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Horology Forum - Top Takeaways from the 2020 Horology Forum Panel Discussions

Horology Forum Top Takeaways from the 2020 Horology Forum Panel Discussions

Discover more about this year's Horology Forum and the key topics of discussions.

This year, thanks to COVID-19, many a show had to go virtual. Such was the case with Dubai Watch Week and Christie’s Horology Forum. Over the past few years, the organizers of Horology forum have brought some interesting topics to light over the course of several days and multiple panel discussions. This year, since the forum could not be held in person anywhere in the world safely, Dubai Watch Week opted not to sacrifice education and interaction and instead opted to bring together some fine minds in the industry from around the world via digital technology.

Top Takeaways from the 2020 Horology Forum Panel Discussions

© Dubai Watch Week

Over the course of several weeks in October and November, four panel discussions were held. They included Servants of Serpents, Means to the End of the World,  Pump & Dumping 24K,  and Rochambeau. Here we take a look at the top lessons learned from those discussions.

Means to the End of the World

This hour-long panel discussion revolved around one of the most important topics today globally: the environment. Because the luxury industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters thanks to manufacturing, this may have been one of the more interesting talks.  Subjects included how we are all personally and professionally polluting Earth and how some brands are trying to take initiatives to reduce the strain on the environment.

Top Takeaways from the 2020 Horology Forum Panel Discussions

© Dubai Watch Week

When it comes right down to it, from the minute we get up in the morning, most of us are contributing to the problem and draining the planet of its resources simply by driving our cars to work, using our computers and servers and flying internationally (during non-COVID-19 times) for business and pleasure.

However, the watch and jewelry industry is trying to do its part in a host of ways. Many of the Swiss watchmaking factories are turning to sustainable energy. In fact, Stephen Forsey of Greubel Forsey noted that when his workshops were built 11 years ago,  the brand was the first to use the technologically advanced grass roof that allows for greater insulation inside and calls for less heating.  

Top Takeaways from the 2020 Horology Forum Panel Discussions

© Dubai Watch Week

Additionally, all panelists agree that the issue goes beyond sustainability and requires  ethical sourcing and traceability. There are things to consider such as human rights, child labor, ethical diamonds, and more so it is not just an environmental issue but also a humanitarian concern. Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser, says that the work being done in the industry has come a long way. “We are all working on eradicating blood diamonds, and on using ethical gold.  We have to tackle the issues of traceability and that will have a huge impact on environment and geopolitical issues”

The takeaway here: Everyone must be accountable and everyone must do their part. For the brands, this means going beyond the immediate sustainability issues and digging deeper to insist on transparency in sourcing all materials.

Servants of Serpents

With a “devil’s advocate” sort of approach, this panel took a closer look at authenticity, about buying preferences and being a leader or a follower in the watch world. Topics included being influenced to make a buying decision based on someone else’s opinions and if retailers should judge a customer by looks.  Because panelists included Marie-Cecile Cisamolo, jewelry specialist at Christie’s Geneva, there was interesting dialog about current watches or jewelry verses vintage pieces.  

Top Takeaways from the 2020 Horology Forum Panel Discussions

© Dubai Watch Week

According to Cisamolo, most often, consumers buy bigger name brands because they feel they can trust the authenticity, or because they “trust what their friends are wearing and  go for it.” But she says if she can show that customer behind the scenes, and educate them about a lesser known brand, then they can often be pleasantly surprised. So, education is key.

One of the important take-aways from this discussion is aimed at retailers and comes down to the well-known phrase,  don’t  judge a book by its cover. Sometimes someone walks into a store looking like a homeless person and walks out after buying a $50,000 watch. Another key: education is worth its weight in gold when it comes to buying decisions.

Pump & Dumping 24K

This panel discussion focused on how brands and retailers are unofficially selling luxury on the gray market in order to recoup their losses. Several panelists made a case for the authorized retailers stating that they have no choice but to do this because many brands insist that they stock their shelves with more inventory than they need, and also with some of the “dud” models in addition to the best sellers. In general,  the panelists seemed to be less forgiving of brands that use the gray market because they have pretty much been the culprits that created the market to begin with.  

Top Takeaways from the 2020 Horology Forum Panel Discussions

© Dubai Watch Week

The key takeaway of this hour-long conversation: the gray market isn’t going away. Consumers recognize it as a way to get up to 50 percent off of a particular watch, or as a way to jump a waiting list to get a watch they want. So, as Red Bar founder Adam Craniotes says, “It’s a monster that you’ve [brands] created, so try to reign it in a little, and [remember] the retailers need to move the pieces.”  Sometimes, it’s just a fact of life that gray market may be the answer for some businesses when faced with that choice or going out of business.

Rochambeau

In the final Rochambeau panel, which was really designed as a light-hearted look at some burning questions, panelists played rock, paper, scissors to determine which of the four members would answer a supposedly difficult and sometimes uncomfortable question. Topics hit on subjects such as authorized retailers conspiring with the gray market or brands scrimping on boxes and packaging, to superfluous questions such as would you live as a monk the rest of your life if it gave you a chance to save the world. Some questions even played off of earlier panel topics, like is it worse to be a servant or a serpent. It was a little difficult to learn a lesson with this panel, but there were some fun takeaways. Among them: journalist Ian Skellern’s preference to be a serpent over a servant because he could think independently instead of being ordered around and he could “bite” someone to put them out of their misery. Sound idea.