2023 EPHJ: An espresso with the founders of the exhibition, André Colard and Olivier Saenger

Temps de lecture : 3 minutes

The next EPHJ will be from Tuesday 6 to Friday 9 June 2023. Discreet, little interested in being in the limelight, these two are nevertheless key figures in the world of exhibitions. It is sometimes necessary to shake them up a bit to get an interview.

Joël A. Grandjean,  JSH® Magazine & Swiss Watch Passport’s Editor in chief
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EPHJ: plus de 850 exposants se retrouvent une fois par année à Palexpo

Without being part of the profession, which means that neither of them was involved in the event business, André Colard and Olivier Saenger have been creating the International High Precision Exhibition for 20 years. The largest annual trade show in Switzerland.

By combining their skills and adding a touch of ethical and visionary flair, they have succeeded in building an annual event that is to watchmaking and microtechnology what the fabric fair is to fashion, including haute-couture and prêt-à-porter. Excellence is exhibited there, in a user-friendly way, not only in its rare and handcrafted aspects, but also in its industrial scale.

Is this fair just another business for two “serial entrepreneurs”?

It has been a full-time occupation since the beginning and has grown significantly. To be successful, you have to give it your all, think and feel the exhibition.

20 years after the launch of EPHJ, we are still looking for ways to improve it and give more satisfaction to exhibitors and visitors

You were predicted to disappear, due to age limit. What will happen after you?

There was a time when some people tried to compete with us, and wished and predicted our disappearing. This was a misunderstanding of the market and the Exhibition’s position. For the future, we currently have a well-trained team that prepares the Salon and that will be able to continue without us when the time will come. But it’s not going to happen tomorrow…

Altair Consulting, up to date with the latest in 3D printing: it was at the EPHJ exhibition that Paul-Henri Tinguely met his partner and future successor, Emeric Lignier

From the very beginning, watch brands are prohibited at the Salon. Have you got anything against them?

Absolutely nothing against them, quite the opposite! This is neither the spirit nor the essence of the Exhibition, which is reserved for the professional environment, upstream and downstream of the final product. The brands hold their own trade shows, they are our guests, they come to EPHJ to meet their suppliers. We have an excellent and very friendly relationship with them.

The Bergeon watchmaking tool manufacturer, regular exhibitor at EPHJ

From 92 exhibitors to over 800 in 20 years, when will it stop?

It’s already been since 2015 that we reached this level and then we deliberately chose to limit the number of booths and exhibitors in order to keep a unity of place, on one floor, and a very spacious fair that everyone enjoys.

Where are the Swiss Federal Presidents at the time of the ceremonial ribbon cutting?

Although they support the Show, which is totally representative of the finest Swiss industry, they are mostly precluded from attending in mid-June because of the summer parliament session. Except for Mr. Johann Schneider-Ammann (in the middle) who, as a wise entrepreneur and industrialsman, came to open the Show, walked around taking all his time and, at the end of his visit, tweeted that he had been “in paradise.

Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann at the opening of the 2017 EPHJ

Why are you so discreet, do you have anything to hide?

Of course, we have nothing to cover up. But the Exhibition has been created to put the spotlight on our exhibitors, and to highlight their multiple skills and know-how. They are the only ones that our visitors come to meet; the organization is only there to constantly enhance this highlighting…

It seems you have a special liking for schools, for the next generations?

It is through the students, the apprentices, that we can ensure the sustainability of the trades and the entire sector. They are the future. We provide them with an opportunity to meet the concrete aspects of the trades that may attract them as well as their future employers.

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