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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Slowing Watch Sales Bring More Variety At SIHH 2016

The prototype Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Nuit Lumineuse watch with diamonds that light like stars using a mechanical power source

SIHH, the second largest gather of the Swiss watch industry, was held January 18 - 22 as reports emerged confirming that watch sales have slowed. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said Tuesday that exports for 2015 declined 3.3 percent year-over-year to 21.5 billion Swiss francs ($21.1 billion). This coincided with Richemont’s third quarter earnings statement two weeks earlier, which reported that sales fell by 4 percent year-over-year at constant exchange rate to 2.92 billion Swiss francs ($2.86 billion).

The blame for the decline range from the combined austerity measures and stock market turbulence in China, the effects of a strong Swiss currency (particularly in Europe) and the introduction of the Apple Watch, which may have resulted in the steep decline of watch exports in the 200-franc to 500-franc price range. Even the Paris terrorist attacks had a major impact on watch in the “City of Light,” according to reports. And 2016 is looking like another year of softer sales.

One thing that hasn’t changed is silly stories in the consumer press that tout complicated timepieces as being “insane” and a layered, carbon-fiber writing instrument that uses a mechanical movement to expose and retract the nib as a “crazy ass pen.”

Back to the matter at hand, despite slowing sales the mood at SIHH was largely positive. The 24 watch brands presented more than enough new items in a number of styles and price points to leave retailers and trade journalists satisfied. One UK retailer told me that prices were more “realistic” this year.

The Parmigiani Senfine concept watch movement with 45-day power reserve

Among the biggest developments, two were for products that were not yet available to the public. The Parmigiani Senfine concept movement, which boasts a remarkable 45-day power reserve, and the Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Nuit Lumineuse watch, which has diamonds that light like stars using a mechanical power source (top photo).

Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Spilt Seconds Chronograph

The other big release was the RM 50-02 Tourbillon Spilt Seconds Chronograph ACJ Chronograph, made in a partnership with the exclusive Airbus Corporate Jets division of the Airbus Group. It incorporates design details and materials of the ACJ aircraft. It’s limited to 30 pieces and has a price tag of more than $1 million.

A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon

A. Lange & Söhne, which has mastered the ability to create highly technical movements and house them inside beautifully balanced dials, introduced the latest edition of its highly praised Datograph chronograph timepieces, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon. This newest version from the proudly German company combines the Datograph chronograph with a flyback function and Up/Down power reserve indicator and the typical Lange outsize date; with a perpetual calendar with a moon-phase display; and a tourbillon exposed on the sapphire-crystal caseback and the open tourbillon bridge. 

This year, for the first time, the established 15 brands (11 owned by the Swiss holding company, Richemont) at SIHH were joined by nine watch artisan-creators and independent workshops. They all showcased their unique approach to watchmaking. One brand, Ralph Lauren, pulled out of the show this year.

MB&F Sherman table clock in gold

MB&F, perhaps the most successful of the new group, not only introduced its latest “horological machine” but also unveiled its latest in artistic and creative table clocks. Called “Sherman,” it is once again made in partnership with Swiss clock manufacturer, L’Epée 1839. It is in the shape of a boyish robot, with movable arms and hands, and tank-like caterpillar tracks for feet. It was inspired by the US Sherman tank and MB&F’s founder, Maximilian Büsser’s on-going quest to revisit his childhood. The balance and escapement of L’Epée’s eight-day, in-line movement is located under the transparent dome of Sherman's head.

The Roger Dubuis Blossom Velvet ladies timepiece

Finally, Roger Dubuis declared 2016 to be the “Year of the Velvet Diva” by focusing on a collection of ladies watches called, Velvet. The five-watch collection combines high jewels powered by robust automatic movements.

For more highlights from what is rightfully touted as the watch industry’s most luxurious and exclusive watch show, stay turned to this blog.

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