Time for Higher Education
For all the talk of the Swiss watch industry’s obsession with China, a few recent initiatives have underscored the trade’s commitment to the American market. Case in point: At a breakfast presentation in Las Vegas in June at the Swiss Watch at JCK show, representatives from the Foundation de la Haute Horlogerie, a 6-year-old Geneva-based coalition of 28 Swiss brands dedicated to promoting fine watchmaking, announced a major education initiative. From Oct. 1 to Nov. 15, the nonprofit organization will hold a handful of three-hour watchmaking workshops for high-end watch retailers in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas (and potentially other markets, as demand dictates). Limited to 10 people each, the workshops will instruct attendees on how to take apart and reassemble a mechanical movement. The best part? They’re free (for now).
“It helps clients to appreciate the geography of the watch,” said Philippe Bonay, president of Jaeger-LeCoultre North America and a U.S. delegate of the FHH, during the presentation.
As Bonay spoke, hands shot up in the air. “Would you consider Denver? Or Phoenix?” asked members of the audience, which included representatives from Ben Bridge Jeweler, Birks & Mayors, and Tourneau.
“Seattle would be good,” affirmed Ed Bridge, president of Ben Bridge. “The watch business got hit in 2009, but it’s come back very strong.”
The fact that the FHH has targeted the American market with such gusto is evidence of that. “Our presence at JCK and our will to continue implementing more programs in the U.S. prove that we consider it a key market,” says Pascal Ravessoud, development director of the FHH.
Having created a unified manifesto to explain what fine watchmaking is, the FHH has embarked on a mission to educate, train, promote, and celebrate haute horlogerie.
“We want to be the GIA of fine watchmaking,” said Steven Kaiser, president and CEO of Kaiser Time, and a fellow FHH delegate. Bonay concurred: “We’re at a base level, and if we put our heads together, we can really make some headway.”
Hours of Power
Before the wristwatch, there was the pocket watch. Before the pocket watch, there was the clock. And before the clock, there was…the hourglass. The simple timekeeping device—believed to have originated in medieval Europe—was made obsolete when mechanical watches came into fashion in the 16th century. However, Marc Newson, the wunderkind designer behind the niche watch brand Ikepod, has come up with a timepiece that may reverse that trend. At Baselworld in March, Ikepod unveiled Newson’s sleek and very special Hourglass, a device at once ancient and modern, primitive and sophisticated. Made from a single piece of borosilicate glass filled with stainless steel nanoballs—as opposed to sand granules—the sculptural piece generated quite a buzz at the Swiss fair. The small version, which measures the passing of 10 minutes, holds 1.2 million balls; the large version, which accounts for the passing of 60 minutes, contains a staggering 8 million. “In one sense,” says Alexandre David, president of Ikepod, “it’s the most complicated timepiece ever in terms of parts.”