Timed to coincide with what should have been the opening day of this year’s show, tomorrow Watches & Wonders launches the world’s first virtual watch fair – an online portal where consumers are able to view the latest offerings from 30 participating brands
Has the future of the Swiss watch fair arrived? Tomorrow the organisers of Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) will flick the switch that turns on a new content hub. The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) says its site will be “part of a new global ecosystem” for its brands that also covers an international multi-event schedule.
The promise for consumers, retailers and press this weekend is a site packed with details about this year’s new watch collections, as offered by the show’s exhibiting maisons.
What that means is that at 11am tomorrow morning (UK time), the watch industry news dam will burst and from it will flow details of new watches from 17 of the show’s 30 exhibiting brands, among them Cartier, Montblanc, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Panerai, Hermès and H Moser & Cie.
The launch has been timed to coincide with what would have been the opening day of this year’s show. In its first phase, the site will showcase new collections through brand pages and tomorrow there’ll be a series of ten-minute presentations, fronted by brand executives, which will then sit on the site.
Further down the line, the FHH says it’ll push broader educational content and talks from industry bigwigs.
In a subplot, Cartier, by far the largest of the brands represented at Watches & Wonders, is launching its own platform tomorrow. Cartier Watchmaking Encounters will start with presentations of Pasha de Cartier, freshly face-lifted 35 years on from its debut, and the rakishly handsome Santos XL.
It’s unlikely the FHH’s site would have come online this weekend had the show been going ahead as planned, but many will say it’s long overdue. Baselworld, which is now struggling for survival after Bulgari and the LVMH watch division brands followed the Rolex-led consortium out of the door, announced a content platform of its own after last year’s event, but has yet to deliver it. It was due for launch this summer, but that now looks unlikely.
Meanwhile the launch of the Watches & Wonders site marks a dramatic shift in focus. Only a few years ago, SIHH – as it was then known – was closed to the public. In recent years, it’s hosted one public day, the last day of the show. Tomorrow, anyone with access to the internet will be allowed through its doors, however virtual.
“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, the FHH’s chairwoman and managing director.
While Baselworld faces its demons, Watches & Wonders has its eyes set on higher things. Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chopard, Hublot, TAG Heuer and others deserting Baselworld appear destined to be in Geneva next April, alongside Watches & Wonders.
In the meantime, the FHH is also promising “strategic e-commerce partnerships” on the new site and “several physical events” next year (its Miami event is already in the calendar for February) alongside regular hub content.