Watches & Wonders Miami opened in Miami on February 16 and ran until February 19, and was a runaway success. Held in the Miami Design District, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) organized event capitalized on the presence of the Miami Yacht Show, the Miami Design District Concourse auto show and the President’s Day holiday weekend to hold a watch exhibition open to the public. Many companies who participated in SIHH, like Vacheron Constantin, Panerai, Ralph Lauren, Romain Gauthier, Armin Strom, Romaine Jerome and Jaeger-LeCoultre, debuted their show novelties for the first time on US soil.
The goal was to increase awareness in luxury watches and jewelry in the US in general and in the Miami District in particular, and the result was certainly accomplished. Through a variety of events, presentations and animations, the show was packed for most of the four days, with great foot traffic and a high level of collectors in attendance.
“I think it was interesting to see the customer directly, which we could do here in Miami,” says Guillaume Tetu, president, Ralph Lauren Watches & Jewelry. “There were a lot of collectors who came and they had a lot of knowledge. The show was open, cool and chill, and very conducive to just sitting down and talking watches, in a relaxed and casual way. It’s Miami style, a real contrast to SIHH.”
The sales people I spoke with in the boutiques had never seen so much traffic in the Design District before, and the brands seemed very pleased with the turnout.
“I think it was a great initiative to bring the show here to Miami,” says Daniel Partridge, president, Bulgari NA. “It certainly brought a lot of people here. I think it pulled a lot of people from outside Miami too. It was really smart to combine it with the Yacht Show and the car show, and it didn’t cannibalize the traffic at our other stores in the area, which was great. It’s very difficult to grow the watch culture in America, to get the right mix of stores, events and people. The event worked here because so many of the brands already have boutiques here.”
The Miami Design District is a great venue for luxury watches, with many boutiques in a very beautiful place. Filled with art installations, it seems the perfect place for a luxury open-air center, but the reality is that the District is a destination that hasn’t really caught on with the Miami public. The hope is that Watches & Wonders Miami will raise awareness and increase traffic over the long run.
At the same time the brands were doing special events, the FHH was holding a series of educational seminars, watchmaking workshops and roundtables (I moderated a panel discussion on Watch Design and Creation), with great success. Almost all of them were sold out and the reaction of the audiences was uniformly positive.
“We are thrilled with the debut of Watches & Wonders Miami and the fantastic reception we received here in the US,” says Fabienne Lupo, Chairwoman and Managing Director of the FHH. “The event exceeded our expectations with very strong attendance. We are very excited for the future.”
The level of watch collectors attending the show was impressive. I hosted a dinner for Panerai and was able to chat with the 25 or so collectors there, and they had a great deal of knowledge and the watches they were wearing blew me away. It was quite a treat to see so many great Panerai references around one table.
I also moderated a discussion with Matt Hranek, the author of A Man and His Watch, in the Vacheron Constantin boutique that was standing room only with watch lovers. When the talk was over, the line of autograph seekers holding Hranek’s book was almost out the door.
I love Miami, and Watches & Wonders was a great excuse to trade the cold and snow of Switzerland for the sun and the beach of Florida. The timing of the show seems right, just after SIHH, so people can see the new watches just after they have been introduced.
“Watches & Wonders gave Vacheron Constantin’s Miami Design District boutique the opportunity to shine with our local clientele while also having the chance to connect with new collectors,” says Leslie Kobrin, president, Vacheron Constantin. “We held multiple events in our boutique over the weekend that drew more than the expected number of guests for the boutique. It created an excellent wave of momentum that we will continue to follow-up on.”
It’s about time we had a true national watch event for the public in the USA, and Watches & Wonders Miami could become this event. True, most brands admitted that most of the people were from Miami, or at least had a base in Miami, but there collectors who flew in from Peru and other countries in Latin America, as well as from various places around the USA.
I thoroughly enjoyed Watches & Wonders Miami and I hope it becomes an annual show. Rest assured that Revolution USA will be a big part of it.