Zdbaoicj watches and wonders in the city
Look out for Watches and Wonders activities around Lake Geneva this week, but the real action is taking part in hotel suites, boutiques and other event spaces where independent brands are putting on their own shows.

Meet the “pirates” exhibiting around the city of Geneva this week

Rolex’s CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour calls them pirates, a term they will do well to wear as a badge of honour this week.

WatchPro prefers to think of them as independent thinkers who, in many cases having been turned down for a berth in the main Watches and Wonders exhibition, and have set up shop around the city of Geneva this week.

The 55 brands exhibiting at Watches and Wonders have guaranteed the attention of the world’s media and leading retailers by paying for their flights and rooms.

The travel bill is divided up between the brands, based on how many people attend their appointments. The more appointments, the more a brand pays.

As a journalist, it feels only fair to spend the majority of my week at Palexpo for the main show, but I have extended my stay this year so I have more time to spend time down by Lake Geneva where dozens of independent watchmakers are presenting their 2024 novelties from hotel suites, boutiques and other event spaces.

A must for anybody collecting or retailing watches form independent artisan watchmakers is the AHCI Masters of Horology event at L’Ice Bergues, an event space next to the Four Seasons Hotel, which brings together more than 20 independent watch and clock makers.

There is no definitive list of exhibitors, but previous years have seen some of the greatest horological minds take part including Svend Andersen, Ludovic Ballouard, Vincent Calabrese, David Candaux, Vianney Halter, Bernhard Lederer and Andreas Strehler.

This is more than just an opportunity to see some of the world’s most beautiful and innovative hand-crafted watches, it is also a chance to have those watches described by the geniuses who make them.

Good luck with that up at Palexpo.

On the way into the AHCI event, take a detour to the Four Seasons where Jacob & Co. will be showing its extraordinary timepieces. Last year, it unveiled a Billionaire watch entirely covered in yellow diamonds. It will be interesting to see how the brand will top that in 2024.

Just along the lake from L’Ice Bergues and the Four Seasons is the famous Beau Rivage Hotel where it will take at least a day to work through the independent brands on show. Renaud Tixier is likely to be a crown pleaser with the combined talents of Dominique Renaud and Julien Tixier at the bench.

Another brand new business, Guebly, will also make its first appearance. There has been no pre-show publicity other than promise: “Our timepieces are the result of exceptional craftsmanship, meticulously handcrafted by the finest artisans. Each watch is unique, finished with precision in every detail, even those that are not visible,” the company states.

Krayon, a GPHG winner in 2028 for its Anywhere watch is on my schedule because of the creative and artistic way it presents the passage of time. The business is only a decade old, but has already brought its creativity and artistry to the most technical of complications including perpetual calendars that also show sunrise and sunset timings anywhere in the world.

For a taste of the avant-garde, make time for Bianchet, HYT and Ikepod, all of which use the basics of telling the time to create wrist-borne works of art. Bianchet specialises in ultramodern tourbillon timepieces whose designs are dictated by the harmonious proportions flowing from the Golden Ratio.

HYT will be showing how it is resurrecting the ancient timekeeping of water clocks by measuring time with fluid moving through tiny tubes. Ikepod is more at the design end of the spectrum, with its flying saucer-style watches bringing both the futuristic space travelling dreams of the 1970s its retro vibe.

On the subject of retro, Guillaume Laidet, a man born into the Swiss watch industry, has resurrected both Nivada Grenchen and Vulcain in recent years and is mining the archives of both brands to bring mid-20th century classics back to life. From Nivada Grenchen, expect fresh interpretations of Antarctic Spider and Chronomaster Sea Diver or Super Antarctic collections while Vulcain has so many historic models to choose from, it is hard to know whether to wish for fresh chirping Cricket watches or more classic monopusher chronographs. A third brand from Mr Laidet is Excelsior Park, which has been combining the look of mid-century chronographs with design tweaks from collaborators including Seconde-Seconde. Spend just a few thousand francs on these brands and you buy a piece of horological history with modern mechanics that will reliably keep near perfect time.

Finally, from Mr Laidet, look out for Argon Watches and its Spaceone watch, which launched last year after raising over €700,000 on Kickstarter. Unlike his resurrection brands, this is something entirely new, and the Spaceone arrived looking like it had landed from outer space. It caused quite a stir when first presented at last year’s Geneva Watch Days at the Beau Rivage, so expect something eye-catching to come out of the same studio this year.

All these brands exhibiting around the city are not cheekily riding on the coat tails of Watches and Wonders, they are part of a concerted effort to create a week-long celebration of watchmaking that spreads from Palexpo down to the lake and cobbled streets of the old town, all sanctioned by the organiser of the main show.

Check the Watches and Wonders website’s “In the City” pages for details of guided tours that take in boutiques and exhibitions. A little out of town, but worth the effort, is a family-friendly Watchmaking Village at the Musée International de l’Horlogerie (MIH) in La Chaux-de-Fonds where children can create their own portable wooden sundial to take home with them. There are watchmaking career days at Geneva’s HEAD art and design college and even a free open air concert with the River Rhone as a backdrop.

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  1. So, one more reason to avoid Rolex, as if there weren’t enough already. They are behaving more like some obsessed dictatorship than the manufacturer of a product you probably couldn’t buy even if you have the money.

  2. I had no idea there was a much better event planned by independent makers… Too bad there’s no youtuber with proper live feed to feel the joy together :(
    I hope next year I manage to join myself. It’s just around my birthday, a perfect gift.

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