uropa Star: How did you come up with the idea of organising a watch fair in Mexico?.
Carlos Alonso: As a journalist, I started covering the watch industry from 1987, and each year I visited the major fairs, Baselworld and SIHH. We had great experiences during these events, along with retailers or brand ambassadors. But gradually, I started to realise that it was necessary to bring to the equation another key component of the watch world: the final clients. And make them participate in the “magic” surrounding watch brands during these kinds of events. Beyond our work as publishers, we always considered ourselves as a support in building the Mexican watch market.
- Publisher Carlos Alonso is the organiser of the acclaimed SIAR fair in Mexico
When did you launch the first edition of SIAR ?
As of 2002, we started to organise private events for some brands in Mexico. I remember for instance a memorable dinner with the CEO of Corum in Frida Kahlo’s house in Mexico City. Corum produced 12 dedicated pieces only for that night, featuring bullfighters or skulls and a lot of diamonds. All the pieces sold out. Then Emmanuel Breguet approached us to organise an event around the archives of the brand. Another success. The following year, we partnered with Parmigiani Fleurier in the same spirit. In 2007, we received similar requests from 14 different brands. All the while we were not an event or PR agency! The idea came to bring all these brands together for an event centered on the final client.
So 2007 was the turning point for you…
Yes. We were then doing a concept very similar to what Dubai Watch Week is about today: conferences, round tables and master classes. However, after a few years following this concept, we realised that we didn’t have a good enough balance between the transmission of knowledge, which was taking up a major part of the show, and the actual sales, which were expected by the brands. We increasingly moved the focus to sales. Also, we started to understand that the visitors were looking for special timepieces, not the ones you can find in every boutique. So we encouraged our partner brands to launch dedicated timepieces for the SIAR.
What’s the identity of the show today?
Our philosophy is to bring about a very high-level event for around 4,000 clients. In order to reach this number, you need to convince all the major watch retailers of the country to participate. The success of our fair is primarily built on the strong links that unite watch retailers with their clients. We also welcome more than 400 journalists each year. The social impact is great.
How would you describe the structure of the Mexican market and the profile of your visitors?
Socially and economically speaking, Mexico is a “pyramid” market, with a few very wealthy people on top. They have a strong education, with people under 30 years old attending leading American or European universities, associated with financial power and a strong taste for “impulse” shopping. Those are key ingredients for the success of an event like the SIAR. Many watch brands’ CEOs also tell me they are surprised by the real passion and knowledge of the watch enthusiast community in Mexico. Moreover, those clients are attached to their country and feel appreciated when brands recognise the strong cultural heritage of Mexico. This helps to explain the popularity of limited editions or unique timepieces, such as the L.U.C Perpetual T Spirit of La Santa Muerte by Chopard or the Only Mexico watch by Louis Moinet, which sold out immediately. Maybe more than any other nation, we understand that life is short… “Aqui ahora!” People enjoy life with passion, through real estate, cars, wines or watches.
- In 2018, Chopard introduced this unique piece for the SIAR, the L.U.C Perpetual T Spirit of ‘La Santa Muerte’. It sold in just six minutes.
What will be new at SIAR in 2020?
Even if the latest edition was very successful, we are thinking about adjustments in the future. We must consider the expectations of a new generation of watch buyers who are arriving on the market. The last 13 editions have been mostly sustained by collectors aged 35 to 60 years. We intend to start collaborations with universities around watch culture, organising events and meetings with the leading “artists” of the industry. And why not have young local designers work with watch brands!
As an organiser of watch fairs, why do you think such events are in so much trouble today?
The watch industry is a little bit “decadent”, because it has acted as a closed circle for too long: the same people talking and listening to the same people. I think that the watch industry needs to open dramatically to new players. There should be more excitement!
Take a look at tech fairs: when you are a journalist there, you visit such events and you pick up a lot of powerful headlines. In the watch industry, the “general speech” is very conventional and often not of great interest. That’s why the leading media outside of the industry don’t pay much attention. If Apple or Google joined Baselworld, you would see so much more general press about the watch industry. These companies know how to reach a global audience.
“Take a look at tech fairs: when you are a journalist there, you visit such events and you pick up a lot of powerful headlines. In the watch industry, the ‘general speech’ is very conventional and often not of great interest.”
In your opinion, are regional watch events like the SIAR competing with international fairs such as Watches & Wonders or Baselworld ?
Absolutely not. I would be happy if Baselworld became stronger year after year because we are not competitors. The challenge faced by a giant event like Baselworld can also be observed in the automobile or fashion industry today: before the “democratisation of information”, you were obliged to attend them to launch new products and be in contact with your community. However it led to a big problem – the price. It made sense to pay a lot when a brand achieved 80% of its annual sales during this event. Today it represents no more than half of annual sales for most brands. Our equation is different. We focus on one region with a high quality/ price ratio. We don’t need a lot of infrastructure and we don’t need to bring journalists from all around the world, we simply don’t have the budget to do so.
Beyond reducing their prices, what can global events do to prevent more brands from leaving?
These fairs should radically change their image and reinvent their formula. Simply inviting more independent watch brands is not enough. It should restart from scratch: expand the notion of watch community by including players from Silicon Valley, from the academic world, from the fashion world, and from the collecting scene. Only Watch or other forms of exclusive sales of special timepieces should take place during Baselworld! With this kind of event, you can bring the horological scene to the same level as contemporary art.