The watch industry kicked off another year of fine watchmaking at the annual SIHH tradeshow in Geneva, Switzerland. For over twenty-five years, this event has attracted loyal patrons, numerous press outlets, and esteemed watch brands from around the globe to celebrate the latest in luxury watches. In the past, the SIHH has served to exhibit the most elite brands in the industry, but this year, they made a bold move by including nine new independent luxury watchmakers in the exclusive event. With this addition came a bit of restructuring. Typically, each brand has their own designated space at the event. However, for the nine newcomers, an “exhibition within the exhibition” was created. These artisans and independents exhibited in mini-booths centralized in one large room called the “Carre des Horlogers” or “square of watchmakers.” This was a surprising and exciting change that marks a new era for the longstanding tradeshow. As the SIHH got underway, everyone was eager to see how the new additions would measure up to the watch industry powerhouses. Brands like Baume & Mercier, Cartier, and Piaget have been exhibiting at the tradeshow since its inception in 1991, so it was clear that the newcomers had their work cut out for them to stand out in the crowd.
Independents Who Held Their Own
As the buzz around the event began to grow, it quickly became apparent which of the independents were the crowd favorites. Famously eccentric and ultra-creative watchmaker Maximillian Busser stunned the patrons at the SIHH with his latest over-the-top wristwatches for 2016. MB&F is known for its futuristic, science fiction-inspired “horological machines” and for outdoing themselves with each of their creations. They did just that at the SIHH by unveiling an updated version of the HM6 “Space Pirate,” the HM6 SV. In this new model, the front and back portions of the case are made entirely out of sapphire, consisting of eleven pieces of sapphire total. The complete sapphire construction allows you to have full view of the customized movement housed within. The MB&F HM6 SV is available in limited edition of twenty pieces, priced at a whopping $368,000 for the gold version and $398,000 for the platinum version.
Urwerk is another newcomer that caught the eye of the SIHH attendees. Like MB&F, Urwerk has an appreciation for a futuristic aesthetic and avant-garde designs. They released the brand new EMC Time Hunter, which may prove to be one of the most accurate wristwatches on the market. For any watch, factors ranging from the wear’s activities to variations in temperature can impact the accuracy of the timepiece, allowing it to lose fifteen or more seconds daily. With the EMC Time-Hunter, a small dial gives a current read of the amplitude and rate of precision at the push of a button, allowing the user to adjust the performance at any given time. This timepiece is available in a limited edition of thirty pieces, priced around $160,000.
There were two other notable offerings from the independents making their debuts at the SIHH: the Laurent Ferrier Galet Square Boreal watch, the brand’s first sport watch, and the H. Moser & Cie Small Seconds Bryan Ferry timepiece, designed by the songwriter himself.
Big Players Who Brought Their A-Game
It wouldn’t be an SIHH tradeshow without some of the biggest names in watches unveiling show stopping timepieces. Audemars Piguet was one of the brands that generated the most buzz. They not only released the largest number of new watches, but also introduced some of the most remarkable models at the event. At last year’s tradeshow, Audemars unveiled the Royal Oak Concept RD#1. This concept watch incorporated innovative technology set to take chiming timepieces to the next level as part of an extensive eight-year research project by the brand. After gaining three vital patents, the concept was realized this year in the form of the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie. This timepiece produces a sustained, clear, and full tone by building further on their previous innovations, such as incorporating a new case design that inhibits sound absorption. The Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie is set to be priced at whopping $597,400.
A. Lange & Sohne is another big brand who brought their a-game to the SIHH. They took one of their most magnificent models, the Datograph, and made it even more impressive by adding a tourbillon. The result is the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, equipped with the new L952.2 calibre movement that manages a perpetual calendar with big date, flyback chronograph, and moon phase as well as the tourbillon with stop seconds. The highly exclusive platinum Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is available in limited edition of one hundred pieces, priced around $32,000.
Top Trends for 2016
Although the display of watches at the SIHH was without a doubt diverse, there are still some overarching trends throughout the offerings. It appears that the color blue will reign supreme for another year. The hue continues to be one the most popular accent colors for details, dials, and straps, as seen in Cartier’s new Calibre Diver in blue. Gold seems to be the new metal of choice as opposed to stainless steel. Yellow gold could even be making a comeback, as seen in Audemars’ Royal Oak models.
The popularity of artistic dials also seems to be on the rise. Although these techniques add considerable value, and in turn cost, it’s nice to see these ancient arts preserved in modern watchmaking. Montblanc, Cartier, and Vacheron Constantin each debuted a highly artistic model at the SIHH. Montblanc launched a new collection, the 4810, with the world traveler in mind. One of the pieces of the collection, the ExoTourbillon Slim 110 Years Limited Edition, features an intricate hand-painted dial that takes one week to complete. Cartier’s latest moon phase, the Rotonde de Cartier Day/Night Retrograde, showcases a stunning dial that depicts each moon phase in the lower portion and a sun and moon illustrating dawn to dusk in the upper portion. Finally, Vacheron continues to build upon their Metiers d’Arts collection. The new additions were made to the Fabuleaux Ornamental line, which features engraving, enamel work, and gem setting in addition to an array of other techniques all inspired by global cultures.
A Positive Step for the Watch Industry
Ultimately, the success of the SIHH serves to set the tone for the year ahead in the watch industry. This year’s offerings show an immense effort from the leading brands to keep momentum high and keep the industry thriving. The shift in the tradeshow’s structure and the inclusion of the nine new independents may have very well been the biggest success of the event. These newcomers represent the future of watchmaking, which combines modern designs and technologies with a traditional art form. It’s important for each and every member of the industry to be represented and come together to support the great craft of watchmaking. This highly unified front demonstrates the strength and endurance this industry has and will continue to assert in the years to come.