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Watches & Wonders Geneva - Heritage, the future and youth

Watches & Wonders Geneva Heritage, the future and youth

Fabienne Lupo, President and CEO of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, tells us about the new “In the City” concept she is introducing in 2020.

In mid-October the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie unveiled the new format of the SIHH, along with a new name we’ll all have to start getting used to. The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie has been renamed Watches & Wonders Geneva. The “In the City” concept needed a few additional explanations, which Fabienne Lupo was happy to provide.

Watches & Wonders 2020 will be opened up to the general public for the first time. Is that the main difference in the new format?
Yes and no. We began reaching out to the public three years ago. Let’s not forget that since 2016 the SIHH has been open to the public for one day. But the new format of Watches & Wonders Geneva is based around two main strands: the fair at the Palexpo exhibition centre, which is targeted at a professional audience and clients invited by the brands, and the “In the City” part, which is a watch festival in the heart of the city of Geneva, for the general public. 

Can the public still go to Palexpo?
Yes, if they make a reservation and pay the entry fee, which is higher than it was before – each entry costs CHF 300. But the public will have access to all the services and hospitality on offer at the fair, including catering, and a new reception service specifically designed and organised for them.  We realised that visitors not invited by brands tended to feel a little lost at the Salon; they don’t necessarily know where to go, and often feel awkward about visiting the booths. The idea is to accompany and guide them with dedicated circuits that include several must-see points. This time there won’t be a specific day for the public; visitors can come whenever they want over the five days of the Salon. We’re conscious that with this level of entry fee we won’t get a huge influx of visitors, but our aim is also to welcome guests who are genuinely interested in watchmaking, to give them a good experience of their visit, and to ensure it goes ahead under the best possible conditions.

Patrimoine, avenir et jeunesse

© SIHH 2019

So In the City is aimed at a broader audience?
Exactly. It’s an “extra-muros” concept, similar to what happens in Milan at the Salone del Mobile, when the entire city celebrates design. Paradoxically, Geneva, the cradle of watchmaking, didn’t have any public event focusing on watches. But now it does! We are taking the opportunity of the spotlight on the Salon to take watchmaking into the city, to meet the general public, particularly young people. We’ll introduce them to the products, explain the watchmaking professions and highlight the careers it’s possible to embrace. Watchmaking can sometimes have a rather old and dusty image, but in fact it’s an extremely modern, innovative and dynamic industry that is eminently suited to meeting the highest career expectations and professional dreams of young people. The issue of training and the transfer of skills is a genuine concern within the industry, and the role of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie is also to spread the message about transferring knowledge and watch culture, particularly to the upcoming generations. We’re also working on a schools outreach project.

The idea of a watch festival in the city sounds similar to the concept of the Watch Heritage Biennale.
Absolutely. It’s a similar idea, but it goes even further. We want to talk about the future, about innovation, and what’s currently happening in R&D departments. Of course we will also talk about heritage, and open the doors of the manufactures and boutiques. But equally, we want to introduce the public to the manufactures, the watchmakers, the artistic crafts, their innovations, and also the social responsibility programmes of the brands, to give them a better understanding of what it’s all about.

Which brands will be involved in the In the City project?
The same brands exhibiting at the Salon. It’s the same event, taking place in two different venues. But in the city of Geneva we’ll also have our partner institutions, such as the Museum of Art and History, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, Timelab, the Geneva Watchmaking School, the HEAD and the Patek Philippe Museum, along with retailers such as Bucherer and Les Ambassadeurs. 

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