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Live from SIHH: I’m at a Watch Show and It’s So Civilized That I Might Be in Love

A new Bovet watch

Geneva, Jan. 17, 2019. Hello Geneva! I attended the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) Genève, held Jan. 14–17, this week to cover watches, an area I haven’t written about at length in some time. I have covered jewelry trends for 22 years, though, and one of the outlets for which I write asked me to add watches to my beat.

Not a problem, especially since it involves attending this über exclusive fair. I hear the vetting process for journalists to cover it is more restrictive than the jewelry trade fairs I attend because it features only luxury watch brands owned by Richemont, the publicly held group of lux holdings like Van Cleef & Arpels. Of course, not just any retailers can show up, either—they must be invited by brands to attend.

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Thankfully, I made the cut, and with laptop and notebook in hand, I flew to Geneva ready to work. Since it was a new show to me, I reached out to my colleague Carol Besler, a longtime watch journalist who writes for Forbes, Journal Haute Horlogerie, and Watch Journal, among others, for the lowdown. “There’s a master schedule of brand appointments—no need to run from one appointment to the next like you do at Baselworld,” she explained about the process for seeing the new watches. [For those who don’t know, Baselworld is another important watch show that happens in Basel, Switzerland.]

One of the stands at SIHH.
Photo courtesy SIHH @ NENCIOLI Gilbert & MORVAN Alain

I’ve never been much for making appointments at my jewelry shows—you inevitably get thrown off schedule after the first one because you have to stop for so many familiar faces in the hallways—so I didn’t really have an opinion. When I hit the show floor, though, and realized how this master schedule would affect my daily routine, I was wishing that every show would mandate this type of scheduling. It’s so civilized! And while there are admittedly far fewer brands to cover at this show than most others I attend, there’s no running around like a crazy person because you have one appointment an hour, giving you plenty of time in between to find your next booth or have a coffee or champagne (all flowing generously, thank you, Richemont).

A lion watch featuring hundreds of wood chips from Vacheron Constantin.
A lion watch featuring hundreds of wood chips from Vacheron Constantin.

The appointments themselves were efficient, and at times, amusing. All the journalists were escorted into large rooms with ample seating and myriad different themes, from dark movie-theatre-like environments to bright, beach cabana-esque patio-like setups with the heat of 1,000 suns pumping in. (Eventually, somebody found the a.c. unit, thank God.) There were presentations with speakers and videos, and everyone had the same opportunity to handle the pieces and snap photos for social media and get a press kit. It was a pleasant way to cover a show.

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And the amusement? Presentations from the brand representatives who unveiled new works ranged from monotone to corny to distracted—one guy enthusiastically mentioned the word “threesome” at least six times by the time I realized he was hell bent on repeating it. (At least he was talking about a watch.) Some of these folks were comfortable in front of a crowd while others awkwardly followed scripts written for them. Compared to my hurried jewelry presentations where you digest a year’s worth of an artist’s commitment in five minutes in order to race to your next appointment to try to see as many brands as you can in eight hours—whew!—this show had some quality entertainment with time to spare for bubbles. I like that.

The interior of the Richard Mille booth spoke to its
playful new collection surrounding sweets.
Photo courtesy SIHH @ NENCIOLI Gilbert & MORVAN Alain

Anyway, I’ll put these first-world issues behind me and dive into some watch coverage. Not surprisingly, this jewelry editor was most jazzed about the collections that had strong stories and/or lots of jewels. Stay tuned for some of my favorite lines in the days ahead.

 A new Bovet watch
A new Bovet watch shot by yours truly.
Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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