It’s trade show season and for the first time in what seems like forever, we believe watch enthusiasts and collectors the world over have a lot to be excited about. This is partly because a leading Switzerland watch fair, Watches and Wonders Geneva, will finally make its in-person debut on March 30, just in time for Spring.
Previously known as the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), showrunners at the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) changed its name, date, and format after the 2019 event to appeal to a broader audience. Unfortunately, the global pandemic had other plans, and WWG was canceled in 2020. The FHH delivered a fairly successful but virtual-only show in 2021. This year’s Watches and Wonders Geneva will be a hybrid event, offering in-person access for watchmakers, buyers, and the press and virtual access for everyone else.
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The Fall of an Icon
One could say the Swiss watch industry is right in the middle of another seismic shift, as trade shows historically were limited to those in industry or only open to the general public at a sizable cost. Baselworld, once referred to as “the greatest watch show on earth,” is a prime example of the old way of doing things. The event brought most of the watch world’s major players to one place, but at a considerable expense and without any significant format updates, such as classes on simple watch repairs, interactive brand presentations, and panel discussions.
Baselworld and SIHH had been losing ground for several years leading up to the pandemic, and while SIHH managed to pivot successfully, Baselworld did not. As a result, powerhouse exhibitors like Rolex and Audemars Piguet decided to take their business elsewhere, namely to Watches and Wonders Geneva and other venues. Baselworld canceled this year’s trade fair to regroup. Whether they have a successful rebirth remains to be seen.
In an Europa Star magazine interview from 2021, Award-Winning Display Case Designer Xavier Dietlin made the case that trade shows need to reinvent themselves. “No, to survive, the trade shows must absolutely get back in touch with and open up to the public. But if it’s just to see rows of watches lined up in showcases, it’s not worth the trouble,” Dietlin said. That process includes presenting consumers with personal and unforgettable experiences with their favorite watch brands. For an idea of what he is talking about, check out his 20 Years of Crazy-Tivity video.
Less Is More
Meanwhile, regional and less-centralized trade fairs have sprung up all over the world, taking advantage of the changing trade show concept and promising end-users (that’s you, the one wearing the watch) unprecedented access to watchmakers and their latest and greatest inventions. These include WatchTime New York and Los Angeles, Dubai Watch Week, Geneva Watch Days (includes a specific day for the general public), and smaller Watches and Wonders iterations in Shanghai and Sanya, a city located on the island of Hainan, China.
Dubai Watch Week
Started in 2015, Dubai Watch Week is an annual trade show that’s free and open to the public. Not only can you see a plethora of new and exciting watches, but you can also take a masterclass in designing your timepiece, rub shoulders with other collectors, or capture time at an hourglass booth. Kids can even participate in mock auctions presented by Christie’s. More importantly, DWW offers you face-time with the leaders in the watch industry. “Our goal is to create an educational, experiential, and networking event like no other,” states Hind Abdul Hamied Seddiqi, founder and creative genius behind DWW. To date, the show has played host to more than 30 watch launches and over 50 brand exhibitors and plans to welcome watch gurus from all over the Middle East, and the world, this November.
WatchTime Magazine Publisher Sara Orlando and Anish Bhatt, founder of @WatchAnish, launched WatchTime New York in October 2015 at Gotham Hall in Midtown Manhattan. The two-day event successfully opened the door between enthusiasts and watchmakers like Roland G. Murphy of RGM Watch Co. and Ron Stoll, Carl F. Bucherer, NA president. For the first time, New Yorkers had direct access to the watch industry movers and shakers, as well as a front-row seat for limited U.S.-only watch releases.
Like most everyone else, WatchTime New York canceled its in-person event for 2020 but came roaring back in 2021. Following on the success of last year’s first in-person event since the pandemic, WatchTime New York expects to once again open its doors to collectors, enthusiasts, and watchmakers this October. WatchTime Los Angeles, the West Coast version of the popular show launched in 2019, will also return to Hudson Loft downtown this May after a two-year hiatus.
Regional events such as WT New York and WT Los Angeles also enjoy another advantage over the bigger, global events. Independent houses like Greubel Forsey, MB&F, and U.S.-based RGM Watch Co., enjoy more spotlight time and customer access. They can present their product to a targeted audience without worrying about being sidelined by luxury mammoths such as Rolex, Omega, and Breitling.
Purchasing a watch at any of these trade fairs constitutes a significant investment of your time and money, so we know you only want the best when it comes to repair and maintenance. Our Swiss-trained technicians stand ready to help with all your watch needs, whether it’s a Rolex repair or a Grand Seiko Battery replacement. For more information on all things watch repair, call us at (801) 991-1097 or start your watch repair order here.