations took place at hotels and venues across the city.
This year’s event was centralised at Palexpo; however, numerous individual brand presentations took place at hotels and venues across the city.


Calatrava 24-Hour

Double Tourbillon White Gold Malachite

Grand Seiko Masterpiece SBGZ009

Montblanc 1858

New Black Bay

New GMT-Master II

ODYSSEUS CHRONOGRAPH mvt

ODYSSEUS CHRONOGRAPH

Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime

Space Timer Jupiter Gold

Type 1 RESSENCE

Year of the Rabbit

 

 

More reading
Bold new direction for Baume & Mercier
Watches and Wonders Geneva goes beyond the trade
The rise of Inhorgenta Munich continues unabated
Luxury watch market approaching $100 billion milestone
Stunning Patek Phillipe sets new world record at auction

 











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