For a second year in a row, the luxury watch fair known as Watches & Wonders has brought together some of the finest watch maisons and the lucrative Asian market. Watches and wonders is the yin to SIHH’s Yang. Bringing balance to what has been a focus on the western markets that we have seen for the last 23 years, without fail, via SIHH.
So why a watch fair in the Far East?
Here are some figures produced by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH). January to June of 2014, the first two quarters of this year showed that the Far East, countries such as China, Hong Kong (SAR), Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea imported in excess of CHF 4.36 billion. This in comparison to the other 9 of the top 15 swiss watch markets, grouped together as the west, including USA, UK, Italy, Germany and the Middle East. Their total imports equalled to CHF 4.29 billion. It speaks volumes.
The Far Eastern market is just as important if not more so in terms of the hard numbers. It deserved a luxury watch fair of its own.
Much like SIHH the maisons that attend, produce and showcase special pieces and celebratory editions to be released at Watches & Wonders for their adoring public. Said « public » ? Yes. And it matters because, unlike SIHH, Watches & Wonders is open to the public as well as the trade and journalists.
Like all of these events it is an important platform to launch new and existing products, almost more importantly now is the need to build an emotional attachment with the clientele in Asia. Asia have in the past been peering across the continents and admired SIHH and Baselworld from afar. This has been rectified resulting in the brands taking the interest seriously and spread out to Hong Kong with Watches & Wonders. Much like it’s sister show SIHH it is organised by the Fondation de Haute Horlogerie (FHH).
The interest is so serious that juggernauts like Vacheron Constantin and Panerai chose to release some amazing new pieces this year. It is all about exposure to the nouveau-riche Chinese population where spending and showing one’s wealth and generosity are paramount and integral to their culture and society.
Watches & Wonders 2014 – Favourites
If ever there was a ‘his and hers’ watch set to have, this is it.
Sapphire crystal case and bridges, not forgetting the cable suspended calibre.
Almost sounds like some sort of crazy structure. Oh wait, it IS crazy. Crazy cool!
A dragon and a phoenix, symbolizing Yin and Yang perfectly.
Detail on this is outrageous.
A smart classical mini complications piece. Lovely.
Panerai Radiomir 1940 with the in-house micro rotor P4000 movement
Panerai is one of the most popular brands for the young hip population at the centre of Hong Kong’s watch market. This will be very much sought after for the size, styling and not to mention a great looking movement.
Vacheron Constantin Maitre Cabinotier Astronomica
A crazy behemoth with 15 complications showcasing the technical ability of Vacheron Constantin. So limited that there is only one, and it was already sold! This was merely an example of what Vacheron Constantin can do.
Watches & Wonders 2014 – To the Future
Asia’s tigers are still going strong but with uncertainty over Hong Kong and its’ relationship with China, as seen in the recent ‘Umbrella Protests’ and the crackdown on ‘gifting’ in Mainland China means demand may be waning for goods in the luxury sector. Of which watches represent a significant number.
This leaves all of the big houses fighting over an ever shrinking market, already felt in Switzerland as brands like TAG Heuer are cutting down on the numbers of pieces being produced.
Watches & Wonders will probably continue to be a strong fair, though how much business it will generate in the region is yet to be seen. Only time will tell. The fair will create interest, spark enthusiasm and birth a need and lust for new products. The act of the transaction may end up happening in Europe due to the popularity of retail tourism.
The winner in the end will still be Europe, and more importantly Switzerland.