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Watchmaking’s Latin American Oscars
Economy

Watchmaking’s Latin American Oscars

Friday, 25 October 2013
By Manuel Palos
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Manuel Palos

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6 min read

All work and no play will make anyone a dull boy, so why not offer the art of time measurement a festive evening, and elect the year’s oustanding watches at the same time? Such is the thinking behind the Tiempo de Relojes awards ceremony, part of the Salón Internacional Alta Relojería (SIAR) in Mexico City. Swatch’s Sistem51, Cartier and Girard-Perregaux were the evening’s big winners.

Over three packed days, the foremost names in Swiss watchmaking had gathered under one roof. 1,500 square metres of exhibition space for forty companies, inside the Four Seasons Hotel in Mexico City; the ultimate Latin American watch fair in one of the region’s most strategic countries. Understandably then, participants were impatient to let off steam after these three days of explaining, informing the media, and signing contracts with distributors and clients.

"Now is the time to take part in SIAR"

The ceremony for the Premios Tiempo de Relojes (Tiempo de Relojes awards) was held in the exceptional setting of Estación Indianilla, a former tramcar depot near the city’s historic centre which has been converted into a cultural venue and a museum for the artist Frida Kahlo. Close to two hundred people were in attendance. After Baselworld and the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, the Salón Internacional Alta Relojería (SIAR) in Mexico City ends the season, and brings together more watchmakers than events in Hong Kong, London or Paris. Interestingly, brands are drawn to Mexico’s immediate periphery. “We recently opened a store in Los Angeles, after launching one in Miami last year. Now is the time to take part in SIAR,” commented François-Paul Journe. This was the inimitable French watchmaker’s first time at the fair, and like everyone else he had no intention of missing the awards ceremony that would lower the curtain on the event for another year. “It’s all been superbly organised,” he enthused. “It’s the ideal place to attract Latin American clients.”

Ceremony for the Premios Tiempo de Relojes (Tiempo de Relojes awards)

Janek Deleskiewicz, artistic director at Jaeger-LeCoultre, collected the Ladies Watch Prize for the Rendez-Vous Celestial. Julien Kozlowskyj, director of Cartier Mexico, relished the brand’s success in two categories, the Public’s Prize and the Horological Value Prize, for the enigmatic Rotonde Double Mystery Tourbillon. Zosia Drotkowski, director of A. Lange & Söhne Latin America, was all smiles as she stepped up to receive the Grand Complication Prize for the Grand Complication watch. Laurence Verriez, President of Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard for the LatAm region, was equally delighted to discover that the Constant Escapement had claimed the Concept Watch Prize as well as the Critics’ Prize, presented by journalists from the major Latin American watch magazines. But the biggest surprise of the evening was, without any doubt, the awarding of the Watch of the Year Prize to the Sistem51 by Swatch, a model which at first sight seems far-removed from the canons of luxury watchmaking, but of such great significance that it convinced all the members of the judging panel.

Objectivity and credibility

“We created these awards to make SIAR a landmark event that brings together a large proportion of the movers and shakers in high-end watches for Latin America,” declared Carlos Alonso, founder of both SIAR and the awards’ sponsor, Tiempo de Relojes. “Slowly but surely they have earned a certain esteem. Brands know these prizes are awarded with complete objectivity and give worldwide publicity to their win.” The mechanics are simple: the jury chooses a total number of watches which are then shortlisted to three for each of the eleven prizes. A final vote determines the winner in each category. The said jury comprises respected journalists including Simon de Burton, Paolo de Vecchi, Elizabeth Doerr and Ricardo Balbontin alongside specialists such as Michael Tay. “These awards will continue to exist for as long as they are seen as credible by the majority of players in the segment,” Carlos Alonso commented. “That a watch such as the Sistem51 receives an award has to mean something.” Compared with the other big “competitions” such as the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, Carlos Alonso insists on the fact that the awards presented as part of the SIAR include all brands. “We have to consider all the year’s important models, watches by the likes of Patek Philippe, Rolex, Audemars Piguet or Cartier.”

 

Long live Mexico and long live Latin America!
Pierre Jacques

Champagne, Mexican ceviche, quesadillas and téquila ensured the party went on into the small hours of the night. This was the third year that Pierre Jacques, CEO of De Bethune, had taken part in SIAR, and this time the brand went home with the Revelation of the Year Prize. “Long live Mexico and long live Latin America!” he exclaimed. While stopping short of Asia’s astounding growth, the LatAm region is developing alongside more mature markets such as Europe. The growing popularity of events such as SIAR reflects a rising interest in watches in Latin American countries. This year’s fair, the seventh edition, assembled forty brands from Jaeger-LeCoultre to Vacheron Constantin (which donated a one-off piece for auction), Montblanc, Audemars Piguet, FP Journe and Perrelet, together with a multitude of independent and collaborative projects, some recent and others much older. An exhibition curated by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie on the ties between astronomy and horology drew seasoned collectors and those who are simply curious about watches to the Four Seasons Hotel in Mexico City throughout the three days of SIAR, from 1st to 3rd October.

Over 400 journalists covered the event. “Curiously enough, Montblanc gives China and Latin America the same strategic importance,” noted Jérôme Lambert, CEO of Montblanc. Indeed, for many of the thirty-odd CEOs in attendance, SIAR is an ideal opportunity to develop a Latin American alternative. That, and have some fun, possibly the region’s biggest and most characteristic contribution to fine watchmaking. After all, what better way than a party, music, dancing and champagne to celebrate the art of time?

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