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Visitors during the public days of Watches and Wonders 2023.

Experts’ views: The year so far and what to expect in Q3 and Q4

Experts’ views: The year so far and what to expect in Q3 and Q4

Following Watches and Wonders, we asked watch industry experts on both sides of the Atlantic for their opinions on what the fair indicates for the year ahead. Across the board, “cautious optimism” seems to be the buzz-phrase.

Carol Besler, Journalist and WatchPro contributor, USA

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“Watches and Wonders 2023 was so jammed with people and activities that it felt like being back at Baselworld in its heyday. Compared to recent years the products were colourful and creative.

I was impressed by the Rolex 1908. Rather than redesigning the Cellini line, they threw out the formula and started from scratch, and it’s fantastic. Also, the Oyster Perpetual Bubble, because it represents the mood right now – a cheerfulness and a less formal trend in social norms.

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Rolex 1908.

On the side of genuine technical innovation, there is the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante, and the Patek Philippe 24-Hour Display Travel Time, both so clever and useful.

And I have to mention jewellery watches, including the outstanding Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Secret Necklace, the Piaget Aura High Jewellery with baguette sapphires and diamonds and Van Cleef & Arpels’s invisibly set secret watches and À Cheval jewelry pieces, which never, ever disappoint.

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Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo secret watch.

Everything I’m hearing, including a very interesting recent survey of Gen Y and Zers indicates that young people love luxury watches and intend to buy them in droves – and at top price points.

Over the past 30 years I’ve seen recessions, crises and covid, but at this point in time, the future of the industry seems brighter than I’ve ever seen it. It’s bolstered by the fact that watch industry executives seem to be getting younger and they are bringing fresh perspectives.”

Roberto Chiapelloni, Owner of Manfredi Jewels, USA

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“Watches and Wonders 2023 had a fantastic attendance with visitors from all over the world. It finally as though we are in a real post-covid era. There was a genuine sense of cautious optimism from all of the other retailers that we connected with during the fair.

The product offering was very good this year, lots of smart, well thought-out line extensions of existing products.  Everything felt commercial and very sellable.

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There were some absolute standouts – the Grand Seiko Tentagraph, the Parmigiani Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante and the Rolex Day Date 36 with the celebration dial that was filled with emotion and emojis.

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Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 ‘Emoji’.

We were delighted to see the new Zenith Pilot and, as always, the independents that we carry were amazing – Voutilainen, Trilobe and Ressence.

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Zenith Pilot Automatic.

And there is a new brand that we are the first retailer for in North America – Frederik Jouvenot – we hope people will be keen to find out more. From our experience at Watches and Wonders, we are cautiously optimistic for the coming year.”

James Dowling, Author, WatchPro contributor and watch dealer, UK

Experts' views james dowling

“Watches and Wonders felt a lot like SIHH with a chunk of Baselworld stuck on the side, with the two spaces separated by the independents; it was as enjoyable as ever but the level of organisation was lacking.

It seemed that there wasn’t as much new stuff as last year – but then the brands did have three years to develop new products in the run up to 2022.

This year was much more about variations on a theme but, in all honesty, those variations answered most of the questions I had about last year’s introductions. So, on the whole, I was very happy.

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Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF.

I was really impressed with the Chopard Alpine Eagle HF and Parmigiani’s new take on last year’s rattrapante. I loved the craziness of the Rolex emoji Day-Date, but I think that the most important introduction from the Crown was the 1908 – that isn’t to say that I actually like it, but it shows a renewed focus on an area they have previously pretty much ignored.

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Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante.

In terms of the year ahead, I think it is very much a year of entrenchment for brands, of holding on to your market share and being very cautious.”

Karl Irwin, Director of DM Robinson, UK

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“Watches and Wonders 2023 was the best show in recent years by some way. It was well organised and guests were able to see the product without too many issues, allowing them to fully appreciate the products that were showcased in a more relaxed and enjoyable environment. The product offering was excellent with all the key brands bringing their own ‘showstopper’ items.

The Rolex Yachtmaster 42 in titanium was a real standout watch alongside the new TAG Heuer Carrera celebrating the collection’s 60th anniversary.

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TAG Heuer Carrera.

Patek Philippe was also a notable highlight, in particular the new additions to the Calatrava collection. And Tudor, too, came out with some incredible new products.

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Patek Philippe Calatrava.

Judging by the releases from the show, it is clear that 2023 is shaping up to be an amazing year for the industry, with strong enquiries anticipated for both new and existing models across all our showrooms.”

Karl Massey, MD of Prestons Diamonds, UK

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“As for everyone, this was only our second visit to Watches and Wonders, but we very much appreciated the accommodation and hospitality provided by our partners. It made for a smooth and enjoyable experience, despite the fair being incredibly busy.

We only represent three brands – Rolex, Tudor and Patek Philippe – and they all had excellent novelties this year. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t actually look at the other brands.

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Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 ‘Bubble’.

I don’t want to sound glib, but all of the watches from the brands that we carry were winners. On the basis of what we saw, I think we are looking at a very bright 2023/24.”

Robin Swithinbank, Journalist and WatchPro contributor, UK

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“Watches and Wonders 2022 was a new baseline for Swiss watch fairs. And this year’s again – with visitors from the Far East back, it was far busier than last year.

Great news for the industry that we now have a fully operational, global show. But it is still finding an identity of its own: it’s a hybrid of Baselworld and SIHH and needs full internal refurbishment before it can confidently step into 2024 and beyond.

The watches felt younger, more colourful and far more expensive. Design innovation comes in nips and tucks these days ­– ‘reimagination’ is the name of the game.

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Oris ProPilot X Kermit Edition.

Prices have reached absurd levels. The industry needs to be careful before it prices out the next generation of consumers. The lower end is feeling the pinch already; fair warning to the rest.

Rolex and Oris really stood out for obvious reasons, and Ulysse Nardin. That stand was ingenious. I wonder if next year we’ll come away from IWC, Lange and Roger Dubuis having seen only two watches, too.

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Ulysse Nardin Freak One.

The show indicates cautious optimism for 2023/24. Exports are rising still, but not everyone’s convinced that trend will continue while global inflation and the war in Ukraine continue to dominate the economic landscape, and as the US election battle gets nasty. A weak stock market is good for watches, though.

The bottom end of the luxury market won’t recover this year. And some of the big boys need to make some noise if they’re not to fall back. Concentration around a small cohort of big-name brands will dictate the narrative.”

Pietro Tomajer, Co-founder of The Limited Edition, UK

Experts' views pietro tomajer“Watches and Wonders was a great showcase for the whole industry. Besides the main exhibition at Palexpo, Geneva was buzzing in every corner with side exhibitions such as the AHCI – Master of Horology and Time to Watches.

We see established brands like Rolex and Jaeger-LeCoultre taking more creative risks than in the past, often inspired by independent brands.

In the main exhibition I was impressed with the brands combining advanced mechanical engineering with incredible levels of finishing. Rudis Sylva, Cyrus (unsurprisingly given the genius watch constructors involved in it, such as Jean-Francois Mojon and Walter Ribaga) and Trilobe which has garnered great attention since its GPHG win last year.

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Cyrus Dice Lime Carbon.

In town German watchmaker Stefan Kudoke and Ludovic Ballouard, who was presenting a version of the Upside Down featuring a two billion old malachite dial, left me speechless.

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Trilobe Une Folle Journée Diamant.

Today, even the most industrialised brands are recognising the fascination collectors have for the ancestral crafts and micro-engineering skills of some of the masters of the trade, and are taking inspiration from them. This has led to a new dynamism that will keep inspiring thousands of collectors around the world.

Exhibitions like Watches and Wonders allow the independents to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the most recognised brands in our industry – an ecosystem that is proving to be mutually beneficial.”

Mark Touslon, Head of watch buying at Watches of Switzerland, UK

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“Watches and Wonders was much busier in 2023 and this gave the fair a really vibrant, positive feeling. The mix of brands attending – from the industry behemoths such as Rolex and Patek down to the brands making a handful of timepieces a year was great and the new lines they presented were very exciting.

The opportunity for the industry to come together, to celebrate innovation, experiences and to share ideas provides focus and interest – much more so than individual brand events randomly placed through the year.

The products this year were exceptional and there was a profusion of trends. Colour still played its part with rich reds and berry shades presented plus salmon/copper dials that gave a faintly antique vibe to some models.

Case sizes tended to be reducing and we saw technical developments in movements and materials. Brands also recognised the increasing importance of sustainability and care for the environment, and this was expressed through increased use of recycled materials and lab grown diamonds.

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Patek Philippe 24-Hour Travel Time.

Aside from that serious aspect, several brands found their playful side using colourful patterns on dials and even characters from popular culture.

It’s difficult to know where to start with standout pieces. Rolex did the unexpected with their Day-Date Jigsaw Puzzle dial featuring emoji’s in the date window alongside celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Daytona.

Patek Philippe innovated with a new 24-hour display Travel Time model whilst Cartier was extremely commercial adding further animations to the Santos, Pasha and Tank collections.

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Cartier Santos-Dumont Skeleton Micro-Rotor.

TAG Heuer celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Carrera and a resurgent Zenith relaunched its Pilot collection to great acclaim. Sports watches from Panerai and Tudor were scaled down in size with the Radiomir now available as a 40mm and the Black Bay 54 a near faithful reproduction of their 37mm 1954 model.

My favourites include Chopard’s exquisite Alpine Eagle 41 XPS in lustrous Lucent Steel with a salmon dial and the titanium Rolex Yacht-Master 42. For absolute fun though the Oris ProPilot X Kermit is an absolute winner!

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Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 42 in RLX titanium.

Judging by the atmosphere of Watches and Wonders and the new launches, it’s going to be a year of optimism, excitement, anniversaries, colour and innovation! I for one can’t wait.”

Genna Zimmer, VP of Operations & Strategy, Reeds, USA

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“Compared to last year, Watches and Wonders 2023 was incredibly busy. People were noticably more relaxed than they were in 2022 when it came to covid concerns, which made for a more relaxed show.

Overall the product was incredible – Watches and Wonders further ignites the industries passion for timepieces and horology every year.

When it comes to the best piece and collections, it is really hard to narrow it down to one watch or one brand, as the show had so much to offer. However, for personal wear, I am most excited about the Tudor Black Bay 54.

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Tudor Black Bay 54.

This model stood out for me because I have always loved the Black Bay series, but I have a petite wrist. At 37mm, the Black Bay 54 is the perfect unisex watch in my humble opinion. Rolex and Tudor seemed to be the talk of the show.

While I struggle to pick a favourite from Rolex, I am really excited about the Yacht-Master 42 in RLX titanium and the new GMT Master II with the Rolesor bracelet. I think Rolex struck the perfect balance with bold launches showcasing innovation, while also remaining classic.

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GMT Master II with Rolesor bracelet.

If Watches and Wonders is an indicator of success, than 2023 is going to be a phenomenal year. At Reeds, however, we always prefer to remain humble and stay cautiously optimistic.”

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