The Swiss Independent Watchmaking Pavilion at Casino du Lac, Geneva
After going through a security check, visitors will have to find their way through gaming tables and slot machines to reach the spot where eleven independent brands will exhibit their work between 17 and 22 January, in parallel to the SIHH.
As every year since the creation of the SIHH, the surroundings of Palexpo, where the great event is hosted, are buzzing with preparations. While the suites of the greatest hotels in the area will be occupied by international buyers and members of the press, the exhibition will welcome watchmaking brands seeking to make the most of the visit of such exceptional guests, some fans of (to a greater or lesser extent) comfortable in-house solutions, others adept of great groups.
Unity is strength
For the second year in a row, and despite some ten new brands joining the SIHH –the “Carré des Horlogers”– in 2016, eleven independent brands will be staying at the ICC, a particularly well-located business center in Geneva which includes a 5-star hotel, three restaurants, a newsstand, a fitness center and even a hairdresser.
The Casino du Lac, only a few steps away from Palexpo, is easily accessible from Geneva international airport either by train from the airport’s railway station or by car thanks to the Eastern motorway junction and the Casino’s several-story underground parking. Open till late at night, it will host a parallel watchmaking exhibition, featuring amongst other: Ludovic Ballouard, Vincent Calabrese, Vianney Halter, Greco Genève, Pilo & Co Genève, Antoine Preziuso and the famous AHCI Academy, a hive of historical talents.
The Swiss Independent Watchmaking Pavilion adventure did neither come about by chance nor was it a marketing strategy or a project to make business from the existing and flourishing business of watchmaking and its financial promises. No, it was actually born as a result of a specific, one-off request from Asia and organized and structured with perseverance and tenacity. It focuses on sales and the absolute need to be noticed in order to survive or maneuver in an ultra-competitive market marked by the predominance of groups and their financial logic.
The SIWP has gradually become a place to be in the exhibition universe. We got some insight from its founder, Amarildo Pilo, a determined entrepreneur whose career path justifies – in terms of indepence – his pragmatic rather than communicative approach. Indeed, he is above all the founder and owner of Pilo & Co Genève and David Van Heim.
Amarildo Pilo: founder of the SIWP
"We have been collaborating with the Casino du Lac since 2009. After years of mutual trust, we have decided to join forces to offer independent watchmakers an alternative. To this day, the response remains positive and we hope that more and more watchmakers will trust our structure and work with us to develop what to us is a most precious project".
How did you get the idea to gather these brands?
"It was in 2011 when I first visited the Shenzhen fair which is today still the greatest exhibition in China. As I walked through the corridors of this huge exhibition, I discovered that most of the exhibiting brands were Chinese.
Very few Swiss brands were represented and that only through Chinese distributors. Right then I realized that small independent Swiss watchmaking brands had to be introduced to the fair and so in 2012 the first Swiss Pavilion made a debut in Shenzhen".
Were you contacted by others in Asia?
Yes. Since our first Swiss Pavilion in Shenzhen where we were present for four years in a row, organizers from HKTDC contacted us to see if it was possible to hold a Swiss Pavilion with independent brands in Hong Kong, where we went in September 2015. Another famous exhibition in Beijing had also approached us at the same time and we held our first Swiss Pavilion there in 2013. The contact we had with other brands was good for us.
So does it all go full circle with Geneva?
In January 2015, we held the first SIWP at Casino du Lac. We will be there again in early 2016, from 17 to 22 January. In 2015, I decided to make the SIWP international rather than national as both Hong Kong and Geneva are highly driven to the creations of independent brands.
We will also attend the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair in early September 2016.
In this individualistic watchmaking industry, how did you find the right words to convince the brands to come together?
We aim to create an optimal and powerful structure with minimum funds. It is obvious that increasing renown increases selling opportunities and it is clear that not being well known would prevent a small brand from surviving the current crisis. It is thus indispensable that the brands make additional efforts to be seen and discovered.
Are you moving from exhibitions to points of sale?
When our first store opened in Guangzhou (China) with eight independent brands, our concept evolved. We want to gather the brands and create an internal development force to be able to evolve in a different way. We owe our success and purpose to the exhibitions where several brands are introduced to professional or private customers and thus sell their watches.