The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie this 2017 was the largest instance of the event to date, with the Geneva watch fair opening its doors to 17 big-brand main exhibitors, with the Carré des Horlogers section being populated by 13 independent exhibitors.
The centrepiece of the fair was the Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600, a Vacheron Constantin collection made from scratch featuring 23 pieces, all made by a single master watchmaker.
The recent issues with the retail market over the past 2 years didn’t seem to affect the SIHH 2017, with a fairly upbeat climate. The SIHH’s exhibitors felt the effects though, subtly stated in their exhibits; one of many featuring an entry-level novelty, and another showing a rose gold watch for ladies. The market was shifting.
Noel Wong, deputy CEO for Elegant Watches, stated that the market was now more realistic in its goals, but still quite ambitious. He says that the economic downturn had led to notable changes in the market, and companies are fighting to seize what new advantages they can get, which is why new materials are being shown off, alongside watch designs made for women, with independently-branded watches being displayed not far from an exhibit with a rose gold watch for ladies. The pieces shown in the SIHH this year were more sober than most, but still not lacking for innovation.
Companies like Jaeger-LeCoultre showed off their new designs designed to appeal to feminine sensibilities, showing the shift in focus to the women’s watches market, whilst some companies opted for a softer approach, offering their classic masculine designs with more feminine materials and colors.
Notably, the IWC Schaffhausen, with its motto of ‘Engineered for Men’, revealed two models from its Da Vinci collection for women: the Da Vinci Automatic 36 and the Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36.
More independent brands have also been welcomed into the SIHH’s display halls, which, up until last year, were mostly populated with brands under the Richemont Group, with the occasional exhibit from Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille and Parmigiani Fleurier. Newcomer Ulysse Nardin, along with five new independents appeared at the event, and, in spite of some prior protests subtly made by a few executives, were welcomed quite well.
The SIHH has recently become more organized in its operations, which will allow the independent watchmakers better exposure from the media, as well as more contact with the larger names in the industry.
The presence of both big names and leading independents in the SIHH was nothing if not beneficial for retailers, who are coming into contact with customers who are more open to more unusual pieces, and, consequently, less orthodox brands.