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What we want from Watches & Wonders

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From retailers to watch collector groups and the press, executives have some definite wish lists for Watches & Wonders Geneva 2022 and the remainder of the year – and it isn’t all about the watches. Interviews by WATCHPRO’s North America contributor Roberta Naas.

It has been a long three years since the watch industry last gathered at a mass participation event in Switzerland.

Baselworld has gone, and Watches & Wonders has expanded to include 38 of the biggest Swiss, German and Japanese watchmakers.

What does the industry want to see at the show? We asked our friends across the pond in America for their wish lists.

Steven Holtzman
Vice Chairman, C.D. Peacock 

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C. D. Peacock vice chairman steven holtzman

Product accessibility and perfectly timed promotions are what we are looking for from our brand partners at Watches and Wonders.

The major brands currently produce more watches than ever before.  The issue facing our industry is not necessarily that supply is low, but that more people are entering the collector market, creating increased demand.

New watch releases accompanied by substantial advance marketing campaigns help fuel the growing collector market, but often frustrate retailers and consumers who do not have access to these products.  Part of the solution is the precise timing of promotion and delivery.

A great example is Tudor–new products are in store the day the media campaign launches.   Other brands launch new products that we may not see in the market for six months–this is most predominant with brands that have their own retail stores.

By the time the product reaches the family-owned stores, the buzz has diminished, and the salespeople are exhausted from telling the clients that the product is not in stock yet.

Synchronized promotion and delivery not only benefits the brand-owned boutiques but also allows family-owned jewelers to support their customers the ways the brands do.

Jared Silver
President, Stephen Silver Fine Jewelers

Jared silver

Brands are finally paying attention to price. There is a sweet spot between $40,000 to $100,000 in which an established brand can create volume and attract new customers. The higher price points are a specialty business, and fortunately one we at Stephen Silver do well in, but the foundation of building demand for a brand comes from an attainable base price point below that.

I hope to see brands pay similar attention to quality control that they do to marketing. Some companies need to pull their socks up in this area, because I do not think it will be long before customers are fully aware of who is excellent and who needs improvement. As to the Indies, I refer to 2021 as the “Independent Enlightenment”, and it’s been such an amazing transformation to see.

That said, since we opened our flagship boutique in 2014, we at Stephen Silver have specialized in independent brands, and we could not be more delighted to see all the attention this area is getting.

In many ways, the independents seem to have gotten the memo about relevant product before many of the group-held brands. Watches like the Urwerk UR-100, MB&F LM101, MB&F Evo series, and Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto are models for which demand far exceeds supply. I am not at all concerned about product from these companies.

I am willing to bet their novelties this year will far outstrip the big brands in terms of creativity.

Roberto Chiapelloni
Owner, Manfredi Jewels

Roberto chiappelloni manfredi

I wish the brands would take a closer look at what the multi-brand retailers are doing for them on the local levels and in terms of market share. How sad is it that they continue to make ‘boutique only’ editions that take the business away from the multi-brand retailers.

Look at us, and others like us, we were a retailer of Audemars Piguet for 30 years and now they are boutique only, like Richard Mille, and now even Vacheron Constantin is doing it with the Overseas Blue dial as a boutique-only piece.

They keep taking away our business and I wish they would just look at the opportunities and advances we have brought them.

We grew some of these businesses with our own money. To cater to our clients, to educate our customers, we have used our money. We take trade-in and trade-ups and even when the customers were unhappy with the warranties, we would fight for them.

That 5-year warranty didn’t come about because the brands wanted to give it out, we had to fight for our customers. And in the end it just generates good will and trust, not just for us, but for the brands, too. I wish they would see us as the great partners that we are, like Rolex and some of the others see the value in us.

Hank Siegel
Owner, Hamilton Jewelers

Hank siegel 3143 print

I would love to see more choices in yellow gold for women (vs rose). In fashion, yellow gold has been hot for a couple of years and the watch brands are catching up. Rose gold does well, but yellow would create additional opportunities. And, a simple thing, we love the creativity some of the brands embrace with strap choices, offering a classic style with a traditional brown or black strap, as well as a cool material or color.

The strap can make the watch, especially in the display case, so the more opportunity we have to be creative with strap choices, the better. Tudor, Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre are some of the brands that do this well –offering a watch and including two or three straps.

Also, we have so many new, younger clients in our markets who appreciate fine watchmaking and want to get into collecting but feel that availability of certain styles and/or opening price ranges preclude them from doing so.

I would love to see continued emphasis from some brands on both entry level price ranges in fine watchmaking, as well as unique and innovative design for higher level models.

Honestly, however, the levels of creativity the industry is presently experiencing are the best in my 40+ year career. I believe that innovation and creativity drive consumer demand, and the industry has risen to the occasion over the last three years to a stellar level.   So many fine brands have launched new collections, re-interpretations of historic references, and new color-ways, and it has proven to be a driver of demand at all price levels.

Christine Sidoris
Vice President, LV Luxury Jewelers

Christine headshot

LV Luxury is looking forward to seeing the best of Swiss watchmaking in its birthplace.  To enjoy an international trade show with many of our industry colleagues will be a long-overdue reunion.  As official partners of both Rolex and Patek Philippe, we are always excited to see their novelties firsthand as they are introduced.  We anticipate this first [post-pandemic era] Watches and Wonders fair will be a great success and will continue for years to come.

Kathleen McGivney
Co-Founder, Redbar Crew

Kathleen redbar

In general, I’d like to see more brands eschew the use of gendered language in describing their products. Watches can be worn by people of any gender, so let’s talk about their functions, aesthetics, or complications, rather than the gender of the targeted wearer.

I’m also looking forward to seeing what innovations come through at the show. We saw some pretty standout pieces last year, my favorite being Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Hybris Mechanica Quadriptyque Reverso with 11 complications, four dials, and three displays of lunar information. I’d love to see that kind of wow factor this year, especially now that we’ll be back to appreciate it in person.”

Ariel Adams
Founder, aBlogtoWatch

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One of the things I would really like to see is watch brands having teams that are finally set up to work in the modern environment. Prior to 2019, they were trying to do a modern setup, but they just can’t work efficiently with small teams.

I want brands to zero in on human resources and have larger teams that are equipped to do business in today’s modern environment.

I also want to see brands that are able to understand what collaboration means in the modern sense. Collaborations are great, they are exciting, but I want brands to become comfortable in what they should and shouldn’t do.

One of the biggest problems with collaborations is that there are missed standards about who should invest in the inventory and the marketing.

Collaborations with designers, retailers and brands don’t’ work if you don’t spend enough time at the beginning laying out all of the responsibilities for each party involved.  It is important right at the outset to determine who will be responsible for the different aspects.

Then, thirdly, I would like to see the brands give the creative decision-making authority back to the managers in each country and let them make decisions. I am concerned about their inability to let anybody lead.

Gabe Reilly
Co-founder, Collective Horology

Gabe reilly 958cc

As far as watches, for the large brands, we’d love to see them explore novelties outside their core portfolios. For instance, we’d love to see IWC refresh the Ingenieur or Aquatimer, or where Tudor can go beyond the Black Bay 58.

Likewise, it’s particularly exciting this is not a significant anniversary year for Rolex. That – combined with the fact they’ve recently refreshed their core sports lines – means we can only expect the unexpected. Perhaps as Tudor did last year, Rolex will surprise us with new approaches to precious metals and other materials.

From an independent perspective, both the indie exhibitors at Watches & Wonders as well as those participating in the newly-announced AHCI event are the rising stars of this moment. During a time when we’ve all been isolated, the personalities of the independent world offer a very human and appealing connection to watchmaking. Additionally, as collectors grow tired of hype-pieces, we believe they will increasingly appreciate and reward the risk-taking of independent brands.

For these reasons, we anticipate that independent brands will continue to grow mindshare at Watches & Wonders, earning more than their fair share of discussion and interest among collectors. And we hope they’ll inspire the mainstream brands to likewise take a more personal approach to collector outreach and embrace risk taking.

Click here to find out more about C.D. Peacock.

Click here to find out more about Manfredi Jewels.

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