Dateline: Geneva

The spring 2007 international luxury watch shows in Geneva posted some of their best results ever, in business and attendance, propelled by strong global demand for luxury products, especially from growing affluent classes in China,India, Russia, Europe, and North America.

The 17th edition of the invitation-only Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, the best-known Geneva show (April 16–21), drew some 13,000 visitors from about 2,500 points of sale around the world to Geneva’s Palexpo. Buyers came from China, Hong Kong, and South Korea and included leading retailers from Europe, the United States, and Latin America. While SIHH doesn’t release business figures, its postshow report said it ended “on a more than positive note,” with its exhibitors “highly satisfied with the amount of business.”

The growing importance to the watch business of women’s luxury timepieces, especially chronographs and those with other complications, was evident in new offerings. That was underscored in an SIHH exhibit, Fine Watches, An Homage to Women, starring 55 contemporary watches from SIHH exhibitors and reflecting the variety available to women self-purchasers.

SIHH’s prestigious exhibitors are A. Lange & Söhne, Alfred Dunhill, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Officine Panerai, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, and Van Cleef & Arpels (all owned by Richemont), Audemars Piguet, Girard-Perregaux, JeanRichard,Parmigiani, and Roger Dubuis.

SIHH—operated by the Fondation de laHaute Horlogerie, founded in 2005 by Richemont, Audemars Piguet, and Girard-Perregaux—has long limited the number of its exhibitors. However, the fair’s management announced it is considering increasing its exhibitors, “contingent on a collegial decision by exhibiting brands and on availability of space,” said its postshow report. The next SIHH will be April 7–12, 2008.

The Franck Muller Group, a mini-conglomerate of seven top luxury watch and jewelry brands, holds it own seven-day World Presentation of Haute Horlogerie at its Watchland estate just outside Geneva. Its 10th edition this year enjoyed record sales, and, according to group officials, was “tremendously successful.” The only Geneva watch show open to the public, it welcomed over 6,000 visitors, 20 percent more than in 2006. Double-digit gains in sales were reported by its signature Franck Muller Genève and Rodolphe brands. Martin Braun and Backes & Strauss, two prestigious brands recently added to the group and in WPHH for the first time, “sold beyond their objectives,” said a WPHH report. Also posting gains were the brands Pierre Kunz, ECW, and Barthelay. WPHH will next be held April 6–13, 2008.

SIHH and WPHH weren’t the only games in town. They also have made Geneva—a center for fine watchmaking for centuries—an important stage for smaller independent watchmakers. About a dozen mini-shows and exhibits are held annually in Geneva hotels, concurrent with SIHH, capitalizing on the press and foreign buyers in town, especially from the lucrative U.S. market.

Most reported healthy attendance and business. Award-winning Geneva watchmaker F.P. Journe’s show was “very successful” said spokeswoman Natalia Signoroni, with “a lot of press from Asia and USA.” Journe is donating a portion of sales of his new Centigraphe Souverain hand-wound chronograph to the Institute for Cerebral and Medullary Disorders in Paris. For Jean Dunand Pièces Uniques, it was the “best show ever,” said Steve Holtzman, CEO of Luxury Watch Distribution Inc., its U.S. agent. “After the second day, we had sold through our entire allotment for this year.”

Other Geneva exhibitions included those for Bovet, HD3, Michel Jordi, Cvstos, Antoine Preziuso, and Richard Mille.