This year was the first time since its inauguration in 1991 that I have not attended the SIHH. It was the brainchild of Alain-Dominique Perrin, the then CEO of Cartier , and it was not met with the wave of enthusiasm that he had anticipated.
Perrin must feel vindicated now because ‘Wonder Week’, as Gregory Pons of Business Montres has christened it, has become what he envisaged: seven days when Geneva becomes a tourbillon of gyrating bodies searching out the horological marvels being exhibited at not only the SIHH and the Geneva Time Exhibition, but also in venues such as hotel rooms, boutiques and other atypical locations where watch designers and manufacturers, now far too many to mention, reveal their mechanical wares.
I’ve been sitting in the sun on my terrace in Menton wondering whether or not I did the right thing by not attending Wonder Week. Down here away from all the brouhaha, time takes on a different significance, people stroll rather than rush and appointments are organized in terms of morning, afternoon or end of the day rather than specific times that are to be found on watch dials. Watches simply don’t play a major role in this southern clime, since its either the heat of the sun, the rumbling of an empty stomach, apero time or the end of a movie on television that informs of the hour and dictates what happens next.
For me, what happened next was that I realized I was running out of tonic to go with my gin. This required me making the day’s major decision: do I take the afternoon bus into town (there are just two in the afternoon at two-hour intervals) or do I take shanks’s pony (Ye Olde Scottish terminology for legs)? Given that the first bus rattled past as I was trying to decide, shanks’s won the day and before you could wind a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Eight Days Perpetual I was walking through the marina admiring the toys of the über-rich awaiting their springtime scrub down.
Once in town I purchased a copy of The Times, and since the January sales were on I decided to see what was on offer. Suddenly I spied in the distance a shop window plastered with giant watches and a minus 50% sign. Having forgone Wonder Week and silently praising some omnipotent power for rewarding me with this unexpected opportunity, I ran into the shop breathless, more than prepared to spend my hard-earned pennies if I could get myself a Jaeger, Panerai or Longines with that sort of a discount. Before I could say minute repeater or chronograph, a very pretty young lady in high heels that gave me vertigo just looking at them, wearing a denim mini skirt, outrageous stockings that looked like she’d been in a bomb blast and almost wearing a biologically educational low-cut blouse, came up to me and asked if she could be of any help. By this time my bulging eyes had taken in the surroundings of the darkened interior and I stood transfixed as I slowly realized that I was completely surrounded by displays of ladies stockings, knickers, armless and headless dummies decorated with colourful g-strings and tiny brassieres. Watches were noticeable only by their absence – with the exception of those self-adhesive ones on the shop windows.
Since I’d been in the sun I think my blushes were almost imperceptible, but my nervous tick and stuttering led the young lady to believe that either I was having or about to have an epileptic fit. Taking me gently by the arm, she led me to a chair and offered me a glass of water. Like some senile idiot I said yes and had to sit there under the intense gaze of two other half-dressed shop assistants whilst she disappeared into a back room in search of some H2O.
A polystyrene cup of Evian later and the rejection of a call to the SAMU (Service d’Aide Médicale d’Urgence), I left the shop feeling about as stupid as a man in a swimming costume in the middle of the Sahara looking for a beach bar. I managed to catch the last bus home and in a desperate effort to forget the embarrassment of my afternoon, flopped down in a chair on the terrace and looked out over the colourful bay just as the sun began its slow ritual of sinking behind the surrounding mountains.
They say that the Lord works in mysterious ways. Was this to be my comeuppance for not attending Wonder Week? Not only had I left my copy of The Times in the shop, but also I’d completely forgotten to buy the tonic. Well, I suppose you’ve got to laugh haven’t you!
Source: Europa Star February - March 2011 Magazine Issue