By Karishma Karer
The wine, the weather and the watches – the three W’s that I look forward to while in Switzerland surpassed all my expectations and more. Watches and Wonders 2022, what a whirlwind of a week it was. From the 2022 launches to private concerts to witnessing snowfall in April and catching up with friends from the watch world, Geneva most certainly lived up to its reputation of being THE watch haven.
As expected from the moment I landed, the ever so efficient Watches & Wonders crew whisked me off to the hotel and then straight to palexpo. To be honest, I didn’t even begin to feel the exhaustion of that long flight and just couldn’t wait to get this show on the road. The adrenaline was inexplicable. I mean, it has been two years…
As I entered Palexpo (fairground) and wrapped up all the entrance formalities, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of nostalgia. That same sound of the machine saying “welcome” as you swipe your badge to enter the salon, the long queues for the coats and bags (this year there were no queues whatsoever) and finally we are in. Although so much had changed, it felt the same in more ways than one. To begin with, the energy at the fair.
As I walked in, the segregation was evident – SIHH to my right and Baselworld to my left. The same large magnanimous booths of Rolex and Patek Philippe followed by Tudor, Chopard and so on. It felt like a part of Baselworld had just been lifted and placed there. Well, considering what the brands invest in these structures it only makes sense. On my right, however, things looked pretty much the same with those warm beige tones besides the newly constructed individual booths. There was of course the section with indies – Carré des Horlogers with fifteen independent watchmakers.
Although almost all the brands put in a lot of thought into their booths there are a few that certainly stood out for me.
1. Jaeger-LeCoultre – The Stellar Odyssey
Where do I begin? Entering this booth was literally like entering the world of Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Stellar Odyssey concept, is a detailed display of the Maison celebrating links between cosmic phenomena, the origins of timekeeping and horological innovation. The entire booth was a journey through the various expertise of Jaeger-LeCoultre, from the fine watchmaking skills of the Atmos to a live display of enamelling on the new Rendez-Vous watches, it was a sight to behold. The cherry on the cake was that fantastic mixology session curated by Mixologist Matthias Giroud. Every mocktail represented the unique savoir-faire of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s heavenly complications and the true natural beauty of Vallée de Joux. A complete experience.
The Panerai booth was actually quite a pleasant surprise. From the usual geometric booth to a deep dive into the ocean, the entire booth was transformed into a scene underwater. Along with the new submersibles, this was a refreshing change. Have a look at it here.
Oris has a fun concept going on at their booth this year. As I was greeted by their famous mascot (the Bear), the entrance of the booth was designed with gigantic mechanics in motion. Both are fun and intriguing.
4. Vacheron Constantin
The Vacheron Constantin booth was like a world of its own, the highlight being their 3D rendition of skeletonising a calibre with your own bare hands, basically another win for the AI-driven robotic 3D world. Although I have worked on a calibre at a masterclass (for a different brand) this was an enthralling experience.
Another experience that I term as “life-changing” for me was the Hans Zimmer concert by IWC – Sound of Colour. Yes, you heard that right, IWC curated a customised evening for select guests at the Theatre du Leman where Hans Zimmer enthralled us with his breathtaking compositions from the dark knight to gladiator and so on. But that’s not it, Zimmer has also composed tunes for the new IWC top gun watches. So each watch has its very own Pantone shade along with its own sound.
From booths to the actual stars of the show – the watches. This year one of the trends that I did witness at the show was extravagance paired with minimalism and perfection. An oxymoron you would think, but it is what I noticed. Amongst various launches that I absolutely put on my “must have” wishlist, here are just a few:
These are just a few of the magnificent launches I witnessed this year which makes me wonder. Has the pandemic left its mark (negatively) on the watch industry? From the overall vibrations at the fair and post my innumerous candid conversations with brand representatives, I guess not. Was there an initial blow? Well most certainly. There was that initial loss of sales volumes from a reduction in travellers and store closures,which in my opinion was eventually balanced out by online sales.
But post that period the industry seems to be thriving. The pandemic has in fact been a catalyst in growing the luxury watch industry. The wealthy consumers seem to be less affected by the pandemic which then led to the trend of looking at watches as investments and assets. Is this a bubble waiting to burst? Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait this one out. In my opinion, if you are passionate about your watches and consider yourself to be a true collector in that sense, you will never look at your watch as an investment. Now if your “flipping” game is strong, that’s another story. The pandemic and lockdown also gave birth to various budding watch enthusiasts and communities which in turn has only helped the industry grow.
Coming back to Watches & Wonders, I did see many brands going back to their roots and realigning their collections and strategies. The biggest problem this industry is faced with today is the supply of these watches. So although you may drool over the 2022 launches and could possibly even “afford” most of them, the real question here is – can you actually get your hands on them? Can supply chains keep up with the skyrocketing demands over the last couple of years? With no direct fault of the brands in question, the answer is – No. And this isn’t just true for the big boys of the watch world. In the last few years, we have seen an unexpected rise of the independents who also seem to be victims of this demand and supply battle.
Overall, Watches & Wonders 2022 was relatively successful. The brands I did miss at the show though were Audemars Piguet, Greubel Forsey, and an array of indies namely MB&F, De Bethune, URWERK, and a few more who were exhibiting outside the salon. Although the fair, in general, did not seem as crowded as it usually is, the torrent of watches certainly made up for that. In three words Watches & Wonders 2022 was exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting. Here’s to 2023…