With more participating watch brands (35), more visitors than ever (20,000) and new digital initiatives, the salon international de la haute horlogerie (SIHH) annual watch fair is moving towards achieving that tricky equilibrium between exclusivity and holding its own in a noisy digital-dominated world. Here, our report from Geneva, featuring the fair’s best booths, celebrity spottings, watch-chief quotes and of course, watches and horological innovations.
Frankly, we think there’s still much room for improvement when harnessing virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality as part of a brand experience. For VR, the headsets are clunky and, as much as we try to suspend our disbelief, we’ve never truly felt like we were, say, floating around in outer space. That said, we still applaud the efforts of brands leading the charge, such as Montblanc with its immersive mountain exploration experience, and Jaeger-LeCoultre’s augmented reality app that lets you virtually try on watches on your wrist.
02: SOCIAL MEDIA PHOTO BOOTHS
These days, it’s almost impossible to attend an event without a photo booth– and a unique hashtag meant to accompany the photo on social media. At Piaget, we were immortalised in a GIF image that had us looking like we were clawing our way out of a pool. Montblanc’s photo booth let visitors look like they had been caught on camera while climbing a mountain.
03: ITS OWN APP
Launched last year, the SIHH app was significantly improved this year, offering maps, transport timetables and reminders before brands’ media presentations. Most significantly, it also served as a platform for SIHH Live – broadcasting live footage from a newly set up auditorium, featuring talks and interviews with industry heavyweights.
GEOFFROY LEFEBVRE, JAEGER-LECOULTRE DEPUTY CEO
“Today every brand is about storytelling. People want to hear stories, but they want to hear real stories, not made-up ones. Our stories all have the
same point of convergence, the maker’s spirit. We won’t tell stories for millennials, stories for women, stories for whatever.”
WILHELM SCHMID, A. LANGE & SOHNE CEO
“Young people don’t want us to be different; they just want to understand us. I haven’t met any young person who has told me, ‘I don’t need quality, I want my products to lose their value quickly, and please, it mustn’t look good.’”
PATRICK PRUNIAUX, ULYSSE NARDIN CEO AND FORMER APPLE EXECUTIVE
“You think I would have accepted a job in the luxury watch industry if I thought the Apple Watch was a mechanical watch killer? I think the Apple Watch is a big success… but I’m absolutely convinced there’s even more room for mechanical watches now.”
FRANCOIS HENRY BENNAHMIAS, AUDEMARS PIGUET CEO
“We are seeing consolidation in every aspect of retail, whether it’s watches, food or products from other industries. In the US, Amazon buying Whole Foods was a huge thing – so now, you don’t just buy your computer stuff, but also your carrots, from Amazon, and there’s one less player in between.”
Innovations From Indie Brands
Stars Spotted At SIHH