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OPINION: Raising a toast to Geneva Watch Days

Geneva

I have to confess that I didn’t really know what to expect when I jetted off to Geneva just a couple of days ago. 

I knew that it wasn’t an exhibition or trade show in the traditional sense, so what was it going to be? A series of individual product launches? Or a communal jamboree and celebration of the watch industry dotted across Geneva?

The answer is that it didn’t really matter. In a year where Covid-19 threatened to derail things entirely, with all major trade shows being cancelled and, at the height of the virus, shops even being forced to close, Geneva Watch Days was the Swiss watch industry flexing its muscles again, puffing out its chest and declaring: “We’re still here and open for business.” 

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There were some impossibly gorgeous watches that I was shown from the likes of Bulgari, Ulysse Nardin, Girard-Perregaux, Carl. F Bucherer, Maurice Lacroix and others.

But the main positive that I’ve taken away was meeting real people in the flesh again. The passion and knowledge that the staff showed for their respective brands was infectious and felt all the better to witness after we’ve all been deprived of such interactions for so long. 

It’s true that things weren’t perfect. I wrote in more detail yesterday about the ongoing issue of compulsory face masks, while social distancing alone does create its own barrier between people and prevents large scale parties or gatherings taking place that really would have made Geneva Watch Days even more special, not least because of the amazing weather that the city enjoyed this week.

But the positives massively outweighed the negatives. If not Geneva Watch Days, then what? We’d have had to resign ourselves to going a whole year without any significant watch event in Switzerland, which simply wouldn’t have been acceptable for such a magnificent and proud industry.

There are also intangible benefits that are harder to put into a ‘pros and cons’ table. By simply travelling abroad to the watchmaking capital of the world, I felt invigorated, hopeful and motivated.

No-one is immune to feeling rudderless or lacking drive from time to time. I’m proud of the way that we at WatchPro dealt with the damaging lockdown, knuckling down from home and seeing our online traffic soar to record levels.

But there’s only so long before diminishing returns kick in and, try as you might, you mentally drift.

Geneva Watch Days has blown away all the cobwebs in my mind and given me a real spring in my step. The product offering from brands has never been stronger, the wealthy are still looking to spend their money on luxury items, and there are opportunities aplenty for all of us – retailers, manufacturers and beyond. 

Notwithstanding the ‘whack-a-mole’ approach of Boris Johnson and his dismantling of air bridges as quickly as he opens new ones, I’m looking to book my next international trip as soon as possible. Geneva Watch Days has reminded me of one thing above and beyond anything else: humans are social creatures and need proper interaction with each other in order to operate at 100% and feel fulfilled. 

Well done to all of those who exhibited their wares in Geneva, especially those brands that were involved with the original organisation. 

Here’s to the mother of all bounce back years in 2021. 

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Daniel Malins

The author Daniel Malins