Geneva Luxe

This spring’s annual high-end watch fairs in Geneva, Switzerland—the traditional home of luxury watchmaking—debuted some intriguing creations (see “Timely Trends,” p. 224) and did satisfactory business, despite the effect on attendance of the Iraqi war and public concerns about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The 13th Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), April 7-14, had about 9,000 trade visitors, 13% fewer than in 2002. There were “fewer customers from Asia, and to a lesser extent the Americas”—normally about a fifth of the visitors—because of concerns about the war and terrorism, noted a post-SIHH report. “The number of European visitors fell slightly,” largely because of worries about the SARS sickness spreading from Asia, though SIHH worked closely with Swiss authorities to curtail any risk. (Some brands later said they would hold special presentations of their collections in markets from which fewer buyers had come.) However, trade visitors from the Middle East and emerging European countries did attend and were, said SIHH’s report, “particularly active.”

Overall, the report noted, the show’s 16 exhibitors (two fewer than in 2002) had “a most encouraging volume of orders” and posted “satisfactory results,” despite a “depressed climate.” Special SIHH events included an exhibit on the history of watch dials and hands.

The SIHH showcased the watch creations of Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Alfred Dunhill, Montblanc, Officine Panerai, Piaget, and Vacheron Constantin—all owned by the Paris-based Richemont Group. Also showing watches were Audemars Piguet, Roger Dubuis, Girard-Perregaux, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Jean Richard, A. Lange & Söhne, Parmigiani Fleurier, and Van Cleef & Arpels.

The World Presentation of Haute Horology (WPHH), April 7-13, organized by master watchmaker Franck Muller—provocateur créatif of Geneva’s watchmaking community and acknowledged “master of complications”—offered some typical Muller surprises. One was his Tourbillon Revolution 2, the first wristwatch with vertical and horizontal tourbillons. Another is his patented new diamond cut—called “Curvex” after his watch case design—the basis for his new “Curvex Link” jewelry line.

Two other luxury brands introducing luxury creations at Muller’s Watchland estate in Geneva were the European Watch Co. and Pierre Kunz, who premiered a world first—a triple second-hand retrograde watch.

A social high point was the Watchland gala for 1,000 guests that starred legendary entertainer Ray Charles.