The world’s first watch exhibition of 2020 takes place this week in Geneva. The event, Geneva Watch Days, is being held in the city and was organized by several brands that were unable to show earlier in the year due to COVID-19. The luxury watch industry, like most industries, has suffered during the pandemic, with most of the Swiss watch brands having to shutter their doors for several months – leading to a lag in production and a resulting reduced inventory. Still, the watch world is doing its best to revive during COVID-19, as are luxury watch retailers.
The Geneva Watch Days event is just one example of how the watch industry is striving to get back on its proverbial feet. The show, which was originally slated to take place in April, will run from August 26-29, “with the support of the city and state of Geneva.” It witnesses approximately 15 brands, including Bulgari, Breitling, MB&F, Ulysse Nardin and others, showing their newest timepieces to journalists, retailers and VIP customers. It will most likely be the only Swiss watch gathering of its type this year.
Unlike other watch exhibitions that had to be canceled earlier this year, including Watches & Wonders Geneva and Baselworld, Geneva Watch Days is not a centralized exhibition. Instead, exhibiting brands will be showing their watches in different locations around the city. Those venues include hotel suites, showrooms, retailer stores or boutiques, and even workshops. A central welcome desk for the exhibition will be open for visitors to discover where to find the exhibiting watch brands.
The expectation is that mostly Swiss, and perhaps some German or French visitors, will attend. Predominantly it will be those who can drive to their destination or take short transit flights or trains. Most Americans will not be able to attend due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the United States resulting in many quarantine and travel restrictions.
We expect to see some world record -setting watches being unveiled during the week, along with some other exciting pieces in the sports and classic realms, and some high complications and high-jeweled pieces. We will bring articles about those new introductions here this week.
In addition to this show, Watches & Wonders Geneva (the show previously referred to as Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH) recently announced that it will hold a watch exhibition in Shanghai this fall. As mentioned, the Geneva edition, which was slated to run in April this year (as opposed to the typical January dates), was canceled. That show usually plays home to about 35 brands. There have been smaller editions over the years in Asia and even in Miami. But for 2020 the only planned event is Watches and Wonders Shanghai. The show will take place from September 9-13 at the West Bund Art Center and participating brands include most of the Richemont Group names, including A. Lange & Söhne, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Panerai, Parmigiani Fleurier, Piaget, Purnell, Roger Dubuis, Vacheron Constantin.
Additionally, the watch world is starting to come around with certain brands showcasing their timepieces individually in different presentations around the world. Even in the United States, where COVID-19 is still a huge issue, several brands have begun to partner with retailers in order to have presentations. Many brands are working closely with retailers who are struggling to get back on their feet after shuttering doors, as well. In fact, a host of brands this year embraced on-line sales by retailers, and many executed their own on-line sales, but directed the sale to the local area retailer. Having these small shows in Geneva and Shanghai will be a boost, especially when it comes to raising awareness of the luxury watch industry again.
Earlier this year, as the shows were being canceled and as bad feelings about certain shows were running rampant, we very clearly stated that this is not the end of luxury watch shows. This is a touch-and-feel industry. The advent of Geneva Watch Days and the ensuring Watches & Wonders Shanghai confirm that.
Of course, with COVID-19 still punishing the world, Geneva Watch Days organizers say that all social-distance and mask-wearing measures will be implemented. According to Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari, “The decentralized format of this unique watch brands’ gathering will allow us to be safe. Also, we have put together strict hygiene rules for all participants and visitors. No risks will be taken.”
The founders of Geneva Watch Days include Breitling, Bulgari, DeBethune, Gerald Genta, Girard-Perregaux, H. Moser & Cie, MB&F, Ulysse Nardin, Artya and Urwerk, among others. Other brands exhibiting and associated with the show include Bovet 1822, Czapek, Ferdinand Berthoud, Louis Moinet, Maurice LaCroixand Reuge.