When the Covid-19 crisis forced the cancelation of the annual watch fairs in Switzerland, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) shifted gears to create a digital platform that would provide a virtual experience of the Watches & Wonders event (formerly SIHH) that was scheduled to open in Geneva on April 25.
Rather than crowd the halls of the city’s Palexpo convention center, retailers, journalists, collectors, and the watch-curious can simply click their way to watchesandwonders.com starting on April 25 at 12 p.m. Central European Time, to discover a centralized portal consolidating information and content and have a chance to directly connect with the participating companies.
Visitors can preview new watches for the year from 30 premier brands ranging from Richemont powerhouses—such as Cartier, IWC, and Panerai—to small independents, including MB&F, Laurent Ferrier, and H. Moser & Cie.
Bringing the fair to virtual life involved developing dedicated brand pages that will digitally emulate the elaborate stands at the physical event to provide visitors with the tools to learn and interact while showcasing the heritage, values, and ambitions of each marque.
“A virtual fair is a plus as it allows brands to expand their reach beyond the usual visitors and readers,” said Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie, in an email. “If we manage to bring the emotions and the experience that the visitors usually get when visiting the fairs, then we win. Reducing costs while engaging a broader audience is the key to future success of fairs. This is a good way to start.”
For the virtual “opening day,” executives from each brand will present their latest introductions via 10-minute streaming videos that will remain accessible on the site permanently. Formerly behind closed doors and limited to invited press, these online product launches will allow consumer enthusiasts the opportunity to see what’s new simultaneously with the writers and editors that cover the market. In addition, visitors can check out the latest social media content, and connect directly to the brands’ own sites and channels to learn more.
Furthermore, the FHH’s Cultural Council and other industry opinion leaders are collaborating with the brands to develop expert educational content that will cover product reviews, trend forecasts, technological angles, and in-depth analyses of design, artistry, and craft, in addition to business-focused discussions on the state of the market.
Unlike a physical watch fair, the digital platform is designed for longevity and will be updated with fresh content in the months ahead. A phase two is planned for summer with additional product announcements and even e-commerce partnerships catering to watch fans.
“This dynamic new platform will allow watch lovers everywhere to discover exciting new products, engage in enriching experiences, and connect directly with our participating brands in one place,” said Fabienne Lupo, chairwoman and managing director of the FHH, in a press release.
As its new digital platform develops, Watches and Wonders continues to plan for future physical events, including an expanded Geneva fair in April 2021. To that end, FHH is currently working in partnership with the brands, including Rolex and Patek Philippe, that announced last week they would no longer exhibit at Baselworld.