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CORDER’S COLUMN: Rejoicing the return of Watches and Wonders

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Here is hoping Geneva Watches and Wonders brings back the glamour of previous trade shows.
WatchPro co-founder & editor Rob Corder.

Five out of the current top ten Swiss watchmakers will appear among 39 brands at the very first Watches and Wonders Geneva.

The event is taking place in physical form, as planned, from March 30 to April 5, with Baselworld evacuees Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chopard, Tudor, Chanel, Grand Seiko, TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith joining Richemont maisons and a prestigious line up of independent watchmakers.

The full list of exhibitors is:

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Exhibiting Brands: A. Lange & Söhne, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Chanel, Chopard, Grand Seiko, Hermès, Hublot, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Oris, Panerai, Parmigiani Fleurier, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Roger Dubuis, Rolex, TAG Heuer, Tudor, Ulysse Nardin, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Zenith

Carré des Horlogers: Angelus, Armin Strom, Arnold & Son, Cyrus, Czapek, Ferdinand Berthoud, Grönefeld, H. Moser & Cie., Laurent Ferrier, Louis Moinet, Rebellion Timepieces, Ressence, Rudis Sylva, Speake-Marin, and Trilobe

I, for one, could not be happier to be finally seeing such a stellar line up of watchmaking talent and commercial opportunity under one roof for the first time in three years.

I cannot wait for the global industry (most likely without visitors from Asia) to gather and compare war stories of the past two years, draw a line, and move on.

Watches & Wonders returns to a considerably changed exhibition landscape and a fractured consensus on what these events are for and whether they continue to be necessary now we are all familiar with digital presentations.

I am not somebody investing tens of millions of Swiss francs into presenting at Watches & Wonders, but I am very glad the participating brands are doing so because it could not be more important that the event is a tremendous spectacle that reminds us of the privileged industry in which we work.

With only 39 brands, and five of the top 10 biggest Swiss manufacturers, we are not back to a time when almost every novelty was launched in the first quarter in Geneva or Basel.

Many launches have already happened this year, including from giants like Omega, Audemars Piguet and Breitling, none of which have unveiled any plans to participate in massive multibrand exhibitions.

These, and hundreds of other watch brands, have adapted to hold boutique events in various locations around the world, with the aim of making an impact in their local markets, and then amplifying publicity across the world through mainstream and social media.

Events outside Switzerland have been hugely successful, particularly Dubai Watch Week, Watchtime in New York and WATCHPRO Salon in London, which brought together watch enthusiasts and collectors as well as retailers and press. Geneva Watch Days was also a hit with me.

I think this configuration of a global Swiss show in the form of Watches and Wonders and a number of well-funded and executed events in great cities around the world will continue.

I would wager that money will flow into the non-Swiss shows over time, but not at the expense of Watches and Wonders, which I hope will remain the industry’s annual centerpiece and a grand statement that Switzerland remains the epicentre of the luxury watch world.

Because Watches & Wonders will be by invitation-only, the vast majority of people who make the industry work — the customers — will be excluded.

I do not feel that is a sustainable position, and sharing new launches and presentations over online videos will not dampen the frustration of seriously ticked off collectors.

Again, this needs to be remedied with in-country events where brands and collectors can meet and mix with watchmakers, retailers and fellow enthusiasts.

Festival of Time

Which is why we will be building on the success of WATCHPRO Salon with a totally new exhibition in April that will bring together watchmakers, collectors, retailers and press for what we are calling Festival of Time.

Festival of Time, as the name suggests, will be a fun-filled few days in London from April 5-7 so that people visiting Geneva can hop over and spend time with dozens of independent watch brands in the luxury of the iconic Cafe Royal Hotel.

The regal Oscar Wilde Lounge at London’s historic Hotel Cafe Royal.
Full details of the Festival of Time will be revealed next week, but I wanted to give people the opportunity to save the date, particularly those travelling from outside Europe for Watches & Wonders.

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