To bring the leading names in watchmaking worldwide together for more than ten days in the most important online and offline watch event ever held, in current circumstances, was no small challenge but Watches and Wonders 2021 pulled it off. From Geneva to Shanghai, the Salon more than delivered as a global showcase for the watch industry. With close to 110,000 unique users on watchesandwonders.com, more than 12’000 visitors at the West Bund Art Center in Shanghai, an estimated reach of 500 million people to date and close to 360,000 posts featuring the hashtag #watchesandwonders2021 across social media, blogs and other online platforms, Watches and Wonders 2021 reached a record audience.
This success shows how strongly an event such as this can resonate around the world. It also confirms the vitality and agility of an industry able to provide effective responses to the demands of its times in innovative and creative ways.
A program to watch live or on replay
And there was certainly no shortage of creativity throughout these ten days, starting in Geneva where 38 exhibiting brands gathered, April 7-13, on the watchesandwonders.com platform for a program that left guests breathless. The stage was set from day one with dozens of watches making their debut. In all, close to 400 new releases were unveiled during the week, 500 press conferences, 300 presentations to retailers and some 600 one-to-one appointments were organized in over twenty languages. More than just a digital platform, watchesandwonders.com stands out as a prime destination, a place to share ideas and make new discoveries that brands embraced in fabulously inventive ways. Some set up a studio inside their Manufacture for live unveilings of their new products while others made downtown Geneva their base for the week. All equally fascinating, and each different in form and content, these online presentations often carried on in live chats and online forums. Talks and panels covered “hot topics” for the industry such as innovation, the customer experience and sustainability, one of the themes that generated the most interest. These live discussions were a springboard for partnerships on four occasions. For others, the conversation continued on social media and platforms such as Clubhouse.
The Morning Show, one of the big new features for 2021, went out live every day with analysis and commentary on the latest news. Respected guests – CEOs, journalists and watch experts – were invited onto the set, designed to reflect the atmosphere of the Salon, to give their insight on events in an innovative and dynamic format. Simultaneously broadcast in English and Chinese, the program reached new audiences and accrued almost 100,000 views on YouTube and Weibo on the first day.
Shanghai celebrates its reopening
Watches and Wonders continued, April 14-18, with an immensely successful event at the West Bund Art Center in Shanghai. Nineteen brands – almost twice as many as in 2020 – confirmed their reputation for creativity with presentations of their newest releases at the year’s first in-person salon. Exclusive launches for the Chinese market, art installations, workbench demonstrations, hands-on workshops to take apart and reassemble a mechanical movement, talks, panels and the LAB innovation space: China was first to enjoy this return to in-person events. For this second edition, Watches and Wonders Shanghai rolled out a fast-paced program of cultural and educational activities with full safety measures in place. Nor was this immersive gathering short on surprises, as visitors had the pleasure of meeting the celebrity guests invited by Chopard, Montblanc and Panerai, as well as following KOLs and other influencers around the Salon. Not forgetting a thousand drones that took to the skies above Shanghai for a magical night-time display.
Advances in sustainability
The success of Watches and Wonders 2021 can also be measured by the wealth of new product launches. One of the strongest trends to emerge is the move towards sustainable watchmaking, with cases made from recycled materials, plant-based straps, solar-powered movements and reinvented packaging. Color is another key direction for 2021, with green prominent among the many shades taking over dials, straps, even movements. Innovative materials confirm their appeal while sport-luxe models continue to gain ground, matching robustness and reliability with contemporary urban style. On the complications front, watchmakers are exploring the many possibilities of the tourbillon, with single-axis, double-axis and inclined triple-axis variations, as well as astronomical complications with a great diversity of perpetual calendars. Another trend to follow in 2021, the return of more reasonable case diameters suited to every wrist size puts the question of “men’s” or “women’s” classifications on everyone’s lips.
After more than ten days devoted to innovation and creativity, Watches and Wonders 2021 comes to a most encouraging conclusion. In an ultra-connected world, digital proved it is a powerful and effective tool for taking watchmaking excellence to enthusiasts all around the world. It creates new opportunities for the industry as a complement to an in-person fair. Rendezvous in 2022 for the next edition of Watches and Wonders in Geneva!