‘The SIHH is a prestigious, invite-only exhibition that annually celebrates fine craftsmanship and technological innovation. It is one of the most important horological events of the year, bringing together industry leaders and displaying the latest technological developments.’
Last week, Geneva once again welcomed professionals and watchmaking aficionados from all-over the world at the 27th edition of SIHH, or the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève.
The 2018 edition ran from the 15th to 19th of January, offering its visitors a unique horological experience situated in an extravagant setting at the very heart of Swiss watchmaking.
The SIHH is a prestigious, invite-only exhibition that annually celebrates fine craftsmanship and technological innovation. It is one of the most important horological events of the year, bringing together industry leaders and displaying the latest technological developments. It is also the first instance where the public can sneak a peek at the trends that will prevail in the watchmaking world for the year.
The event was organised by Richemont, a £40 billion luxury goods company that owns brands such as Cartier, IWC, Panerai, and Jaeger-LeCoultre among many others. In addition to the Richemont subsidiaries, the fair included other luxury watchmaking firms, totalling 18 Historic Maisons and 17 independent artisan-creators. Thus, the show served as a wonderful opportunity to preview the world’s greatest watches in a single venue.
SIHH 2018 showed the industry’s response to last year’s decline in exports, revealing new marketing strategies targeted towards a younger clientele. Based on recent studies, it has become clear that in the age of blogging and Instagram, millennials have occupied the centre-stage as powerful opinion leaders. With this in mind, the overarching consensus is that luxury watchmakers must adapt to the consumer demands of a generation who places more value in personal experiences than in loud status symbol items.
As young people are less likely to spend their earnings on ostentatious luxury watches, the Salon has introduced a range of significantly more subdued, elegant, and versatile pieces available at smaller price tags. Brands such as Baume & Mercier and Vacheron Constantin perfectly exemplify this new trend, releasing simpler models alongside the traditionally opulent versions. Overall, 2018 will be a year of functional elegance, where luxury watchmakers will increasingly replace gems and precious metals for clean-cut stainless steel cases, thus making their products available to a younger and wider clientele.
Baume & Mercier’s Clifton Baumatic is the company’s latest flagship model introduced at the SIHH. It communicates a definite departure from superfluous detail and takes its shape after a 1960s minimalist Bauhaus aesthetic. Despite its outer simplicity, it features an automatic movement, and has an impressive five-day power reserve. The watch will be officially released in September, retailing for approximately £2,000, which makes it one of the most affordable watches shown at the fair. It perfectly illustrates the industry-wide trend of offering functional and stylish timepieces without the need to sacrifice quality.
Similarly, Vacheron Constantin, a Geneva-based watchmaker known for its grand complications and classic dress watches, introduced the FiftySix model. This is a truly revolutionary piece from the company, as it constitutes its new entry-level watch starting at approximately £8,400, which is about half the price of most of the brand’s entry-level timepieces. Furthermore, the watch marks a departure from the expensive red gold finish in favour of a simple stainless steel case.
Another trend seen at the Salon this year is a reduction in size. Designers are now opting for smaller, thinner cases. For example, this can be seen in Piaget’s Altiplano Ultimate Concept Watch. This was one of the most talked-of watches at the fair, as it broke the record for the flattest mechanical wristwatch ever made, measuring only 2 millimetres!
Perhaps the most impressive stand at the fair was that of IWC Schaffhausen. Celebrating its 150th anniversary, IWC attracted a crowd of visitors to its Jubilee collection, which showcased a series of special edition watches from its most popular lines. The piece that arguably generated the most excitement was the Portugieser Chronograph Edition ‘150 Years’, limited to 2000 watches. The model boasts a beautiful blue dial, uncluttered design, and comes in a stainless steel case, which encloses an equally impressive IWC-manufactured movement from the 69000 calibre family. Overall, the Portugieser Chronograph embodies the brand’s characteristic blend of elegance and functionality.
All in all, 2018 promises to be a good year for Haute Horlogerie. We will see an emergence of many simpler, slighter watches done in the spirit of understated sophistication. Furthermore, with exciting technological innovations on the horizon, we can rest assured that luxury watchmakers will not fail to satisfy the tastes of the even the most tech-savvy clientele.