Do Fine Watchmaking fairs still have a purpose? It’s a question which has haunted watchmaking professionals since the brands and Maison’s, starting with Swatch Group, decided to skip the traditional events of the industry. It’s no surprise therefore that this 29th edition of Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, which began yesterday in Geneva, was highly anticipated. A Salon under pressure? Probably a little bit. This was a large reason for the organizing body to reinforce its transformation strategy this year, which they launched two years ago. “In the current environment, when certain brands are pulling out of fairs, we cannot elude an in-depth self-analysis” confessed Fabienne Lupo, the Director of SIHH, on our HH Journal back in December 2018. “This in no way casts doubt on the relevance, the raison d’être of these gatherings – on the condition, of course, that the format evolves. This is exactly what we are doing with SIHH which, from an invitation-only trade fair, is now becoming a platform to inform and promote the Finest Watchmaking”.
The first new part of this edition, the LAB invites visitors to discover the innovations which will impact the Fine Watchmaking industry in the coming years.
Behind-the-scenes of innovation
SIHH 2019 was presented as more intense, more connected, more dynamic than ever: does it deliver on these promises? The first new part of this edition, the LAB, is a central space within the Salon, in which visitors are invited to discover the innovations which will impact the Fine Watchmaking industry in the coming years. The LAB is designed as a true ideas’ laboratory, a research & development (R&D) incubator, it explores the question of innovation through more than 15 projects and their tangible applications. Among the various experiences not to be missed, Vacheron Constantin’s virtual reality platform allows visitors to discover their fascinating archives. Other projects include: the conception of new revolutionary materials, like Panerai’s Bulk Metallic Glass and the Ceratanium from IWC, or the presentation of “augmented craftsmanship” through a remote engraving experience, developed by researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Not to mention that during the Salon a dynamic squad of students who are specialized in new digital technologies will also guide guests through these innovations and take care of various workshops across the event’s social networks.
SIHH: Live coverage online
The Auditorium is another highly anticipated element of this year’s SIHH. Launched in 2018, it is now a cornerstone for debates, discussions and conferences, discussing the big questions which matter for the Fine Watchmaking industry. This year the space is bigger, and it now has all the capabilities of a true TV set and studio; allowing for live broadcast on social networks, with a richer program of speakers. The Auditorium will welcome the 35 exhibitors for various keynotes, all to be broadcast live to their communities.
The Auditorium is also a place for special debates and panels with famous personalities. Toby Bateman, the Managing Director of Mr Porter, and Terry von Bibra, General Manager Europe of Alibaba, participated in a session yesterday about e-commerce and luxury. This Tuesday, Chinese influencer Peter Xu (7.5M followers on Weibo) explains the digital influence landscape in China. Wednesday, Asher Rapkin, Global Head of Business Marketing, Messaging and Emerging Platforms at Facebook, will talk about social media and luxury. Other topics around complications or sustainability will receive coverage on Thursday.
The SIHH welcomes the general Public
All events, talks and panels will be streamed on the new and improved SIHH app. On top of this, all exhibiting brands’ social media plus all videos and key information about the fair are also curated on it. “Thanks to these new tools, the physical boundaries of SIHH disappear, making it more visible, more desirable” underlines Fabienne Lupo. “it is impossible to deny that SIHH is still an exclusive event, but it’s also vital that we open up to the public and to younger generations”.
Becoming more inclusive for the general public has been one of the key challenges for this edition of the Salon, by lifting the curtain on the industry’s technical innovations, ramping up digital tools, producing richer and more versatile content, and opening the doors to aficionados too. For the 3rd time in a row, the general public can visit the Salon – on Thursday from 3pm to 10pm (register online) – to discover every Fine Watchmaking novelty from the 35 exhibitors and their breathtaking booths, like IWC’s in which aviation’s enthusiasts can admire the alluring lines of a Spitfire. Technical wonders, novelties, debates and world perspective… this is the new recipe for SIHH. It is delightful and spicy, at such an important and crucial moment for the future of watchmaking fairs.