The most exclusive fair of the year is back next week, in a surprisingly less exclusive edition. SIHH 2016 will welcome nine new brands inside the Palexpo, all of which will be gathered in a Carré Des Horlogers. The new booth, which stands in the space left vacant by Ralph Lauren, will be the first space devoted to independent watchmaking. So what should we expect from this novel configuration? And why has the FHH decided to invite these specific brands to participate?
Who is joining the ‘Carré Des Horlogers’?
In alphabetical order, SIHH welcomes nine brands: Christophe Claret, De Bethune, H.Moser & Cie, Hautlence, HYT, Kari Voutilainen, Laurent Ferrier, MB&F, and Urwerk.
Why are they joining SIHH?
By extending these nine brands an invitation to participate to SIHH 2016, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) recognizes their growing influence on the watchmaking industry. They are certainly the most successful independent brands out there (with the exception of the brands already associated with SIHH: Audemars Piguet, Parmigiani Fleurier, Richard Mille and Greubel Forsey).
But they are also making sure they no longer detract from the fair. Indeed, MB&F, Urwerk, De Bethune and others had been exhibiting their novelties in Geneva during SIHH week for some years now. And every twelve months, they seemed to be attracting more buyers and media to their stalls, guests of Richemont whom the Group would rather have inside the Palexpo at all times.
The benefit is mutual though. Those invited to join SIHH 2016 are only there because the FHH wanted them there. And none of them thought very long when they received their invitation.
What is perhaps more surprising is that SIHH 2016 will suddenly host more independent brands (13) than Richemont Group brands (11). But the latter will no doubt be receiving all of the attention when the fair opens its doors on January 18.
How will they impact the atmosphere of SIHH?
Independent brands have always felt the pressure of competition, perhaps even more so than brands supported by bigger groups. But they have remained mutually supportive.
Creatively, they share their knowledge and work on each other’s timepieces at times to the point they have developed a co-dependency in their work and a true friendship outside.
Every year, they come together during Baselworld, the Dubai Watch Week, and other intermittent exhibitions around the world. This won’t be the first time they share the big stage. But the stage has never been so big.
Will they also display at Baselworld 2016?
It remains to be seen whether the brands will be able to display at both fairs, but most of the brands we’ve spoken to have said they would.
What may change is the manner in which they launch novelties. Most of the new participants have grown into fully-fledged brands, with comprehensive collections and limited editions of their most popular watches.
Which means they could follow the example set by their new peers at SIHH, of introducing only part of their new line in Geneva, to be able to present something new still later in the year (SIHH-partner brands also participate to Watches & Wonders in Hong Kong).
MB&F LEGACY MACHINE PERPETUAL Watch 2015 Wrist 1
De Bethune DB25 Quetzalcoatl New Snake Watch Baselworld 2015
HYT H4 Gotham Baselworld 2015 Watch Review
Urwerk UR-210S Full Metal Jacket
Christophe Claret Allegro Watch
H. Moser Venturer Tourbillon Dual Time Sapphire Skeleton 2
Hautlence Watch Concept D’Exception Vortex
Watches & Whisky Laurent Ferrier
(In order of appearance: H.Moser & Cie Venturer Tourbillon Dual Time Sapphire Skeleton, Christophe Claret Allegro, De Bethune DB25 Quetzalcoatl, HYT H4 Gotham, Hautlence Concept D’Exception Vortex, Laurent Ferrier Galet Square, Urwerk UR-210S Full Metal Jacket, MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual, Kari Voutilainen GMR)