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Editorial - Why can’t we all just get along?

Editorial Why can’t we all just get along?

While Watches & Wonders reigns at Geneva's Palexpo, the rest of the watch industry is scattered all over the place

Rewind to last week, and I am sitting in a nice suite in Geneva’s Beau Rivage Hotel with the lovely people from Claude Meylan, when the company’s owner and CEO, Philippe Belais, asked me out of the blue “Can you guys in the press not do something about this fair situation?” I can’t say I was taken by surprise by his question. I had spent the week jumping from Palexpo to downtown, from one five-star hotel to another, and then out to the satellite fair, Time to Watches, on the back of our managing editor’s scooter, in the snow no less. 

Why can’t we all just get along?

Time to Watches 2022 © Time to Watches

It had started to feel like we were taking part in some kind of timed game show where we had to make it to the next appointment in record time, try on a few watches, take some wrist shots, and then start racing again! 

It wasn’t always like this. The now-defunct Basel Fair used to welcome everyone: Global brands, small independents, watchmakers starting out, jewellers, pearl supplies, and more. And it was indeed this mix that made it all the more interesting. You would always discover something new and unexpected, or meet someone who knew someone who could help you in some way. 

The discord can be traced back to 1991 when Cartier’s Alain-Dominique Perrin became increasingly frustrated by the smell of barbequed Schüblig and french fries at the Basel fair (I can’t say I blame him). After years of protesting, he upped and left, forming the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), taking Piaget, Baume & Mercier, and Gérald Genta with him. For the following 28 years, the watch industry had two fairs – the chic SIHH in Geneva and the all-inclusive Baselworld in Basel. When I started in the watch industry, the fairs were held back-to-back, which was at least a compromise, but then a kafuffle with the Geneva car show dates separated them to different times in the year, which was a pain for everyone.  

Why can’t we all just get along?

Watches & Wonders 2022 © Watches & Wonders

The last couple of years have worsened the situation since Baselworld bit the dust (that’s a whole other story) and other fairs have gained momentum, such as Geneva Watch Days and LVMH Watch Week. International salons like Dubai Watch Week and the SIAR in Mexico have also gained momentum as the international press and retailers can meet with brands there too. 

Why can’t we all just get along?

Dubai Watch Week 2021 © Dubai Watch Week

In 2020, when Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chopard, Chanel, and others announced their decision to join the Geneva show, renamed last year to Watches & Wonders, I thought maybe we could finally get back to one fair, but unfortunately, that seems to have been wishful thinking. 

Since the closing of the “Geneva Race” (I have renamed it!) last week, rumors are rife with discontented groups, brands, and individuals. Hey, if I was putting up a million francs plus, I am sure I would have plenty to complain about too! But I am a dreamer and there is nothing that I would like to see more than this wonderful industry come together, solve problems together, and succeed together. 

So, I don’t know if this little opinion piece will help in any way, but I’m still holding out for the day that the distance between all the brands is measured in metres and not miles! In the meantime, my helmet is in the WorldTempus office and I am ready to race!

Lecture 3 Comment(s)

21 April 2022
Jean-François Meyer
Peut-être que la manifestation organisee par M. Naldi en septembre A NEUCHATEL sera le detonateur!
20 April 2022
Carol Iten
Hello sophie, great question and excellent commentary! personally, i believe that this situation will resolve itself in the not too distant future. for those of us that have been around for several years in this industry, we have watched the "channel captain" surrender his captain's hat from the retailer to the brand, and now the hat is changing hands again, from the brand to the end client. thanks to the internet, and the ability to come into direct contact with most brands, especially independents, clients today are more savvy than 10 years ago and demand transparency, especially when it comes to prices and services. why I believe this will impact the brand attendance at shows is this: clients are interested in connecting directly with brands and brand owners. they will demand (are already demanding) that this is made more accessible and more convenient at industry events (think about the popularity of the dubai watch week). It's only a matter of time before it is demanded at Watches and wonders as well because the attendance of end clients at industry events is increasing year on year. whether the posh amenities remain FOC for all is another question and i suppose that topic is ripe for a post of its own...
19 April 2022
Dan-Andrei Kluska
It was simply too much information, new releases and brands to cover in a few days. This W&W and the additional smaller events, made in my opinion no sense. Nobody had time to see all, the press must decide priorities and brands, including the big ones had suffered for the lack of "enough" allocated time. For me, it was just an uber-expensive GTG. I hope this will not repeat... Cheers, Andrei