Plurality – does it help or does it harm?
When I was about to finish writing my text titled “A moment of trial and truth” in May, I was hoping that in a few months the industry powers would join forces and we would be able to count down the days to two or three large trade fairs next year at the maximum. Today it is already known that exactly the opposite happened.
When I follow industry news, I regularly read about new ideas, so it looks like fairs and presentations are already starting to multiply like rabbits. It was Baselworld that started this process: this event went down in history, which is something that everyone already wrote about. Until recently, however, it was not known in what form the fair would return (no one had any doubts that it had to be revived, because it was impossible for the shareholders of the MCH Group to switch just like that to a completely different activity, such as Valais Blacknose sheep farming). Recently, everything has become clear. In April 2021, Basel will host HourUniverse instead of Baselworld, not only as a traditional trade fair attracting visitors from all over the world, but also as a social networking portal that is active all year round.
The Federation Haute Horlogerie, the organiser of the Geneva SIHH, this year renamed Watches & Wonders, came up with a similar idea. By entering the Watches & Wonders website, all interested parties will have access to current, industry-specific information throughout the year, and from time to time FHH will organise real-world meetings (the first will be in September in Shanghai). As you can see, MCH and FHH’s attempts to get along failed and, what is worse, revealed mutual dislike, resulting from the fight for exhibitors, in other words for money.
Later this month, a spontaneous Geneva Watch Days event will take place in several Geneva hotels, in which 17 brands will take part, including Breitling, Bovet, Bvlgari, Czapek & Cie., De Bethune, Ferdinand Berthoud, F. P. Journe, Gerald Genta, Girard-Perregaux, H. Moser & Cie, MB&F, Ulysse Nardin and Urwerk.
Will everyone wear masks during this event (due to the current world situation)? We will see. The organisers will certainly do their best to make everyone feel safe (I wonder if it will be necessary to bring a negative Covid-19 test result?), but there is still the issue of travel and possible quarantine announced by some countries.
I am also thinking about something else. When in March this year a message was sent that several brands got along and would organise Geneva Watch Days, I reacted very enthusiastically. At that time, I was still hoping that despite the conflicting interests, watch manufacturers would try to join forces and that something wonderful would later emerge from this idea. As you can see, it was wishful thinking because it quickly turned out to be what it would be.
So, for now, there are several trade fairs planned for next year: starting at Imagination – One Word one Vision in February (Swiss Creative Lab is behind this, and the event is to be held in Geneva or Lausanne shortly before the fair in Munich) and Inhorgenta in Munich, through Time to Move (Swatch Group event), Time to Watches, to the aforementioned HourUniverse and Watches & Wonders. And this is not the end of the list of “must be” events, as some brands will certainly organise individual presentations. I’m not the only one who doesn’t like the increasing number of industry meetings. We can already hear the voices of outraged shop owners who openly say that they do not have time to make ten trips a year (after all, this is watch industry, not tourist industry). But does someone listen to them?
In addition to the conflict of interest, the crisis related to the coronavirus pandemic showed one more thing: the multi-brand strategy of putting all eggs in one basket, i.e. creating a collection for a Chinese customer, has by no means worked. In spring this year, the Chinese shopping tourism to Europe collapsed and the slowly reviving Chinese market was little consolation to producers (in June the Swiss recorded a 47.7% increase there, thanks to which their losses amounted to “only” 35.3 % compared to the value of exports in June last year).
In this situation, listening to and supporting local retailers could be a powerful advantage, as interruptions in the flow of tourists (not only Chinese) may become commonplace in the near future.
Besides, there is a real challenge for the industry: to encourage young people from generation Y and Z to buy watches (especially generation Z, who were already born with a Facebook account and wi-fi in the umbilical cord). And although, as research shows, for almost a quarter of them the physical world and the virtual world are one reality, it does not mean that young people only value virtual acquaintances (the same research shows that more than half of them have a high or very high need for meetings in the real world).
May the producers put as much effort into understanding the new reality as they did into creating sophisticated tourbillons.