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QUICKFIRE Q&A: Alexandre Catton, director of watchmakers’ trade fair EPHJ

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The biggest international trade show dedicated to the industrial and artisanal high-precision industry, which roots lies in watchmaking industry, is set to resume on 14 to 17 September in Geneva. We interviewed EPHJ Director Alexandre Catton, who emphasises the need for solidarity during these delicate times.

WatchPro: The EPHJ Show has announced it will be returning in September 2021 after skipping a year. Are you confident?

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Alexandre Catton: All indicators are moving in the right direction. Swiss federal government rules have been relaxed due to the downturn in the pandemic, paving the way to organise large events such as EPHJ – in compliance with the appropriate health measures.

WatchPro: Does this mean you’re going to require a vaccination certificate?

Alexandre Catton: Not unless we are required to do so by the authorities. But that has no bearing at this time. We will comply with whatever public health measures are in effect in September. And don’t forget that the large halls at the Show mean large, well-ventilated spaces with very wide aisles.

WatchPro: So EPHJ will be a milestone in the industrial recovery that everyone is expecting?

Alexandre Catton: For more than two years now industrial and artisanal professionals in the high-precision watchmaking sector have not been able to come together at the event where know-how and innovation intersect.

This has been enormously frustrating for the watchmaking, jewellery, medtech and microtechnology sectors, all these industries feeding one another’s creativity. Screens are great, but suppliers need to see their customers and prospects in real life.

And by the same token, visitors representing brands and finished products need to see and touch the products, talk about them face-to-face with subcontractors and resume the human relationships that are essential in our industry in terms of building and maintaining relationships based on mutual trust and respect.

WatchPro: Will the 2021 EPHJ Show be back to normal?

Alexandre Catton: Nothing can be normal this year. But already in early May more than 500 exhibitors have confirmed they will be at EPHJ in September. Despite the Show being cancelled in 2020 and postponed until September in 2021, we have been very respectful to the exhibitors and now they’re returning the favour.

Our policy was that anyone who wished to cancel could do so at no cost. We all have to join forces and stick together in these unprecedented times.

That’s also how we’ll raise awareness among the companies, watch brands, visiting the Show. As we move into the post-COVID recovery, we all have to step up and demonstrate the resilience and strength of the high-precision industry.

WatchPro: What are the key themes that will be addressed during this year’s Show?

Alexandre Catton: The most important thing is the range of innovations that will be on display in Geneva. Just imagine what these companies have been up to over the last two-plus years! Even if they’ve already released information about some of their new products, they’re still eager to show them off in real life to the watch industry at EPHJ.

We’ll also address the traceability and sustainability requirements for processes and materials that are becoming increasingly significant for our exhibitors.

And we’ll look at the lessons to be learned from the health crisis, especially the technological sovereignty of nations.

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