The overwhelming success of the Cartier exhibition, which traced the development of its magnificent watches, all beautiful gems of expertise, sets me thinking about the importance of comparing histories, styles and experiences. Ultimately, this is what exhibitions are for: to have us reflect on identities and differences, chronicle unique stories and suggest innovative directions for creativity and technique.
Of the 19 brands exhibiting in Geneva, eight were established in the nineteenth century, three in the early twentieth century. Some are over 150 years old and Vacheron Constantin can trace its origins to 1755. Let’s take liberties with logic and add these different experiences together rather than setting them side by side. If we count an average 140 years for what we often term the “heritage” brands, and multiply that by 12, we reach a total of almost 1,700 years. An extraordinary progression that takes in the applied arts, precision techniques, creations, inventions and expertise to metamorphose the measure of time into a veritable treasure.
Now let’s put all these histories side by side: how many bridges can we build between one world and another? How many connections can we make? How many histories can we bring up to date? Histories that take root in industrious valleys to spread to every city in the world. Histories coloured with hard work and passion, effort and commitment, tradition and innovation.
And on the subject of innovation, more inspiration can be found in the five brands which I would qualify as contemporary, and whose history is more recent. While their credentials may not boast a century of experience, they can claim a more questioning, often more fearless view of the world, and a youthfulness that lets in fresh, new air.
Finding new venues for exhibitions and cultural events doesn’t transform a trade fair into a museum. Rather, it sheds a modern light on history and tradition to show why brands can legitimately and authentically advocate the values that are theirs today. Fine Watchmaking is a blend of culture and science. We have the history, the products, the ideas, the talent, the knowledge and the expertise. To highlight them is to help build values that will last not just today but also, and more importantly, tomorrow.
My vision is for a fair whose premise is to be not just another commercial venture but also a cultural and therefore institutional event; a worthy representative of fine watchmaking over the past three centuries and the last eleven years. It would be a unique testimony, destined to go out into the world and elicit appreciation of what are masterpieces of applied art.
If money is being spent, better invest it in culture than in frills and festivities.