The first major international event of the watch calendar year, the SIHH, is a must-see show, since it is here that the major lines are drawn for the year to come, whether in terms of ambitions or the upcoming trends. In this sense, the SIHH is both a barometer of the current horological situation and an invaluable indicator of what will be happening over the year.
Around this flagship event is anchored a whole range of other assorted boats of every shape and size that want to take advantage of the timing. Suites and meeting rooms in the major hotels have already been commandeered for the occasion.
The race for the retailer begins, and the kick-off date is constantly being moved forward. While the SIHH opens its doors officially on Monday morning, the previous Saturday is when the limousines begin to line up at the starting gate. Solicited from all sides, the large buyers are invited on tours of the Geneva manufacturers, and are requested to come to the hotels, private exhibitions and various boutiques while they are in the city.
All of this activity, however, is not carried out only by the large well-known watch brands. Little by little, a backstage presence has gradually grown to become almost an institution, like the GTE, which is trying to increase its level of acceptance this year.
So, what can we already say about—and what can we expect from—the 2012 edition of the grand Geneva watch week?
Watchmaking, like the rest of the world, is in a strange situation. The storm of the preceding crisis—2008—has passed, business has nicely resumed, and the Chinese motor is turning at full capacity, absorbing all the available stocks. Yet, there is a feeling of uncertainty in the air. As we know, around the whole world, when things go well, businessmen are afraid that things will take a dive. When things go badly, they worry that things will get even worse. Today, things are statistically good, so they are worried. What if China stalls, if the Euro collapses, if the United States gets mixed up in all this?
To these economic-geo-strategic concerns can be added other disconcerting factors related directly to the watch industry itself. We have the impression that a sort of watchmaking Darwinism is accelerating its pace. The strong are getting stronger and the weak, instead of gaining self-confidence, are getting weaker. The groups are controlling distribution in an increasingly hegemonic manner, leaving only a few crumbs in terms of the windows available for the more modest brands.
The 2012 edition of the SIHH and the surrounding exhibitions and private shows will tell if this feeling is justified or not. In this respect, we will be watching closely what happens in the hallways of the GTE, where a number of ambitious newcomers will be presenting their wares. The success or lack of success of these different brands will help us better understand the current trends. Certainly, the sales figures of these companies will be nothing like those of the big dominant brands, but it is often by looking at the outskirts that you can better understand what is brewing in the centre.
Source: Europa Star December - January 2012 Magazine Issue