Watches and Wonders in Geneva: Switzerland hosts a thriving watchmaking fair
The industry's major players are in Geneva for Watches and Wonders, the world's leading watchmaking fair.
Journalists from all over the world, celebrities and thousands of professionals
have been attending this edition, the largest ever organized, with 48 firms using their style and craftsmanship to compete for our attention.
At the Zenith stand, they're celebrating the return of the Pilot line launched at the end of the 19th century - and unveiling new versions of Defy Skyline, to increasingly knowledgeable connoisseurs.
"The younger generation has access to information we never had in the past, so they're seeking the real thing," says Zenith CEO Julien Tornare. "They want to know what's behind a brand, what's behind a price, what's behind a watch and understand. We have to offer them experiences, emotion, and passion. But knowledge has evolved enormously, in the right direction."
In every corridor of Palexpo, independent craftsmen and established firms express their identity: be it in motorsports... jewellery... or ethics.
We're going to the Oris space home to an independent watchmaker at the forefront of environmental issues.
Oris positions itself as a leader in environmentally friendly watchmaking and has invited Kermit the frog to feature on its latest timepiece. It was the first watchmaker to be certified carbon-neutral and proudly brings its community together on clean-up days around the world.
"Only a short time ago, people wanted to have a glass of Champagne in a posh environment," says ORIS CEO Rolf Studer. "Now they seek purpose. They want to change things, they want to contribute for the better. We don't stand for exclusive luxury, we stand for inclusive luxury. So we share the joy of mechanical watches with other people. That gives us energy, that makes us love what we do."
The preservation of the oceans is also dear to Panerai, which has nestled its watches under boat sails. It used to supply watches to Italian navy divers and has kept its large and luminescent cases. But now following the advice of one of its brand ambassadors, the explorer Mike Horn, it favours recycled materials.
"When you take part in a trade fair like this, you see how Panerai expresses itself through the theatricalisation of our brands, which you can also see in our boutiques," says Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué. "We seek to duplicate the Watches and Wonders experience, which is by nature spectacular, throughout our distribution network in the other 51 weeks of the year."
A little further on, A. Lange & Söhne presents its new chronograph. The company affirms its "Germanity" - characterised by the legibility and robustness of its models. Founded in Saxony almost two centuries ago and later expropriated by the communist regime, it now symbolises the healthy state of the limited-edition luxury watch industry.
"The future is bright as long as we ensure that we have enough young watchmakers," says CEO Wilhelm Schmid. "I am pretty sure communication does a good job so that we remain relevant and there is enough people that like the idea of a human being struggling in finishing all these little parts that eventually work as a watch."
One challenge for the industry is to encourage people to make a career in an ecosystem that innovates at the crossroads of craft, design and tech. Here in the lab, manufacturers and start-ups make connections.
"NFT, Metaverse, Blockchain, these are subjects that young people are passionate about today," says Matthieu Humair, CEO, of the Watches And Wonders Geneva Foundation. "It's an incubator for new ideas that allows people to get in touch, to meet the men and women who make watches, to put watches on their wrists. There's nothing like discussion and networking, and Watches and Wonders is where it happens."
Another of the organisers' hopes is to make Geneva the world's watchmaking capital. For the first time, events have also been organised in the city centre, with conferences, guided tours and open days. H. Moser & Cie opened a pop-up store to give the public a rare opportunity to see its collection right-up close.
"A lot of our watches are sold out so many people around the world can not see the watches in the stores," says CEO Edouard Meylan. "So they come here, we have a full collection, they can put them on the wrist, they can experience the brand, they can talk to the owners, it's an amazing week that we have here in Geneva, attracting so many people, so much attention, that we have to be part of it."
And to help Geneva's position as a leading watchmaking destination, for the first time during the weekend the event has been opened to the general public.