“The events that unfolded in Paris in recent days could suggest that a sombre future lies ahead. The theme of this Forum de la Haute Horlogerie, “Future in Progress”, should leave no doubt as to our position: fear must never take the place of hope. Hope that the declarations, thoughts and perspectives that take shape within this Forum can help us forge a better future. Year after year we have considered the important aspects of our particular world, that of Fine Watchmaking, and of the world in general. Nostradamus having gone out of style, the time has come to widen our view and try to understand which levers are set in motion to determine our foreseeable future.
Time cannot exist without present and past, hence why we must place time within the context of memory. Information technology and the internet process and synthesise billions of data in the blink of an eye, yet just as we remember we must also look ahead. Because human memory doesn’t merely stockpile facts. It is a vast repository of thoughts, sensations and emotions which can rise to the surface with the explosive force of a volcano or a geyser.
The future is stirring: like memory, the contexts for revolution are never still. Fronts of every kind are springing up in ever greater number. As for the contexts which Fine Watchmaking must face in a system that is increasingly vulnerable to change – changes to the climate, the market, pressure groups, trends – we must swap our watchmaker’s loupe for the explorer’s binoculars, even a pair of augmented reality glasses, and have the courage to see reality for what it is. Accepting the present is the only way to effectively understand the future.
We are witness to profound inequalities which inevitably lead to social unrest. We are witness to a diminishing and in certain cases weakening of the middle class. We are witness to a rise in unemployment that will have unavoidable social, political, even religious consequences, and further erode the system. At a time when the “man versus machine” confrontation appears to be shifting from operational to strategic level, we must consider man-as-client as a constantly changing individual.
Who is this individual? Where is he? What is his context? How does he embrace change? What stories does he want to hear? Does luxury as we perceive it today still have meaning? Should we be speaking not of luxury but excellence? Luxury divides, excellence unites.
For those whose business it is to “craft time”, truth coincides with authenticity, originality, creativity and savoir-faire. These are the four sides of a geometric figure; a fluid figure that is difficult to draw and possibly hard to define. Yet within its perimeter we will always, in all circumstances, find these values which, in this “future in progress”, may take a hybrid form but must never be lacking.
Today we will hear authentic stories which open up various scenarios for the future. We must each project our own values onto these insights by giving personal, multiple, original responses to a shared obligation: to carry into the future a concept of beauty that is true, ethical and cultural – in a word, human – and thus able to unite even when all around us seeks to divide. Such is the challenge of a progress that respects plurality and frees it from the grip of individualism. I’ll end with a quote from Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers: All for one and one for all!”