Watches & Wonders 2015: in the heart of the Middle Empire
At the opening ceremony of this year's edition of Watches & Wonders, the brands present gave a very optimistic account of their situation. And all the elements, i.e., models that are out of the ordinary, much to the delight of the professionals on hand, confirm that impression.
All signs point to a bountiful harvest at the 2015 Watches & Wonders. One must admit, this third edition of the show is taking place within a framework that is particularly propitious compared with the preceding ones. Let's take a walk down memory lane for a moment. In 2013, the show was battered by a typhoon. And in 2014, the massive demonstrations in Hong Kong streets stymied participation in the exhibition. Nevertheless, professionals and public did come in large numbers, and this year the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie announced that about 15,000 visitors were expected plus 850 members of the press. This show, in contrast to the SIHH, is far more open to the end customer. In other words, watch buyers and aficionados in Hong Kong and the surrounding region may go to the fair for free if they register using forms supplied by retailers with shops selling the exhibiting brands.
At any rate, the first few days are set aside for professionals, retailers, sales personnel and journalists. The watch collections can be found in premises that are not as large as those of the SIHH, but just as luxurious and well organized. The neat backdrop in the spirit of the SIHH allowed me to unearth a few interesting pieces today. For example, Baume & Mercier unveiled a pocket watch with a five minute repeater. Its style is modern to make it compatible with the Clifton collection. And those who now wish to wear a connected watch no longer need to give up wearing a truly fine watch. Also worth noting, the fact that the pocket watch seems to be enjoying a modicum of success in southeastern Asia, because Roger Dubuis presented a version of its Quatuor for the pocket. But you will need a pocket of a certain size in order to fit this particular one in there. And as the unique piece by Vacheron Constantin was also on hand, there were in fact three pocket watches offered by three different brands to be seen. This may not portend a trend, but the professional should perhaps reflect on what interest brands might have in offering to a highly sophisticated Asian public watches that were once upon a time frequently appreciated in pairs. Examples are the Bovet watches and those made in Chinese style during the nineteenth century in Fleurier.
Noteworthy, as well, was the many women's watches designed to respond to a taste that is particularly Asiatic. Baume & Mercier is launching a series of eight Promesse watches with an egg-shaped bezel in green jade. An excellent watch that serves as a complement for some versions of the Classima for women who are particularly excited by mechanical movements with automatic winding. This proves that women in this region of the world do have interests in mechanical watches. The same applies to Vacheron Constantin and Piaget, where emphasis is also on women.
The Vacheron Constantin booth, which is entirely different from the one at the SIHH, is displaying the following: the Heures Créatives Heures Discrètes, but also the incredible Heures Créative Heure Audacieuse and the version that will surely last a while, the Heures Créatives Heure Romantique. Emotional and inspired by models taken from the company museum – a trend that seems to prove that vintage can sell all over the world, regardless of the collection – these small watches did draw attention. The number of Chinese women at the booths and in front of the display cases provides evidence of their appreciation for these types of jewelry watches. As for the men, they will definitely fall for the superb Maître Cabinotier Perpetual Calendar Regulator, whose special guilloché dial scintillates with changing reflections.
Philippe-Léopold Metzger, the CEO of Piaget, suggested that the idea was to promote the brand as a watchmaker specialized in mechanical refinement. To buttress this strategy, the company is no doubt positioning itself as a "watchmaker's jeweler. "As if to materialize his thoughts, Metzger and his teams presented works boasting magnificent dials made by highly talented artists. And this year, the manufacture is offering the Limelight Stella in a 36-millimeter case running on an automatic in-house caliber with an astronomic moon phase display. The model, designed exclusively for women, is a true premiere for Piaget, which is thereby getting into a segment in which the competition is fierce.