Under the pandemic of Covid-19, the social distance measures and lockdowns in many European countries, Japan, and some states in the U.S. have decimated the luxury business and made the holding of watch events impossible. It’s hardly unexpected that Baselworld and Watches & Wonders Geneva (formerly called SIHH) cancelled their trade show for 2020. However, in this tumult, Baselworld and Watches & Wonders (W&W), two of the leading watch fairs in the world, are facing diametrically opposing prospects.
In this episode of 8past10 Watch Talks, our host Kristian Haagen and Nick Meyer shared their take on the Watches and Wonders digital show.
After Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chanel and Chopard announced to leave Baselworld to start a new Geneva-based salon collaborating with the FHH this April, LVMH watch brands also followed the wave. The organizers have announced they are cancelling the event for 2021. A downfall is almost inevitable for Baselworld, the oldest watch trade show roots back to 1917.
On the contrary, transforming the traditional trade show into a digitalised platform for the wider audience is the path taken by FHH, the organiser of W&W. “The vision is to transform what has been achieved by SIHH to Watches and Wonders, to celebrate the watching making excellence with the physical event of W&W in Geneva and Miami, and with a permanent presence online with watchesandwonders.com,” said Fabienne Lupo, the Chairwoman and Managing Director of FHH.
A fashion show for watches
Looking at the macroeconomy, while multiple industries from the airlines to retailing are sinking into the mire, some IT firms like Zoom and Slack who provides specialised tools for online collaboration are seeing a surge of their users. In hindsight, we can see how important it is to accelerate the digitalisation of the watch industry, and push forward the omnichannel development.
With the new version of W&W, FHH aims to build a direct link with clients and customers, to address all the different audience from professional media, retailers, to the general public, especially the younger generations, in the same format of a salon. According to Fabienne, the new W&W is “more like a fashion show for watches”.
Fabienne explained to Hodinkee in a podcast: “In the past 25 years, I think SIHH is a private and professional show, trade show… But now the way to do business and to sell watches has changed a lot. We have to adapt, and the show has to adapt also. Because the show finally is nothing else than a kind of media.”
Future of Watch Retailers
The urge to adapt doesn’t only emanate from FHH along. Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe, addressed, “We constantly have to adapt ourselves, question what we do. Since what was right yesterday may not necessarily be valid today!” For the first time, Patek Philippe allows its authorised retailers to sell their watches online, provisionally.
In fact, they did it at certain extend. From April 25th to 29th, W&W collaborated with Net-a-Porter (owned by Richemont group, who has a concession store on Tmall, Taobao) and holt a on cloud watch fair in Tmall. And many watch brands are available from Net-a-Porter’s Tmall concession, from A Lange Söhne to Roger Dubuis. However, according to the sales number of the watches, we can’t say optimistically that the Chinese customers are ready to buy luxury watches on Tmall or any other e-commerce platforms.
Nick: Watches & Wonders proves that online can add a lot of luxury experience on the purchasing process… The balance between the boutique, off-line event and the online service is shifting.
The restrictions of travelling can shroud shadows upon the influencers financial condition, who might see their income shrinking.
Meanwhile, we’ve also seen the role of watch brand CEO’s are shifting from operations-focused to PR-focus during the quarantine.
Kristian: When you look at the Watches and Wonders, the influencers are right there. It’s the CEOs! They have to seat there with whatever backdrop to tell us how amazing their watches are.
In the next article, I’ll introduce you the novelties from W&W that liked by Nick, Kristian and Myself. Please stay tuned!