On the first day of the SIHH I managed to find a vacant table just prior to the lunchtime scrum and settled down with a newspaper to read about the really important events of the weekend: Arsenal won 2:0 at Manchester City and Chelsea beat Swansea 5:0.
I then ordered lunch from one of the myriad of attentive and amiable staff and carried on reading to discover on a page tucked away in the business section, that everyone and their mother seemed to be in a total panic because the Swiss National Bank was no longer pegging the exchange rate of the Swiss franc against the euro.
The result as you all know was that the official currency of the Eurozone went into free fall.
The following day, having by then attended several press conferences and discovered some intriguing timepieces, I managed with great difficulty to find a seat at a table for lunch next to a journalist I knew from the U.K. whose main claim to fame amongst the horological literati is to pick other people’s brains as to what is good, bad or indifferent amongst the latest watch collections.
We passed the time of day with the standard meteorological discussion about the weather, debating the pros and cons of Switzerland’s snow versus England’s rain whilst he studied the lunch menu.
Then he asked the inevitable question: what’s interesting this year? I immediately informed him that I’d had the Oriental soup and the smoked salmon yesterday, and today I thought that I’d try the beef with the fruit salad as a dessert.
With that he got up muttering something about an appointment he’d forgotten and drifted off in search of someone more forthcoming with tips of what to see and what to write about.
By late Wednesday, I’d discovered for myself the timepieces that I would immediately place an order for if I win the lottery - if not for myself, then for the ladies in my life. For the ladies I would plead with Richard Mille to give me a major discount on his unbelievably expensive, but particularly beautiful Tourbillon Fleur with its opening and closing floral tourbillon; then I would go for either of the three Montres Charms Extraordinaire - Espérance, Désir and Amour by Van Cleef & Arpels with their uniquely colourful painted enamel on sculpted mother-of-pearl dials.
And for myself? I’d happily wear Vacheron Constantin’s handsome cushion-shaped Harmony Chronograph Ultra-thin Grande Complication in either platinum or rose gold, or the Piaget Altiplano Chronograph in 18 carat rose gold - the world’s thinnest hand-wound flyback chronograph. If I had any money left after these purchases and I could get my hands on the Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater with its jumping numerals display, I’d go home a happy bunny.
As was expected, the foremost topic at this year’s SIHH, apart from watches, was the Swiss franc. The participating brands and the Swatch group, as if in one voice, pronounced prices would have to increase - the logic of which is beyond my economic comprehension given that prices are usually quoted in Swiss francs.
Anything priced in euros or any other currency for that matter would, needless to say, have to be adapted. But why increase the Swiss franc price? Why not take a little less profit and lower the Swiss franc price when exporting?
Understandably, the smaller independent brands made it known that they were fearful that sales would drop dramatically and revenue that is used to continue production would become even more difficult to come by.
We’ve had similar crises before and the Swiss watch industry is still going strong - as is the Swiss franc!
Which inevitably reminds me of a biblically-themed story about the time when God was creating planet Earth. He was still developing Europe and had already completed the initial phase of Switzerland’s creation.
So He summoned the three wisest Swiss men to his side and told them he would give each of them a wish.
The first of the men said, “I would love to have mountains, big eye-catching ones.” So God created the Matterhorn, the Eiger and the Jungfrau and a whole host of other magnificent mountains the like of which had not been seen before. He then asked the second of the wise men what he would like.
“I would like vast green fertile meadows with many cows because I have a feeling that their milk is good for you.” And God created lush green meadows with an abundance of dairy cattle.
“Do you mind if I taste the milk from one of the cows,” the second wise man, asked God, “just to be sure?”
“Of course not, please go ahead,” God said as he produced a glass for him. The man tasted the milk and smiled. “Is it good?” asked God.
“It’s delicious, why don’t you try some?” he said as he passed the glass back to God.
“Mmm, you’re quite right, it’s excellent,” God said with an approving nod. God then turned to the third of the Swiss wise men and said, “The final wish is yours. What would you like?”
The man looked at God and slowly held his hand out.
“Five francs for the glass of milk!”
Well, you’ve got to laugh haven’t you.
Source: Europa Star February-March 2015 Magazine Issue