#Resilience


The watch show that should inspire the future Geneva show

RETROSPECTIVE

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April 2020


The watch show that should inspire the future Geneva show

The project of a new world watch show in Geneva next April has been launched. Behind-the-scenes discussions are taking place to decide on its structure. Initiatives will also surely flourish for those brands that will not be part of the official event. In the meantime, let’s take a look back at some images, taken from our archives, from what was the last event to bring together the whole of the watchmaking world in Geneva: the Salon Montres et Bijoux!

I

t is at times of major crisis that some of the watch industry’s most daring initiatives have come to fruition. No wonder: industrial solidarity is never stronger than when faced with a common existential enemy. The Basel Fair (the “Muba”), for example, was born in 1917, during the First World War, to support a threatened Swiss industry.

Ironically, while the Basel Fair was born out of the general context of a war and a pandemic (the Spanish flu of 1918 – read our article on this subject here), another pandemic, the coronavirus of 2020, has accelerated its downfall. The world’s leading watchmakers have decided to join forces in Geneva, to the detriment of the Basel exhibition.

Ironically, while the Basel Fair was born out of the general context of a war and a pandemic (the Spanish flu of 1918), it is another pandemic, the coronavirus of 2020, that has accelerated its downfall.

This reminds us of the birth of another watch event during a major crisis, this time in Geneva. In 1942, at the height of the Second World War, the “Montres et Bijoux” exhibition opened. Its first edition coincided with the 2000th anniversary of the city through which Julius Caesar passed in 58 BC.

The Geneva fair brought together the best of watchmaking, from the 1940s to the 1990s.
The Geneva fair brought together the best of watchmaking, from the 1940s to the 1990s.
©Europa Star, 1995

The event, which focused on the jewellery watch, was created to support an activity already threatened by world events, “in order to maintain and strengthen the prestige that is attached everywhere to watchmaking products originating from our country”, as the page of the Geneva Art and History Museum dedicated to this event recalls. Initially open only to Geneva watchmakers, the event was extended in the 1950s to include brands from other cantons, and then from other countries.

In 1942, the celebration of Geneva's bimillennium took place. The salon Montres et Bijoux was created on that occasion, to celebrate a quintessential Geneva tradition.
In 1942, the celebration of Geneva’s bimillennium took place. The salon Montres et Bijoux was created on that occasion, to celebrate a quintessential Geneva tradition.
©M-F. Guillermin

The exhibition became increasingly successful and international. Its venue alternated between Geneva (the Rath Museum or the Museum of Art and History), other locations in Switzerland (Lausanne for the 1964 national exhibition, and Zurich), and all over the world (Paris, Berlin, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore).

The event became an international ambassador for “the best of Swiss watchmaking”: Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-Le-Coultre, Longines, Omega, Eterna, Corum, Universal Genève and Girard-Perregaux were its main exhibitors, year after year.

The watch fair now being planned for Geneva is reminiscent of the Montres et Bijoux exhibition, which was not so much a trade fair as a prestigious showcase. It presented “the art of watchmaking”.

The newly minted Zenith El Primero, on display at the Geneva exhibition. The LVMH group, which currently owns the brand, has announced its intention to be involved with the new event next year.
The newly minted Zenith El Primero, on display at the Geneva exhibition. The LVMH group, which currently owns the brand, has announced its intention to be involved with the new event next year.
©Europa Star, 1972

As the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry continues its inexorable rise towards the heights of luxury, art, culture and craftsmanship, the watch fair currently being established in Geneva is reminiscent of the Montres et Bijoux exhibition, which was not so much a trade fair as a prestigious showcase “under the patronage of the arts”. It presented “the art of watchmaking”, the pinnacle of an age-old tradition.

In the 1960s Jean-Pierre Gay, president of the Association Montres et Bijoux, explained the reason for the event to Europa Star: “In all modesty, we Swiss consider that we are now close enough to perfection that we no longer have to worry only about what goes on under the dial of a watch.” The idea was already to promote the watch as an object of emotion, exclusivity, fashion, luxury and craftsmanship, not merely the product of sheer cold technique.

Hand in hand: skeleton watch by Girard-Perregaux and the Harmony watch by Vacheron Constantin. Two pillars of the former salon that will be back next year in Geneva.
Hand in hand: skeleton watch by Girard-Perregaux and the Harmony watch by Vacheron Constantin. Two pillars of the former salon that will be back next year in Geneva.
©Europa Star, 1982

The event was not reserved for Swiss watchmakers alone. Brands from Germany, France, Italy and other countries joined the show as early as 1960, as we document in our archives. Gradually, the event, although Swiss at its core, became global, both through its exhibitors and through its peripatetic format.

A selection of watches by German brand Stowa presented at Montres et Bijoux. The Geneva event was open to foreign watchmakers. What will the policy of next year's event be in regard to players from outside Switzerland?
A selection of watches by German brand Stowa presented at Montres et Bijoux. The Geneva event was open to foreign watchmakers. What will the policy of next year’s event be in regard to players from outside Switzerland?
©Europa Star, 1960

The exhibition was strongly supported by the Geneva authorities, as is the new watch fair currently being created. In 1959, the authorities also created a “Prix de la Ville de Genève de la Montre et de la Joaillerie”, the forerunner of the current “Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève” (GPHG), alongside the exhibition. If the GPHG were to move closer to the future watch show to be held in Geneva, this initiative would be based on a historical precedent.

In 1959, the Geneva authorities created a “Prix de la Ville de Genève de la Montre et de la Joaillerie”, the forerunner of the current GPHG. If the GPHG were to move closer to the future watch show to be held in Geneva, this initiative would be based on a historical precedent.

The award of the City of Geneva Prize in 1963, the ancestor of the current GPHG. Will there be a prize-giving ceremony once again during the future major Geneva exhibition, if these different institutions are brought together?
The award of the City of Geneva Prize in 1963, the ancestor of the current GPHG. Will there be a prize-giving ceremony once again during the future major Geneva exhibition, if these different institutions are brought together?
©Europa Star, 1963

In 1964, we wrote: “Montres et Bijoux is a summit conference held annually by the watch world, and it is with Geneva, a city rich in watchmaking traditions, that this exhibition is indissolubly linked.”

Could we find a better definition for the event to be held next year in Geneva?

“A summit conference held annually by the watch world, and it is with Geneva, a city rich in watchmaking traditions, that this exhibition is indissolubly linked.”

Read on for a pictorial trip back in time, through our archives, to the golden age of the Montres et Bijoux fair, which even today can provide some key pointers for the future show, and could help a watch industry that needs to unite in challenging times.

An advertisement for the 1967 edition, on the theme of ballet, in Europa Star. The Sixties, a dynamic decade that broke down all barriers!
An advertisement for the 1967 edition, on the theme of ballet, in Europa Star. The Sixties, a dynamic decade that broke down all barriers!
©Europa Star, 1967
A poster of the 1971 exhibition.
A poster of the 1971 exhibition.
©Europa Star, 1972
A selection of jewellery watches presented by Rolex at the Geneva exhibition in 1961. It is on the initiative of the watchmaking giant that a new Geneva exhibition will be held 60 years later, in April 2021.
A selection of jewellery watches presented by Rolex at the Geneva exhibition in 1961. It is on the initiative of the watchmaking giant that a new Geneva exhibition will be held 60 years later, in April 2021.
©Europa Star, 1961
A Patek Philippe selection from 1961. The prestigious Geneva watchmaker has proven resilient to all crises, and will be one of the pillars of the 2021 event.
A Patek Philippe selection from 1961. The prestigious Geneva watchmaker has proven resilient to all crises, and will be one of the pillars of the 2021 event.
©Europa Star, 1961
Jewellery models presented by Audemars Piguet at Montres et Bijoux. The Le Brassus brand left the SIHH as a result of its policy of regaining control of its distribution over the last several years. Will the creation of a new Geneva event bring it back?
Jewellery models presented by Audemars Piguet at Montres et Bijoux. The Le Brassus brand left the SIHH as a result of its policy of regaining control of its distribution over the last several years. Will the creation of a new Geneva event bring it back?
©Europa Star, 1967
Vacheron Constantin, a symbol of Geneva watchmaking and a cornerstone of Montres et Bijoux. The world's oldest watchmaker has a particular legitimacy in the canton of Geneva and beyond. Its creations will be one of the highlights of the future show.
Vacheron Constantin, a symbol of Geneva watchmaking and a cornerstone of Montres et Bijoux. The world’s oldest watchmaker has a particular legitimacy in the canton of Geneva and beyond. Its creations will be one of the highlights of the future show.
©Europa Star, 1963
Chopard, the great specialist in jewellery watches, presents its Solitaire model with moving diamonds. The independent Geneva-based brand has joined forces with Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chanel and the FHH to launch next year's new event.
Chopard, the great specialist in jewellery watches, presents its Solitaire model with moving diamonds. The independent Geneva-based brand has joined forces with Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chanel and the FHH to launch next year’s new event.
©Europa Star, 1989
A selection of Piaget timepieces from the Geneva exhibition. The brand is another jewellery watch specialist, and will be among the Watches & Wonders exhibitors next year.
A selection of Piaget timepieces from the Geneva exhibition. The brand is another jewellery watch specialist, and will be among the Watches & Wonders exhibitors next year.
©Europa Star, 1961
Universal Genève, the finest of the “sleeping beauties of watchmaking”, was one of the pillars of the Geneva event.
Universal Genève, the finest of the “sleeping beauties of watchmaking”, was one of the pillars of the Geneva event.
©Europa Star, 1963
A bold timepiece from Longines, one of the Swiss brands with the richest heritage, presented at the Geneva exhibition in 1977. The Swatch Group launched its own Time to Move exhibition for its luxury brands after departing from Baselworld, while the other watchmakers in its portfolio held regional events. What will be its strategy for 2021, with respect to the birth of a major watchmaking event in Geneva?
A bold timepiece from Longines, one of the Swiss brands with the richest heritage, presented at the Geneva exhibition in 1977. The Swatch Group launched its own Time to Move exhibition for its luxury brands after departing from Baselworld, while the other watchmakers in its portfolio held regional events. What will be its strategy for 2021, with respect to the birth of a major watchmaking event in Geneva?
©Europa Star, 1977
A range of Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces introduced during the Montres et Bijoux show.
A range of Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces introduced during the Montres et Bijoux show.
©Europa Star, 1963
Gübelin is not only a famous retailer, but also a historical manufacturer of watches and jewellery – just like its great Lucerne rival Bucherer (whose watch brand Carl F. Bucherer is likely to be present in Geneva next year).
Gübelin is not only a famous retailer, but also a historical manufacturer of watches and jewellery – just like its great Lucerne rival Bucherer (whose watch brand Carl F. Bucherer is likely to be present in Geneva next year).
©Europa Star, 1963
Favre-Leuba, a former giant of Swiss watchmaking, is now attempting a comeback thanks to investments by the Indian group Titan.
Favre-Leuba, a former giant of Swiss watchmaking, is now attempting a comeback thanks to investments by the Indian group Titan.
©Europa Star, 1963
A selection of novelties from the 1963 Geneva exhibition, including a model by the Zodiac brand, now owned by the American watchmaking giant Fossil, which is hoping to relaunch it.
A selection of novelties from the 1963 Geneva exhibition, including a model by the Zodiac brand, now owned by the American watchmaking giant Fossil, which is hoping to relaunch it.
©Europa Star, 1963
The American brand Bulova also exhibited at the show. It is now part of the Japanese group Citizen, which also owns Geneva watchmaker Frédérique Constant.
The American brand Bulova also exhibited at the show. It is now part of the Japanese group Citizen, which also owns Geneva watchmaker Frédérique Constant.
©Europa Star, 1967
While Certina is best known today for its affordable sports watches, the Swatch Group brand has also produced jewellery watches throughout its history, as evidenced by this model presented at Montres et Bijoux in 1967.
While Certina is best known today for its affordable sports watches, the Swatch Group brand has also produced jewellery watches throughout its history, as evidenced by this model presented at Montres et Bijoux in 1967.
©Europa Star, 1967
The coveted Prix de la Ville de Genève, the ancestor of today's GPHG. In 1969, Jean-Pierre Hellé of Omega was awarded a mention in the watchmaking category for this white gold watch.
The coveted Prix de la Ville de Genève, the ancestor of today’s GPHG. In 1969, Jean-Pierre Hellé of Omega was awarded a mention in the watchmaking category for this white gold watch.
©Europa Star, 1969
Bulova's legendary Accutron electronic watch, in a case that is surprising to say the least, presented at the Geneva exhibition.
Bulova’s legendary Accutron electronic watch, in a case that is surprising to say the least, presented at the Geneva exhibition.
©Europa Star, 1970
Unusual shapes were popular in the 1970s, as illustrated by these models presented by Hamilton, IWC and Enicar at the Geneva salon.
Unusual shapes were popular in the 1970s, as illustrated by these models presented by Hamilton, IWC and Enicar at the Geneva salon.
©Europa Star, 1970
Enicar, another “sleeping beauty” today, was a leading watchmaker in the 1960s. A recently published book written by Dutch author Martijn van der Ven tells the story of the brand with the help of the Europa Star archives.
Enicar, another “sleeping beauty” today, was a leading watchmaker in the 1960s. A recently published book written by Dutch author Martijn van der Ven tells the story of the brand with the help of the Europa Star archives.
©Europa Star, 1968
In 1965 the Geneva exhibition welcomed some Italian companies, all of them jewellers. At that time, Panerai was still a brand reserved for the military.
In 1965 the Geneva exhibition welcomed some Italian companies, all of them jewellers. At that time, Panerai was still a brand reserved for the military.
©Europa Star, 1965
In the 1970s, quartz timepieces arrived at the Montres et Bijoux fair. This model by Girard-Perregaux looks admittedly very discreet on the page alongside the jewellery watch introduced by Rolex.
In the 1970s, quartz timepieces arrived at the Montres et Bijoux fair. This model by Girard-Perregaux looks admittedly very discreet on the page alongside the jewellery watch introduced by Rolex.
©Europa Star, 1977
The famous “Eterna-Matic” model. Eterna now belongs to the Chinese group Citychamp, as does Corum, another regular exhibitor at the former Geneva exhibition.
The famous “Eterna-Matic” model. Eterna now belongs to the Chinese group Citychamp, as does Corum, another regular exhibitor at the former Geneva exhibition.
©Europa Star, 1977
Movado, whose famous Museum model can be seen here, also participated in the Geneva show. The Movado group has held its own show in Davos in recent years, after leaving Baselworld. Will it move closer to Geneva next year?
Movado, whose famous Museum model can be seen here, also participated in the Geneva show. The Movado group has held its own show in Davos in recent years, after leaving Baselworld. Will it move closer to Geneva next year?
©Europa Star, 1977
Women's quartz model introduced by Omega at Montres et Bijoux.
Women’s quartz model introduced by Omega at Montres et Bijoux.
©Europa Star, 1978
Futuristic ladies' model created by Rado.
Futuristic ladies’ model created by Rado.
©Europa Star, 1972
Secret watch presented by Mido. The Swatch Group brand's heritage is more extensive than one might think.
Secret watch presented by Mido. The Swatch Group brand’s heritage is more extensive than one might think.
©Europa Star, 1972
The look of the Seventies at the show. Watch events also reflect the spirit of their time. What will emerge as the look of the 2020s?
The look of the Seventies at the show. Watch events also reflect the spirit of their time. What will emerge as the look of the 2020s?
©Europa Star, 1979
Ebel was an essential brand of the sport-chic style in the 1980s, in particular thanks to its privileged relationship with the world of tennis.
Ebel was an essential brand of the sport-chic style in the 1980s, in particular thanks to its privileged relationship with the world of tennis.
©Europa Star, 1982
Surprising retro-futuristic models presented by Baume & Mercier at the Montres et Bijoux show. Operating in a very competitive price segment, the Richemont brand can nevertheless draw on a solid watchmaking heritage.
Surprising retro-futuristic models presented by Baume & Mercier at the Montres et Bijoux show. Operating in a very competitive price segment, the Richemont brand can nevertheless draw on a solid watchmaking heritage.
©Europa Star, 1982
The famous Admiral's Cup watch from Corum, a very creative brand during the 1980s.
The famous Admiral’s Cup watch from Corum, a very creative brand during the 1980s.
©Europa Star, 1983
A newcomer in 1984: Blancpain, recently acquired by Jean-Claude Biver. The revival of mechanical watchmaking had begun!
A newcomer in 1984: Blancpain, recently acquired by Jean-Claude Biver. The revival of mechanical watchmaking had begun!
©Europa Star, 1984
Breguet was one of the exhibitors at the 1984 show.
Breguet was one of the exhibitors at the 1984 show.
©Europa Star, 1984
The famous “Panthère” by Cartier at the salon Montres et Bijoux. Today, it is Richemont's flagship brand, and the most important exhibitor at Watches & Wonders.
The famous “Panthère” by Cartier at the salon Montres et Bijoux. Today, it is Richemont’s flagship brand, and the most important exhibitor at Watches & Wonders.
©Europa Star, 1984
“These models that Caused a Stir at ‘Montres et Bijoux de Genève'”. In 1984, the legendary watch designer Gérald Genta created a scandal at the Geneva show with his timepieces featuring motifs taken from pop culture, such as Mickey Mouse, Popeye and the Pink Panther. The beginning of a new, less conservative era was dawning for watchmaking. It's worth reading the article in its entirety to understand the tensions of the era!
“These models that Caused a Stir at ‘Montres et Bijoux de Genève’”. In 1984, the legendary watch designer Gérald Genta created a scandal at the Geneva show with his timepieces featuring motifs taken from pop culture, such as Mickey Mouse, Popeye and the Pink Panther. The beginning of a new, less conservative era was dawning for watchmaking. It’s worth reading the article in its entirety to understand the tensions of the era!
©Europa Star, 1984
Breguet, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin: the “great classics” at the show. Will we see them together again in the future?
Breguet, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin: the “great classics” at the show. Will we see them together again in the future?
©Europa Star, 1987
The 1993 edition of the Montres et Bijoux exhibition was held in Paris. An originality of the event lay in its itinerant format – a precursor of the Watches & Wonders editions held in recent years in Miami and Hong Kong, or the world tour of selected watches at the GPHG.
The 1993 edition of the Montres et Bijoux exhibition was held in Paris. An originality of the event lay in its itinerant format – a precursor of the Watches & Wonders editions held in recent years in Miami and Hong Kong, or the world tour of selected watches at the GPHG.
©Europa Star, 1993
After a tour of Asia, it was in Latin America that the Geneva show exhibited in 1971. Here is a view of Rio de Janeiro.
After a tour of Asia, it was in Latin America that the Geneva show exhibited in 1971. Here is a view of Rio de Janeiro.
©Europa Star, 1971
The Geneva exhibition was held in Japan in 1985 – a bold move at the height of the Japanese watchmaking boom.
The Geneva exhibition was held in Japan in 1985 – a bold move at the height of the Japanese watchmaking boom.
©Europa Star, 1985
The 40th anniversary of the show celebrated in 1982 in the pages of Europa Star.
The 40th anniversary of the show celebrated in 1982 in the pages of Europa Star.
©Europa Star, 1982
This Vacheron Constantin watch remains anchored in the minds of all those who visited the 1995 edition of the Geneva show!
This Vacheron Constantin watch remains anchored in the minds of all those who visited the 1995 edition of the Geneva show!
©Europa Star, 1995
The 1997 edition, held in Berlin, was the last one covered by our magazine. In the 2000s and 2010s, both the SIHH and Baselworld grew in importance. The decade of the 2020s will be that of the rebirth of an event reminiscent of the former Geneva exhibition, with some of the main brands reunited once again.
The 1997 edition, held in Berlin, was the last one covered by our magazine. In the 2000s and 2010s, both the SIHH and Baselworld grew in importance. The decade of the 2020s will be that of the rebirth of an event reminiscent of the former Geneva exhibition, with some of the main brands reunited once again.
©Europa Star, 1997
The Basel exhibition will nevertheless be fondly remembered, even as disaffection with it leads to the creation of a new event in Geneva. One ritual is dying out, another is being born.
The Basel exhibition will nevertheless be fondly remembered, even as disaffection with it leads to the creation of a new event in Geneva. One ritual is dying out, another is being born.
©Europa Star, 1982
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