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“Fine Watchmaking also means playing as a team”

“Fine Watchmaking also means playing as a team”

Thursday, 06 December 2018
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

“The desire to learn is the key to understanding.”

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7 min read

Fairs, training and a new headquarters for the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie in the centre of Geneva… chairwoman and managing director, Fabienne Lupo, talks about the FHH’s projects and its role in the watchmaking world.

The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie saw daylight in 2005 with three founding members. Today, it is a respected organisation, known to all simply as FHH. Fabienne Lupo, its chairwoman and managing director, shares her thoughts on initiatives such as FHH Academy and the new-format SIHH.

The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie now has 44 partner-brands. What would you say has changed, compared with the early days?

Fabienne Lupo, Chairwoman and Managing Director, FHH: I think the size and the scope of the foundation today give us the credibility and legitimacy we need to carry out our missions, which are first and foremost to promote and explain the culture of Fine Watchmaking around the world. Because our aim is to make these products even more desirable to new audiences, particularly younger people, by introducing them to the talents, the techniques and the innovations behind watchmaking, and because we work with the cream of the profession, we have a strong hand to play. It’s true that some Maisons still stand aside from our activities because they continue to perceive us as being too close to our founders. As you know, the FHH was set up by the Richemont group, Audemars Piguet and Girard-Perregaux, but there was never any question of restricting our activity to these brands alone. Far from it. Everything we say and do is for the benefit of the profession as a whole. The projects we develop are in the interest of all the Fine Watch Maisons. Of course, the fact that we’ve been joined by 44 of the 60-some Fine Watch brands gives our activity in the markets considerably more weight, and I would like to thank all our partners for their help and support. When the foundation was just beginning its work, possibly we kept on putting more and more ideas out there, which is only natural when you want to show you exist. Now, we’re focused on fewer projects, but they are more ambitious and all of them have international scope. They revolve around two complementary axes, culture and events, which feed off each other.

Everything we say and do is for the benefit of the profession as a whole.
Fabienne Lupo
What about training?

Training is one of the pillars of our “cultural activities” and has grown considerably in recent years to become our FHH Academy. Initially, we concentrated on face-to-face classes and certification programmes for professionals, mostly sales associates. This has led us to work with all the leading names in Fine Watchmaking, including some that aren’t (yet) our partners. I think we can see this as a form of recognition of what we’ve achieved and the quality of our programmes, as much in terms of content as teaching methods. But we want to go further. Our objective is to open up FHH Academy and make its programmes available to a much wider audience. With this in mind, we’ve signed partnerships with a number of schools, including the Haute Ecole d’Art et de Design in Geneva, the Ecole Cantonale d’Art in Lausanne, and the University of Hong Kong. In fact we plan to do more in the same vein, again with the objective of getting young people interested in watchmaking. More generally, we want to open up to a wider audience, hence I’m delighted that the FHH will soon be moving to the Pont de la Machine building in the centre of Geneva. These new premises will include areas for the public to come and see exhibitions, take part in workshops or listen to talks… all with the aim of introducing more people to the diversity and beauty of Fine Watchmaking. The Pont de la Machine will be the foundation’s flagship in Geneva, the home of watchmaking.

And will this desire to "open up" take other forms?

Absolutely. The expertise that we have developed in serving the profession will be put to use to further several of our initiatives aimed at end customers. We’re in the middle of redesigning our digital ecosystem, to bring all our tools onto a single platform and make them more visible, more open and more accessible. Naturally, this will include FHH Journal, our online magazine, but not only. For a number of years now, for example, our experts have compiled an annual review of the watches presented at the fairs, with a technical and analytical interpretation. We are the only ones to do this, initially for professional users only. Building on this, our next step will be to produce a full-fledged “trends book” for watches; one that presents findings in the light of the aesthetic and socio-cultural movements that shape our consumption habits. It’ll be a sort of “shopping guide” to enlighten and accompany the end customer in their search for a watch. We presented a first version this year already, and we’ll continue in this direction as part of our ambition to position the FHH as an authority on the finest watchmaking. An authority that must reach out to as many people as possible.

The expertise we've developed in serving the profession will be used to further our initiatives aimed at end customers.
Fabienne Lupo
We can't not mention fairs, given that the FHH is the organiser of Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), whose 29th edition is scheduled January 14 to 17, 2019.

In the current context, when certain brands are deserting fairs, we cannot dispense with an in-depth analysis. This in no way casts doubt on the relevance, the raison d’être of these gatherings – on condition, of course, that the format evolves to fit. This is exactly what we are doing with SIHH which, from an invitation-only trade fair, is becoming a platform to inform about and promote the finest watchmaking. And this is where our two axes of culture and events come together. It’s about creating a “cultural event” that will nurture the watch community and help it grow. Because the members of this community will always need a place to meet, to share views, and fill up on information, opinions, content, not just products. This is the option we’ve taken in using the different channels, whether social media, online media, television or our own SIHH Live – a studio that broadcasts live, online, the full programme of talks and brand keynotes.

From an invitation-only trade fair, SIHH is becoming a platform to inform about and promote the finest watchmaking.
Fabienne Lupo

Thanks to these new tools, the physical boundaries of SIHH disappear, making it more visible, more desirable. This takes us back to what I was saying earlier. SIHH is an exclusive event, and there is no question of going back on that, but it’s also vital that we open up to the public and to young people. In a word, that we look to the future. Speaking of which, one of the new features at SIHH 2019 will be SIHH Lab, a showcasing of innovation, new technologies and R&D in watchmaking. Visitors will be able to meet the start-ups that will help fashion tomorrow’s watch industry. This is another illustration of what the SIHH will become: a foremost event that is open to all and doesn’t stand still. We want it to be a place where professionals, customers, influencers, journalists, retailers and others can meet and bring ideas out into the open. In a word, the annual momentum for the finest watchmaking. And in this respect, if there is one thing of which I am absolutely sure, it’s that we are always stronger together. Some brands think they can go it alone. In my humble opinion, they have more to lose than to gain by not playing as a team!

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