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Watches, Fairs and Events

Geneva Watch Fair reassures the industry

In a world where the Swiss watch and clock industry is suffering unpredictable buying patterns, the Geneva salon provided luxury watch brands with much-needed international attention. MARTIN FOSTER reports.

Each year when the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève (SIHH) opens for its annual trade fair, it marks the first showing of the newest high-end luxury watches.

It’s a fabulous showcase with no equivalent anywhere in the world. The Geneva Salon, as it is known, is as famous for its prestigious exhibitors as it is for the quality of its infrastructure. SIHH represents the finest examples on offer from the major luxury brands of the Swiss watchmaking industry.

This year’s event (15–19 January) expanded the successful presentation elements of last year, again increasing the number of exhibitors despite an extremely tough commercial environment.

With BaselWorld enduring a major restructure, Geneva Salon is currently the only expanding European trade show. More than 20,000 visitors attended this year – a record number – along with 1,500 media personnel – an increase over last year of 20 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively.

The exhibition area had to be expanded to 55,000 square metres to accommodate this, a 20 per cent increase in floor space. This year also saw the largest number of watch houses yet; there were 35 exhibitors, compared with 30 in 2017 and just 16 in 2014.

What is the SIHH?

SIHH launched in 1991 as a private exhibition of the luxury house brands of the Richemont Group. In 2005, the Richemont Group, Audemars Piguet and Girard- Perregaux formed the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) which is now the body that oversees the event. Subsequently, the scope of the Geneva Salon has been expanded to include closely associated watch brands.

"Fine and inventive watchmakers find new ways of combining old ideas in beautiful ways,"

In 2016, SIHH added a new category titled Carré des Horlogers (the Watchmaker’s Square), which consisted of a group of highly skilled artisan-creators representing avant-guard watchmakers and independent workshops.

Carré des Horlogers brands of note included Christophe Claret, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, DeWitt, and Grönefeld among others. Exhibitors in the main hall included a grand offering of brands, including A.Lange & Söhne, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Hermès, IWC and Montblanc to name just a few.

Last year, for the first time the Geneva Salon was opened to the public on the final day. Fabienne Lupo, President and Managing Director of SIHH said, “The new approach has proven its worth. The Salon has successfully undertaken a significant transformation process that implies evolving in order to offer exhibiting maisons [houses] not only the best platform conducive to doing good business, but also the finest showcase in terms of communication and visibility – all firmly plugged into today’s world.”

What is PALEXPO?

Geneva Salon is held in the PALEXPO, a large exhibition centre located adjacent to the Geneva airport.

The event organiser gains access to PALEXPO a month before its opening date to construct an imaginative and attractive fantasy world. Absolutely no expense is spared: the bare concrete walls are converted into an expansive luxury complex of about 30 brand suites and showrooms with fine, lofty architectural style, soft carpets, diffused lighting, and hushed, luxury ambience in keeping with its high horology exhibitors.

This luxurious set must withstand the footfall of 20,000 visitors in the week of the trade show, only to be torn down a week later and consigned to the horological history books. PALEXPO then returns to its regular exhibiting role for the International Motor Show and Arts Geneva.

The past 12 months was a reassuring year for the luxury watch market, improving somewhat on the sliding trends of recent years. Reportedly, Richemont’s buy-back implementations were successful and delivered some good year-end results for the company.

According to Richemont’s November interim report, sales increased by 10 per cent for the previous six months, and operating profits for the period were up 80 per cent representing final figures of more than €974 million (AU$1.5 b).

Swiss Federal Customs Administration (FCA) confirmed this trend, reporting that Swiss watch exports for November 2016 stood at just under CHF$2 b (AU$2.7 b), equivalent to 6.3 per cent growth.

These are very comforting numbers for industry stakeholders, and the group’s performance was reflected in the optimism around the brands at the fair. Fine and inventive watchmakers find new ways of combining old ideas in beautiful ways, and this is philosophically reflected across the exhibiting brands. The 2019 Geneva Salon will take place from 14–19 January.

Martin Foster

Martin Foster is a freelance journalist and Jeweller’s resident watch ‘guru’. Based in Sydney, Martin attends major international exhibitions covering the watch and timepieces categories.

K & K Export Import

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