Watches and Wonders: Retailers Are Ready to Spend Their Time and Money

“The watch world is often referred to as a community and it certainly felt that way in Geneva this past week,” said David Hurley, deputy chief executive officer of Watches of Switzerland Group, after an edition of Watches and Wonders that spilled out onto the streets of the Swiss city.

The fair, a major moment in the watch industry’s calendar, “had a refreshed energy, excitement and buzz as the entire world was back to attending in-person,” said Tatiana Birkelund, vice president and general business manager, beauty and jewelry at Neiman Marcus.

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And if Swiss watch exports alone — 23.7 billion Swiss francs, or nearly $26.2 billion at current exchange rates according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry — weren’t enough to attest to the health of the high-end watchmaking industry, the “busier than ever” edition “really gave everyone the reassurance the industry was in full swing,” according to Mr Porter’s senior buyer fine watches and jewelry Maxim De Turckheim.

Retailers are ready to spend their time and budget so it is important that they have the opportunity to feel the difference. “We do have a given budget. But, ultimately, collections and crushes will have final say. So… no budget,” quipped French retailer Arije’s president and CEO Carla Chalouhi.

Brands certainly rose to the occasion, offering booths that caught the eye but also pieces that would hit the spot for “emotion but also the rarity through exclusive or limited-edition pieces” expected by consumers, according to Galeries Lafayette’s buying director of watches Mandana Levaux, jewelry division

The most notable ideas were innovations in materials, craftsmanship and vintage inspiration.

Here’s what retailers thought of the record-breaking edition that made an appearance in Julia RobertsThe return of Asian visitors to the United States and their customers reaching out already is a sign:

Tatiana Birkelund (vice president, general business manager, beauty & jewelry, Neiman Marcus)

Overall impression The buzz surrounding Wonders and Watches was renewed as everyone returned to the event in person. The stands displayed both fresh perspectives and continued innovation. Watches were praised for their newness and luxury. We believe our carefully curated products and assortment will appeal to our luxury customers.

The best booth: The event featured many amazing booths. One that stood out was Hermès with its use of materials to create movement, motion and overall lightness. We were delighted by their moving “butterflies” in the vitrines. Piaget’s booth also had a renewed energy [and] We see great things for their brand as they celebrate their 150th anniversary next January.

Top watches It was exciting to see innovation in materials — the use of meteorite, Damascus steel, titanium blends, forged ceramic. This versatility allows the wearer to adapt the watch to suit any occasion or mood. Piaget’s feather watch can be turned into earrings, for instance. We were delighted to see watch trends in smaller and more feminine sizes. Our clients are likely to be excited as well. In this trend, we specifically loved Hermès’ petite “H Hour” and Chopard’s smaller “Happy Sport.” It was wonderful to see so much color in dials and faces — blues, greens, reds and pinks. Watches as jewelry is an important category for our customers and one in which we saw a lot of great newness. Some of our favorites included Chanel’s lion cuff with the hidden face, Chanel’s pincushion watch, Hermès’ gold bracelet watches, and both Piaget and Chopard bejeweled watches with degrades of colored gemstones. Chopard also had an exceptional dial that allowed the gemstones to change from day diamonds to night sapphires.

Ordering behavior: Watches make a truly unique and special category. Watches and Wonders allows us to feel and touch the watches to understand how customers will react to the carefully curated selection we have created.

What are your customers looking for? [They] Customers are looking for style and versatility to match their personal tastes and personality with their watches. Our customers are always looking for the watch with that “something extra” – more diamonds, more color, more interest to make their life extraordinary.

Your outlook for the year 2023 We remain excited about the future and bringing the best of Watches and Wonders’ luxury offering to our customers. [They] Neiman Marcus continues to be trusted to curate the finest collection of watches from our many global brand partners.

Maxim De Turckheim Senior Buyer Fine Watches and Jewelry at Mr Porter

Overall impression This year’s fair was busier than ever, which really gave everyone the reassurance the industry was in full swing. It was refreshing to see a simplified format for many brands which made it easier for people to find their booths and make appointments.

Moment of excellence: Julia Roberts Day One: Casual appearance

The best booth: I loved the Jaeger-LeCoultre booth this year with all the artisans showing their craft, amazing historical pieces from the archives, a water fountain projection and of course let’s not forget their insane hot chocolate (made from mountains of melted chocolate).

Top watches We were getting messages from our top clients about the Vacheron Overseas Retrograde, Cartier Tank Normale Platinum Skeleton, and Jaeger LeCoultre Chronograph. My personal favorite was the Ressence Type 8 with a beautiful sage color.

New talent: I loved the new Czapek collection with all the fun-colored dials and found Trilobe’s concept stunning and a great price.

Budgets: We were fortunate that many of the brands we own had given us previews, so we had some funds already committed and had plenty to spend at this fair.

Ordering behavior: Online sales saw a surge in demand during the pandemic. This trend was sustained through 2022. For 2023 we want to introduce some nice opening-price commercial pieces to target our watch newbies but also secure some of the métiers d’art/rare/limited pieces for our biggest spenders. These two segments are the ones we believe will grow.

What are your customers looking for? Our customers are classic watch-wearers and extremely tasteful. They prefer smaller, but still elegant watches. We have had lots of demand for Hermès recently since they launched their H08 as it is a perfect day-to-evening watch but also from new brands such as Gerald Charles, which are bringing back to life some of Gerald Genta’s gorgeous designs.

Your outlook for the year 2023 There are lots of green and salmon.

David Hurley is the deputy chief executive officer Watches of Switzerland Group

Overall impression It was wonderful to feel the energy of the fair back in full force, particularly with the added element of public access at this year’s Watches and Wonders. It is often said that the watch industry is a “community” and Geneva felt like it this week. It’s the most exciting time for our industry and to have brands, press, buyers, executives, and now watch aficionados, from all around the world in one place makes the atmosphere unmatched.

Moment of excellence: Too many to count but Day One when all the launches drop — what an exciting rush.

The best booth: Ulysse Nadin may be interested in that. A great photo opportunity was provided by the interactive Freak movement with its mirrored ceiling.

Top watches We saw a lot of vintage inspirations with this year’s launches. Chopard’s new Alpine Eagle and Vacheron Constantin’s Patrimony Retrograde have exceptional dials that give them a retro-inspired and understated elegance. In addition to the excitement around the 60th anniversary of the Daytona, Rolex released a once-in-a-lifetime Day-Date with the puzzle-piece dial and emoji date window — a really unexpected drop. A number of brands increased their investment in some of their most recognizable pieces. Cartier released the Santos in two-tone and yellow gold, while Ulysse Nardin was presented with the Freak One in rose gold and black DLC coated Titanium. Patek Philippe, a favourite brand, struck a perfect balance between their new unveilings of Pilot and Travel Time watches as well as their rare handcrafts exhibit that highlights their artistry.

New talent: Watches in Switzerland will always support independents. Speake Marina and Ressence are two independents we look forward too and which continue to intrigue our clients.

Budgets: We go to the fair with the intent of seeing the new products in person. Therefore, we don’t make any commitments to our budget prior to going in. Watches and Wonders represents the most important show to us, so we try to maximize the chance to introduce new lines for our clients based upon what we see in person.

Ordering behavior: At Watches of Switzerland, our teams really appreciate the “touch and feel” component of the fair. We are looking forward to seeing you next year in person and continuing expansion of the current format.

What are your customers looking for? We have a global network of clients that allows us to make sure we check every box. Watches of Switzerland believes that every market and client is unique, which gives us the opportunity to offer our clients a wide range of options. Overall, we are seeing a move towards 42mm being the largest size that clients are asking for and you can see from this year’s launches many brands are moving in that direction.

Your outlook for the year 2023 [It] It is very positive. Our teams’ phones are off the hook with clients reaching out about releases they’ve seen coming out of Watches and Wonders. Watches in Switzerland continue to grow globally, but in America, where watch consumers are growing exponentially, is particularly important.

Mandana LEVAUX, purchasing director of watches & jewelry division Galeries Lafayette

Overall impression It’s a very successful second [physical] edition brings you the best names in high-end watchesmaking with a lot of energy and creativity.

The best booth: Chanel’s beautiful staging of its creations on 3D-printed mannequins, a true black-and-white immersion into [its] world.

Moment of excellence: Cartier’s touch-and-try, a moment of conviviality to enter into the brand’s collections, try product and share our impressions.

The best products There were many collections that were colorful with lots of green and new colors on dials. There was a lot of richness in the dial treatments and decorations. We are seeing that smaller sizes, often unisex, and a growing women’s offer in collections. Our favorites were Rolex’s Yachtmaster 42mm in RLX titanium; Cartier’s Santos Dumont skeleton; Panerai’s Radiomir Quarenta; Hermès H08 in rose gold and titanium, and Hublot Classic Fusion Chronograph Orlinski in titanium.

What do your customers want? Our clients seek emotion, but also rarity through limited-edition or exclusive pieces.

Your outlook for the year 2023 [The year] This year’s high-end watch market is poised for another great year thanks to the new innovations.

Arije’s president and chief executive officer, Carla Chalouhi

Overall impression We believe that positivity, innovative spirit, and novelty — and some positive messages in a colorful palette were the key words of this 2023 edition.

Moment of excellence: The best thing about the experience was the ability to be brought back together at the beating heart industry.

The best booth: The Hermès booth for its artistic and poetic aspects.

Top watches The new Yacht-Master 42 is available in RLX Titanium. Rolex also has a first for Rolex, the Day-Date 36 which features 31 emojis as well as colorful statements. Cartier Clash [Un]This limited-edition watch features a unique purple gold dial and a high-end Art Deco declination. The Greubel Forsey Balancier Convexe S2 is last but not least.

New talent: Yes — we will reveal our crushes in the coming weeks.

Budgets: There is a budget. But, ultimately, it is the collections and our crushes that will decide. So… no budget.

Ordering behavior: [We] Absolutely [won’t go for] Digital methods [as] we strongly believe that you need to touch, try, feel a watch you are going to wear on your wrist… [This is an] An essential part of the emotion.

What are your customers looking for? Our clients are looking for innovation, quality, rarity, and exclusivity. They are open to being surprised.

Your outlook for the year 2023 It is impossible to say that the market will be immune from the macro environment. But, we can remain positive.

Roberto Chiappelloni, the owner, and Robert Weintraub as the manager of Manfredi Jewels

Overall impression It was a great attendance. There were many people from all parts of the world who attended. We feel a sense of cautious optimism among the other retailers with whom we have connected.

Moment of excellence: 45 minutes spent with Kari Voutilainen – master watchmaker and independent watchmaker. From the very beginning, it has been an honor to be his retail partner.

The best booth: Hermès.

Top watches Grand Seiko Tentagraph; Parmigiani Tonda F Minute Rattrapante; Rolex Day-Date 36, with a celebration dial full of emotion.

New talent: We are already a seller [for the brand] But we are extremely pleased with the growth of Schwarz Etienne watches. We were also excited to see the watches Frederick Jouvenot has sent us. They will soon be available for purchase in North America.

Budgets: Always, we are prepared to purchase products that represent our brands in the best possible way.

Ordering behavior: It is much more enjoyable to have fun with friends at these events and be able touch and feel these wonderful mechanical marvels. It is hard to beat the experience of seeing a watch in person and then putting it on your wrist.

What are your customers looking for? At Manfredi we are very much in tune to our clients’ wishes and needs and are encouraged by the newfound appreciation for great timepieces that will deliver a lifetime of pleasure from their beauty and quality.  Our clients are encouraged to compare the various brands that we offer, with the help of one of our passionate advisors, to find the right timepiece for them. They want steel sport watches that are easy to wear in different settings. Jeweled yellow gold ladies’ watches are gaining preference recently as well.

Your outlook for the year 2023 Be cautiously optimistic

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