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SIHH 2017 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie - Geneva, 16-20 January 2017

Interview - Fabienne Lupo, President of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie

Interview Fabienne Lupo, President of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie

Fabienne Lupo explains how the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie is strengthening its role as a reference for the fine watchmaking industry.

I spoke to Fabienne Lupo, President of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, at the Dubai Watch Week, where she had come to explain one of the foundation’s milestone achievements this year: the publication of the first White Paper on Fine Watchmaking. But this is just one of several major changes instigated by the foundation this year.

Can you explain the reason for the publication of the White Paper on Fine Watchmaking this year?
The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie has always had the mission to promote the values and the expertise of fine watchmaking and we want to position ourselves as the reference, a sort of “ministry of fine watchmaking” without any pretension. We needed to start somewhere and we thought the best way to do this was to define a clear and objective definition of what fine watchmaking is or what it should be. It has taken us three years to draft the White Paper that we presented this year and we didn’t do this on our own, because it is not up to us to say what fine watchmaking should or should not be. We gathered together a group of experts that consists of journalists, retailers, curators, connoisseurs and collectors who are all passionate about watchmaking and are independent, i.e. not linked to any particular brand. They have all agreed to help us on a purely voluntary basis.
It was a big job for the foundation to put down on paper a definition of fine watchmaking. But this is just a first step and it can be improved upon, there is no doubt. But now we have put into words that something that everybody understood but had hitherto had trouble in putting into words.

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There will be some big changes at the SIHH next year. Could you explain them to us?
I’m very happy about the new developments at the SIHH because I am a fervent defender of openness and togetherness. Next year the SIHH will be held under the banner of openness towards new brands, such as the return of Girard-Perregaux, which was one of the founding brands of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, as well as Ulysse Nardin and five new independent artisan brands joining the Carré des Horlogers. There will be a total of 30 brands and this is the first time that there will be so many brands at the SIHH. I think the most we have had up until now was 19 brands. But we have to be careful as well, because one of the things that makes the SIHH special is its exclusivity so we cannot grow too much.

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You mention openness. The SIHH will also be open to the public for the first time in 2017. What led to this decision?
We had been talking about it for a long time but for a number of reasons we never managed it. I think now is the perfect time to do it because it is a means of accompanying the distribution side of things, because there are ever stronger links between the brands, retail and the final customer. The brands want to develop this relationship even further and they need to get to know their customers. This is a phase of consolidation in this relationship and the exhibiting brands told us that they would be interested in testing this out because it is a shame for customers not to be able to share this fantastic commercial platform in which the brands have invested considerably.

In the difficult economic conditions that many brands are facing, does the fact that the FHH is concentrating solely on fine watchmaking mean that you can ultimately help the industry as a whole?
When you are in a storm you really need a lighthouse and I think it is in these very circumstances when the role of the FHH becomes even more important. We act as a reference and brands are happy to shelter under our umbrella. They feel stronger with us than they do alone. A foundation like ours with the role of a reference can indeed become stronger in such times.

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