SIHH 2016: time to take stock
The moment has now arrived for a summary and debriefing of the 26th edition of the SIHH, the first to feature an expanded group of exhibitors.
The new iteration of the Salon Internationale de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), which included companies doing so-called nouvelle horlogerie, seems to have pleased the professionals in the industry. It also managed to seduce the private and well-heeled connoisseurs, who had the privilege to come and discover this special world entirely devoted to time. But it also drew a large herd of new actors in the field of luxury, people motivated by a single thing:selling to these watchmakers – who are still chasing somewhat lackluster customers – a way to fill up the coffers that had been emptied by having to pay for both the SIHH and, for some, a booth at Baselworld.
Nothing is free of charge in this lowly world, and the brands involved in nouvelle horlogerie can say a thing or two about it. Their watches, all of them exceptional, are never given away, but one must admit that all work deserves a salary, and their work is, all things considered, of high quality. In addition, their presence at the Salon is what made the event interesting for the visitors at a time when the institutional exhibitors were cutting back on their capacities. Okay, a visit to the Panerai manufacture just yesterday does suggest that the best is yet to come during the current year.
Let's keep in mind that the collections shown at the Salon appeared to be a real attempt to compromise with the general public by offering many more affordable collections. The only problem is, that for European clients, the prices given were still at stratospheric levels in many cases. Okay, the quality of the finishing has greatly improved these past years and the cost of manufacturing as well. Nevertheless, the brands should actually listen to the professionals more often, who regularly warn them of these problems that emerge, creating a real chasm between the desire to make a purchase and the actual possibility of going through with it.
And even if this edition of the SIHH did seem to be under a good star, it also showed that there were fewer and fewer independent retailers. But nature abhors a vacuum, so they were quickly replaced by a new class of "temple merchants" prepared to turn a profit by taking advantage of a moment of commercial confusion. Their goal isto try and sell complete customer files to the brands that have decided to be manufacturers and distributors at the same time. A large number of these flimflammers could be seen working the halls of the SIHH and especially the "Carré des horlogers," which appeared to be a kind of enclave of the latest paradigm of unmaterialized communication. They were like virtual TV announcers with an ultra-elitist target group, but one that still needed lassoing. Mostly, they represented more or less lifestyle-geared sites designed to redirect some unfortunate visitors who might have clicked on the wrong space to the real sites of the brands (as if they could not do that by themselves). There were also statisticians who were prepared to talk two different talks for the same file and to guarantee the quality of their percentages.
In sum, the watches were quite real, but the number of both fanciful and excessively expensive proposals proliferated at all of the Salon's booths, or at least most. And, one more thing, the growing number of media covering the subject did not slow the decline in sales, and the crisis is not the only culprit when it comes to the slowdown. Too much of anything is noxious, and exposing luxury everywhere without really putting it in the spotlight, without celebrating it even a little bit, takes away its luster and makes it lose its magic…. Restoring the sheen means also knowing with whom to share the good word: namely the ears that are listening and hear. . .