A CALM CONFIDENCE FOR HAUTE HORLOGERIE

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The Jewellery Editor, Maria Doulton visits the 21st edition of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva.

Optimism prevailed at the 2012 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, despite macroeconomic uncertainties, supply constraints & potential slowdown in Asia.

The atmosphere at 2012’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) marked that of calm confidence. 2011 proved to be an outstanding year for Swiss watchmaking – culminating in a new record for exports – yet executives remained mindful of macroeconomic uncertainties, supply constraints and a potential slowdown in Asia.

“We are quite optimistic for 2012,” confirmed Jean-Daniel Pasche, head of the Swiss watch federation, on the eve of the SIHH in Geneva. “Even though the watch industry might not have the same growth rates as the 19-20 per cent increase in watch exports seen in 2011.”


“Brands are worried about Europe, it’s not like buying milk. If things are bad, people stop buying watches.”


“Brands are worried about Europe,” he continued to Reuters. “It’s not like buying milk. If things are bad, people stop buying watches. Risks this year are the economic situation in Europe, U.S. austerity measures and the strong Swiss franc, but we expect the watch fairs to confirm the sector’s resilience.”

Despite being faced with a challenging landscape, brands remained optimistic about the coming twelve months. Vacheron Constantin claims it sold out its planned 2012 output of 19,000 timepieces in the first two days of the fair. CEO Juan-Carlos Torres remained positive that it will be another good year for the brand and does not believe China is likely to experience a sharp slowdown.

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Cartier’s Grand Complication Skeleton Pocket Watch

Officine Panerai shared its aggressive plans for expansion, revealing it will open fifteen new boutiques in the coming twelve months and will begin building a new factory in Neuchatel in March, which could increase its production staff from 130 to near 300. Fellow Richemont producer IWC will invest 50 million Swiss francs to add 25,000 square metres to its production site in Schaffhausen, as it struggles to keep up with demand.

Many conversations were driven by Swatch Group’s decision to reduce supply of components to competitors. Overall industry growth is expected to slow as brands seek alternative suppliers or develop capabilities in-house, but even then executives championed positivity. Many CEO’s were quick to acknowledge the need for unique products – and therefore unique components – in a quest to remain innovative and competitive.


“CEO’s were quick to acknowledge the need for unique products – and therefore components – in a quest to remain competitive.”


Such attitudes were convincingly reflected in the pieces on display. Wallpaper suggested that brands were embracing their invention and artistry to keep ahead of the game, following last year’s exhibition of play it safe, sure-to-sell looks. “Time after time we were shown some of the most creative watch designs in years,” they quipped in their wrap-up.

“Complications – those very technical watch additions such as tourbillons and minute repeaters – became a familiar motif as brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre and Van Cleef & Arpels sought to display their technical know-how. Compelling decorative techniques – enamelling, straw marquetry, tessellation and stone setting – were also popular themes.”

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Richard Mille’s Avenger Vertical Tourbillon concept watch

A sure sign that one of the world’s oldest luxury crafts has moved firmly into the 21st, was Richard Mille’s ground-breaking digital 3D display. Visitors watched giant digital watch dials linger in the air, rotating slowly to allow for a detailed view of inner and outer workings. Something that is sure to be repeated both at Baselworld and next year’s SIHH.

If the SIHH does indeed set the tone for the coming year in Haute Horlogerie, 2012 will champion innovation and creative strategic thinking. Change is upon us – dominant markets are changing, supply structures are changing and the landscape is, at the very least, challenging.

But for those that are game, this exciting environment paves the way for products that are truly unique, where design will be driven by the greatest of luxuries; creativity.


To further investigate Timepieces on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

5 Minutes With … Jean-Claude Biver, Hublot
Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie Leverages Film to Fight Counterfeiting
Spotlight: Pierre Dubois, CEO & Founder, Pierre DeRoche
Baselworld Mirrors Changing Landscape of Watches Sector


© Luxury Society, A Calm Confidence for Haute Horlogerie, 30 January 2012, by Sophie Duran.


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