More than a hundred watch brands will be exhibiting in Geneva between the end of March and the beginning of April. This is a far cry from the more than 1,200 that thrilled the world in Basel before the collapse, even if their number had already been considerably reduced beforehand… Who are they, where are they? Before discovering our practical guide, let’s have a look at some history…
> To find your way around, the 2022 watch fair sesame, by JSH
A useful sesame so that when agendas are becoming more and more crowded, a few doors can still be opened for enthusiasts, co-contractors and… for the many professional journalists who regularly look to our passport, which is known for its freedom of speech and free voice, as an extension of the feared and famous bloghorloger.ch, one of the very first online watchmaking editorial adventures that ran from 2003 to 2014.
> Read the history of Swiss-Watch-Passport.ch
In addition to discovering the venues, dates and exhibiting brands (practical guide), it is good to remember the historical context which, over the past thirty years or so, has gradually allowed Geneva, in spite of its cruel lack of vision, to supplant Basel and bury the world’s most prominent event in this sector.
Two significant secessions, the SIHH and the EPHJ
To begin with, there has been a first secession, orchestrated 30 years ago by the Richemont Group, which wanted to stand apart from the rest by distinguishing haute horlogerie. A concept of exclusion materialized by the SIHH, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, which, as long as Basel continued to draw crowds, had the possibility of existing even before, 25 years later, it was clearly defined. This means that for more than two decades there has been talk of a concept that had not been properly defined, and that was finally defined with the release of the White Book, which was as consensual as it was belated.
The second major secession was the foundation of the EPHJ, the Professional Watchmaking and Jewelry Environment Exhibition, which, even before its twentieth anniversary, had brought together more than 850 watchmaking exhibitors: those famous companies and SMEs that Basel, in its legendary arrogance, used to refer to as ” side branches ” instead of understanding that they are the heart of the sector. This includes the subcontractors and suppliers that JSH Magazine has renamed the co-contractors. It is from this geographical relocation that the real forces of change between the Rhine city and the city of Calvin began to act.
> Read the 2012’s column “cotraitants, parce que vous le valez bien” appeared on Horlogerie-Suisse.com
> See on Watchonista.com the story of the collapse embodied by the exit of René Kamm
> Watch again how, for the first time in 2018, Geneva passed Basel: RTS TV news report
All of a sudden, Rolex and its entourage are joining Geneva
Then, in an unprecedented move, Rolex, together with its independent little sister Tudor, the prestigious Patek Philippe, Chanel and Chopard, have joined the SIHH. As a result, it is no longer possible to talk about the concept of Haute Horlogerie when the two biggest names on the market, both Geneva-based, decide to return to the cradle! The exhibition thus has been renamed Watches & Wonders. Indeed, how can we continue to use the word “Haute Horlogerie” to designate luxury brands when the giant of luxury giants, the brand with the crown, is producing watches for less than CHF 10,000.00 and, via Tudor, iconic models for less than CHF 2,000.00? It is appropriate, as I have advocated for almost 10 years now, to speak of watchmaking of excellency. It’s much better.
Geneva and its indefensible blockages
By the way, why was Geneva, which has a history of large fairs and a Palexpo exhibition hall which, with the pandemic, suffered a monumental setback, not able to accommodate, following the departure of Rolex, the more than 600 brands which had only one objective, to be where it happens, that is to say where the uncontested market leader is? Was it a political context? A lack of understanding of what Baselworld was and, above all, a non-competition agreement in favor of the Compagnie Financière Richemont, which the undersigned had already criticized in May 2020. This news had been taken up by Le Temps and RTS in September 2020, and then by the rest of the medias. Although this clause is commercialy justifiable, it is nevertheless totally anti-sectorial. It would have been wise for politicians (after all, Palexpo is also a part of the taxes of the people of Geneva and of the watchmaking industry), to blow it up manu militari in the name of national and sectoral interests.
2022, is it a real start of a GenevaWorld?
If we add to the exhibiting brands listed in this practical guide to Swiss-Watch-Passport, the more than 800 exhibitors at the EPHJ (June 14-17, 2022) and the more than 200 exhibitors at the GemGenève jewelry show (also defectors from Basel), there is a good chance that an event such as Baselworld could one day bring the world’s watchmaking industry back to the heart of Switzerland, the cradle of its craft and industry. Geneva seems to be well on its way. Hope is in the air, and the logic of number allows us to be optimistic, even though everything is today fragmented both geographically and in terms of the schedule. To be continued…