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Monday, January 28, 2013

Inside the World's Most Exclusive Watch Show

Montblanc, which added Swiss watches to its diverse luxury portfolio in 1997, used its showroom to display many of the contemporary art pieces that are on permanent display at its headquarters in Hamburg. All of the work includes an interpretation of the iconic Momntblanc star. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

GENEVA — The big news last week in this small country with a mighty economy and far-reaching global influence was the annual World Economic Forum held in Davos. Although overshadowed, another important annual event was being held: the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), arguably the most exclusive watch show in the world. 

By far the youngest and arguably the most innovative of watch brands today, Richard Mille displayed some of this innovation not only in the materials and concepts of its watches, but in its 3D presentation to the press during SIHH. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

The most recent installment of SIHH ended with the 16 watch brands, among the most prestigious in the world, introducing their latest timepieces, often the result of years of intensive research. It’s an invitation only event held each year at the Palexpo exhibition center. This year I was among the more than 13,000 invited guests (which included international retailers, journalists and brand representatives) to attend. 

Roger Dubuis introduced its Excalibur line of watches with a Bird of Prey as the centerpiece of its showroom. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Twelve of the watch brands exhibiting are owned by Richemont, the Geneva-based luxury holdings company, which is why the event (held Jan. 21 – 25) is often referred to as the Richemont show. 

Decked out for racing the IWC Schaffhausen showroom was one of the most popular during SIHH. the display was used to introduce its Ingenieur Chronograph Racer and Ingenieur Silberpfeil, the second watch dedicated to the famous Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow racing car. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

There’s been talk about a slowdown in the luxury business, (particularly watches). The growth is slower than the astronomical rise in sales of the past few years, led by China. In fact, one could say that the growth in sales is now at a more normal pace. Richemont numbers point to this as the company reported that third quarter sales increased 5 percent, year-over-year, to 2.86 billion Swiss francs. Its “Specialist Watchmakers” group saw even more growth at 9 percent to 784 million Swiss francs. In addition, annual Swiss watch sales, which are expected soon, are expected to surpass 20 billion Swiss francs for the time ever. 

Butterflies were used tomillustrate the delicate intricacies of Van Cleef & Arpels' new watch and jewelry lines. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

There was some caution among the brand officials when talking sales, but overall, life remains good in the Swiss watch industry. 

The main gathering area at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

A giant replica of its new Grand Complication timepiece was the major design element of the A. Lange & Söhne showroom. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

A look inside Baume & Mercier's summer-in-the Hamptons themed showroom. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

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