Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) is one of the most important events in the Swiss luxury watch industry. The international exhibition, running this year for the 27th edition, sets the benchmark for the entire industry.
The fair, which takes place from January 16 to 20, 2017 at Geneva’s Palexpo, features major players in the luxury watchmaking industry, many owned by luxury conglomerate Richemont Group, such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Piaget. It also features independent watchmakers such as Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille and Parmigiani. Since last year, the fair has included a new programme called the Carré des Horlogers, presenting innovative contemporary watchmakers including Laurent Ferrier, MB&F and H. Moser & Cie.
Last year was not a good year for the luxury Swiss watchmaking industry. Reports showed that the export of Swiss watches dropped by a drastic 8.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the previous year, and traditional performing markets such as China faced great challenges due to economic slowdown and pressure on luxury spending owing to the nationwide anti-corruption drive.
“Trade fairs have a vital role to play when the economy is slowing [down] because they are precisely that: for the trade,” says Fabienne Lupo, chairwoman of Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie.
“Trade exhibitors use them to take the temperature of the profession and then adapt production to their order books. Then it’s up to them to adjust their offering to reflect the economic climate and development time, which for watches is generally calculated in years. It’s a tricky but essential exercise.”
Despite a volatile market situation, there’s much to look forward to at SIHH 2017.
Following last year’s successful Carré des Horlogers, SIHH is adding five more “new-wave watchmakers” to its line-up, bringing the total number of exhibitors to 30 – a record for SIHH. The new members include Grönefeld, MCT – Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps, Ressence, RJ – Romain Jerome and Speake-Marin.
Return of founding partner
Now Kering-owned Girard-Perregaux is making a comeback at SIHH this year. The heritage watchmaker, founded in 1979, has been a major exhibitor at SIHH until its 2011 acquisition by Kering. “As a founding member of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, Girard-Perregaux naturally regains its position alongside the most prestigious brands of haute horlogerie,” stated Antonio Calce, CEO of Girard-Perregaux. Ulysse Nardin – another Kering-owned watchmaker – is also joining the line-up of exhibitors.
Luxury market slowdown
Figures coming out of Switzerland do not bode well for the luxury watch sector. Watch sales in mainland China fell about 30 per cent, while watch exports from Switzerland to Hong Kong slumped more than 30 per cent this year, compared to2015. Many brands have been coping with the slow market by launching entry-level collections since last year. The debate on whether it is a smart move will be continued at this year’s watch fair.
Tightening policy of ‘Swiss Made’ label
Starting January 1, 2017, tougher legislation concerning the “Swiss Made” label has been enacted. To be able to bear the “Swiss Made” label, 60 per cent of the watch components must be of Swiss origin, as compared to 50 per cent from last year. H. Moser & Cie is one of the first luxury watch brands to act upon the tightened legislation by dropping the label. The long-term effect of the policy will surely be unfolded at the fair.
Opening for the public
The SIHH has always been an industry professional-only fair until this year. For the first time ever, the fair will open its doors to the general public on the last day. Tickets are priced at CHF70 (HK$533) per person and valid only for Friday, January 20, 2017 from 11 am to 6 pm.