Given the ongoing effects of the dreaded pandemic, the last few years have been a quite a challenge for the watch industry. With significant trade shows such as Baselworld & Watches & Wonders (SIHH) being cancelled, Manufactures being temporarily shut down, 2020 has dealt with its fair share of hurdles. However, be it the quartz crisis of the 80’s or the recent economic slowdown, history has it that the “watch” industry always finds a way to streamline its offerings and come back stronger. Since physical events are still quite a safety hazard in various countries, the ever so innovative watch world has introduced the “phygital” angle to their offerings. Reiterating the success of this hybrid formula, unanimously approved by the 25 participating Maison, the hub of fine watchmaking witnessed yet another successful week with Geneva Watch Days 2021.
From the Smiling Mickey by Bvlgari, the new Breitling Top Time’s to the new Streamliner Perpetual introduced by H. Moser & Cie and the numerous insightful forums hosted by key industry leaders, Geneva Watch Days 2021 has yet again set the stage for an exciting last quarter for 2021.However, given the current travel restrictions due to public health constraints, we at The Hour Markers were not physically present at Geneva Watch Days 2021. That being said we connected with a few friends and key industry experts to give you an overview of the week that was, their views and highlights of Geneva Watch Days 2021!
Are Phygital shows the new normal now? “It might as well be. Many of the brands there are getting more and more tech savy. Online presentations are just as important as physical presentations. Zoom and team have saved the watch world for sure. And recorded panels talks also seem to be a great part of todays watch shows. I am a fan. Especially as a “physical” guest.”, says the ever so passionate watch geek, Kristian Haagen – author, watch expert and collector.
From a retailers perspective we also caught up with Pietro Tomajer, co-founder, The Limited Edition UK on his views on the importance and impact of digitalisation in the world of watches. “During Geneva Watch Days we had the pleasure to talk to a number of contemporary watchmakers and brands. The reality of today is that the industry is not segregated into levels anymore. The old logic of producer/distributor/agent/retailer is something of the past, at least as the one exclusive path to reach watch collectors’ attention. Nowadays, there are no filters anymore and that is principally due to the role played by the digital world, where not only does genuine information reach the user directly with no filter, but immediate open feedback is also possible from the user’s point of view. It is a revolution in that respect, brands don’t need to wait 2-3 years of a product sitting on a store shelf before knowing if the product actually succeeds. This is mainly why it is today somewhat unacceptable for a brand to decide to produce a product that has not had, digitally, some sort of success or positive feedback. This can be an advantage as brands can easily limit or cancel production of products that have not appealed to the public, hence reducing the risk of diluting the brand’s prestige and success and protect value. On the flip side, practices of building artificial hype and price cartels on the secondary market can constitute a real threat as artificially influencing customers’ perception can be a very risky practice in the long run, for the whole credibility of our industry. So, the digital is now a necessary factor in the equation if correctly utilised, in a good mix with the physical experience which should confirm ‘in the flesh’ the positive expectations created by digital marketing”, quotes Pietro.
Although Elizabeth Doerr, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Quill & Pad, reiterates the importance of phygital shows in a post-panedmic world, she doesn’t necessarily love the idea. “As I was in attendance physically, I really did not notice the digital aspect so much – although I could hear zoom meetings and press conferences taking place in other rooms sometimes when we had our meetings.One place where the digital aspect became obvious to me was the Phillips panels that took place in the tent. In fact, the times and dates of these panel discussion were not well or widely communicated by either Phillips or Geneva Watch Days, who I think was just banking on the digital aspect being the more important one”, says Doerr.
From worldtimers to minimalistic perpetual calendars, Geneva Watch Days catered to an entire gamut of enthusiasts. But what stood out in your opinion? “I really like the direction of H. Moser & Cie. with their Streamliner as well as Czapek with their Antarctique. These new lines talk to a different group of collectors and enthusiasts as well as remind us that there is still a great future for mechanical wristwatches that does not look like something you’ve seen before”, says Haagen.
Pietro highlighted the incredible guts of the Russian watchmaker to come out with a first genuine Martian GMT, (the first mechanical timepiece actually geared to fly on Mars, sometimes soon), the Konstantin Chaykin Mars Conqueror. “Amongst other a few watches that caught my attention were the Greubel Forsey GMT Quadruple Tourbillon and from the visionary art horology of Denis Flageolllet, the De Bethune Starry Various GMT. The GMT Quadruple Tourbillon is truly a dream timepiece that seems to belong to a parallel universe, by one of the most spectacular watchmakers out there. The Starry Various GMT on the other hand is a timepiece that in its progressive styles, encompasses some elements of classic watchmaking together with the remarkable fixation to the minuscule details that the master watchmaker has accustomed us to”, says Pietro Tomajer.
“The Geneva Watch Days offer a good ROI and a big flexibility. During 5 days, we had the opportunity to meet more than 350 retailers and 300 journalists, from European countries and Middle East travelling to Geneva, alongside various North American clients and media who were physically present in Geneva. In a very convivial spirit, we were able to present our novelties physically to our visitors or via qualitative digital sessions from our fully equipped studio built on site to the persons who could not attend the event. The atmosphere is Geneva was very friendly and we could really notice how important it is to meet the people in real. Globally speaking, it is a very good show model”, says Edouard Meylan, CEO H.Moser & Cie as he basks in the glory of the new Streamliner Perpetual Calendar that was certainly a highlight this year!
“My experience at this edition of Geneva Watch Days 2021 was much the same as at Geneva Watch Days 2020, just that there was (thankfully) a lot more checking of Covid testing and vaccination passes, which personally made me a feel a lot safer in the crowded spaces like cocktail events. Once again, holding a fair in the summer makes a lot of sense as much can take place outside and rooms can be appropriately aired. Covid measures are very effective like this. On a personal level, it was entirely joyous to physically touch watches and have face-to-face meetings!”, says Elizabeth Doerr.
Pietro, also seemed to clearly enjoy every minute of the atmosphere in Geneva this year. “We completely immersed ourselves in the ‘laid-back’ concept, made of several hotel suites, lounges and lobbies, where participants were encouraged to take their time and, rather than just sit, watch and order, really discuss about this passion that, like many other things, has been somehow taken away for us in the last two years. The atmosphere was very much about enjoying the watches and the human contact, aware that the opportunity to talk business would have come later on, after the show, perhaps over a Zoom call. Including the watchmakers exhibiting non officially, we must have seen at least 15 brands over three days and it didn’t feel as stressful as many of the shows we have been too in the past. “
“Who doesn’t love attending a watch fair? I know I miss it. However, given the current restrictions we are facing, a phygital model is the need of the hour, and frankly I see it as quite a sustainable approach too. Considering the socially conscious era we now belong to a blend of digital and real life has brought about a heightened awareness of the important shift that the world is undergoing. You have to adapt to stay relevant! The brands today are alot more approachable from a consumers perspective and the focus has shifted from ginormous marketing strategies to the thing that matters the most – the actual watch”, says Karishma Karer, Co-Founder, The Hour Markers.
Given the absence of the touch-feel aspect yet again, a few watches that caught Karer’s attention were the H. Moser & Cie Streamliner, that greenish gold Electrum version of the URWERK-UR100 and the new Breitling Top Time Classic cars capsule collection, well the Shelby Cobra in particular. “I have always been an admirer of Genta’s work, so although I absolutely love the the original Retro Fantasy watches from the 80’s and the 90’s(Mickey Aviator watch), the new smiling Mickey version was a refreshing & cheery touch this year”, says Karer.
In conclusion, as Kristian says, “Well, the sun was out. And it is always good to be able to be outside. This is after all what also makes Dubai Watch Week so special. The outside will always win over the insides of Palexpo and Basel World.”
Be it an aspiring watch enthusiast or a serious watch collector, Geneva Watch Days 2021 has catered to everyones needs with the perfect weather, some great wine and immaculate watches. The three W’s on point!
Coming from a family of watch enthusiasts and pioneers, Kari, as fondly identified by the watch-community, has been a part of this mystical world of horology for almost two decades now. From watch magazines to books to Internationally acclaimed watch shows, Kari has founded, initiated and pioneered various such endeavours.