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Exhibitors - To be or not to be

Exhibitors To be or not to be

Why exhibit at Watches and Wonders (W&W), or outside of it, or not at all? Six executives discuss their strategy as a page is turned following the extinction of the Baselworld mammoth

They've Chosen to Stay

A child of the SIHH (the former name of W&W), Panerai has been exhibiting there since its rebirth at the dawn of the third millennium. Current CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué is a regular at the show, in which he previously participated at the head of Montblanc and Roger Dubuis. “The SIHH has always been a pioneer in terms of the theatricality, hospitality and premium approach that contributed to its magic, especially in the excitement of the opening. It’s a rendezvous with teams from all countries, who have been focusing on it for months and this guiding thread has changed little over the past quarter-century.” He is pleased that Geneva is now the world’s one and only watchmaking capital and that public health conditions allow everyone to participate. “This is a barometer of activity and a project accelerator because the deadline cannot be pushed back. You see the entire industry within a very short space of time; you emerge smarter and better informed, ready to take any corrective actions.”

To be or not to be

Jean-Marc Pontroué, CEO Panerai © Panerai

At the helm of Zenith since 2017 and previously at Vacheron Constantin, Julien Tornare has experienced both Baselworld and the SIHH. As far as he’s concerned, “the shows unquestionably continue to play an important role in the watch industry. They are the best opportunity to see all our partners in a short period of time and above all to express and sell the brand and its ethics to all industry stakeholders through our booth concept, our marketing concept and the experiences we offer during and around the show. We have however found in recent years that launching new products in a staggered manner is also hugely successful in terms of maintaining momentum. I firmly believe that the best solution is a combination of trade shows such as W&W and LVMH Watch Week, along with regular launches ensuring continuous communication with the press, retailers, customers and friends of the brand.” Patrick Pruniaux experienced Baselworld and the SIHH as CEO of both Girard-Perregaux (GP) and Ulysse Nardin (UN), and now chooses to exhibit at Watches and Wonders for UN, but for now not with GP, “which is investing a lot in its Manufacture and customer experience and is in a phase where shows are not relevant”. He nonetheless remains convinced of the usefulness of trade shows and is in fact one of the co-founders of Geneva Watch Days. “We are an industry that sells small products; and being able to exhibit them across hundreds of square meters enables us to convey a message with more impact than in a boutique. Ulysse Nardin is a brand channeling a form of opulence, a rich message and technical complexity, which are very well expressed in a show.

To be or not to be

Julien Tornare, CEO Zenith © Zenith

To be or not to be

Patrick Pruniaux, CEO Ulysse Nardin & Girard-Perregaux Ulysse Nardin/Girard-Perregaux

During Watches and Wonders, but Beyond its Walls

Bulgari, whose group CEO Jean-Christophe Babin founded the Geneva Watch Days when the demise of Baselworld was announced, welcomes customers and media during Watches and Wonders at the Hotel Président Wilson. Antoine Pin, head of the watch division, describes the disappearance of Baselworld – where the brand’s booth stood majestically at the entrance – as a big bang moment. “We are not yet fully aware of the repercussions of this game change, but there was a modus operandi between Basel and Geneva that worked well year after year, focusing all the attention. This implosion released a lot of energy, giving rise to many smaller initiatives, better distributed in time and space.” He notes that the activity and dynamism of luxury watchmaking has become much more visible, year-round and around the world. “In addition to the watchmaking events that have grown in magnitude, such as the GPHG and Only Watch that give brands international visibility, the efforts made by the latter offer watchmaking many more moments of exposure than in the past. Whereas the major generalist media used to summarize the entire Baselworld event in two to three pages, they now cover watch news much more regularly. This has particularly benefited the small independent brands, which no longer remain in the shadow of the Baselworld giants. Antoine Pin explains that Bulgari has adapted to this new situation by unveiling new products on a quarterly basis, which does not justify a presence at Watches and Wonders. “There is no longer a gap between the communication and the market, a situation that is far more coherent for the media as well as for clients."

To be or not to be

Antoine Pin, Head of Watch division, Bulgari © Bulgari

Why they Left the Trade Fairs

Avant-garde and non-conformist Richard Mille surprised everyone in 2018 by announcing its intention to leave the SIHH. It also did so by participating in the first ReLuxury show in 2022, thereby supporting the brand’s ongoing development in the field of pre-owned watches. Marketing Director Tim Malachard explains that the game has changed: “In 2009, we had five boutiques and 120 retailers, whereas now we have 39 boutiques and no more retailers; it is the end customers that we want to reach and investments have been redirected, particularly towards digital and our own events. We want to get to know them better and understand them, to spend time with them. We have adapted and are conducting our operations in a much more personalized way.” Also present in the past at SIHH, Greubel Forsey has set its sights on new horizons for the past two years under the leadership of Antonio Calce (CEO and Executive Board Member), who himself had previously exhibited as the head of other brands at both Baselworld and SIHH. “We have found that our customers need time to discover our timepieces. At Greubel Forsey, there is no logic of presenting merely to sell, but instead talking about the brand and its developments over the next few years. Our role is to share a passion, an experience, to explain our approach to the development of our inventions, our finishes... rather than to participate in an event to take orders. Being a niche brand, we are looking for a different kind of customer relationship. The fact of going to meet clients on the markets, in collaboration with the partner, gives us much more time and serenity to present the brand philosophy and vision. We offer them a time of sharing, which is difficult to do at trade shows where schedules are very busy.”

To be or not to be

Tim Malachard, Marketing Director, Richard Mille © Richard Mille

To be or not to be

Antonio Calce, CEO & Executive Board Member, Greubel Forsey © Greubel Forsey

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