To my mind, this episode from the Odyssey bears a certain similarity to what goes on in Geneva during the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, and has done for many moons. Here, too, a crowd of suitors descend upon the city to sit at Ulysses’ table, more and more numerous each time. A dozen years ago, we could count them on the fingers of our hands. Not so today. The watch brands that gravitate around SIHH, intent on siphoning off attendees for their own benefit, are legion, with every available space in the city put to use. This can range from boats hired from the local navigation company to hotel suites to exhibition venues taken over by satellite events.
And so it is: just as suitors are drawn to the riches of Ulysses’ Ithaca like bees to honey, the presence of a world-class trade fair prompts watchmakers to pitch their tents on the doorstep and gatecrash the party. Why turn your nose up at a feast when the food is both delicious and plentiful, and so generously handed to you on a plate? Why not dig in, knowing there will be no Ulysses to spoil the fun and threaten the very existence of these parasites who are helping themselves? We can always tell ourselves it’s the price of success. A meagre consolation, perhaps, but success there is; that of a fair which, over its soon to be 29 editions, has established itself as a reference not only within the watch industry but for the world of luxury in general.
The fact remains that the presence of this rival offering, to remain courteous, is even less conceivable as watch brands have the ideas and the means not to play the part of these uninvited guests who fill their stomachs at another’s expense. By taking Geneva by storm, it’s their dignity that’s knocked to the ground. It is a notion much-loved by ancient civilisations, this dignitas, and one which tends not to resist the battering ram of profitability. This year, though, the likes of the Barton 7, the Swiss Independent Watchmaking Pavilion or the World Presentation of Haute Horlogerie, which alone assemble a good twenty brands, may well go hungry. With SIHH squeezed into four days, meaning a full schedule given the record number of exhibitors, completed by the LAB showcase of research and development in watchmaking, and not forgetting the forty-some keynotes and panel discussions in the Auditorium, it’s highly likely that all those rushing for a seat at Ulysses’ table will find nothing but crumbs!