Alright, before I get to the watches and the overall mood of the 2018 Geneva Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), I need to get something off my chest. Baselworld — the peripatetic second home of those plying our trade in that glorious merger of science and magic, craft and art known as haute horlogerie. You need to pull your head out of your ass. Because like a multitude of others, I have been shamelessly bamboozled, swindled, and financially gutted by you, as you laughed condescendingly like Zeus, haughtily ensconced on his Olympian throne, because you felt that I, like all my ilk, had to prostrate tremulously before your might.
But I’ve got news for you. Like Bob Dylan says, “the times they are a-changing,” and with the flight to Geneva by the Kering Group brands, Hermès and a whole host of independent watchmakers, and with Jean-Claude Biver’s LVMH commando troops moored on Lake Geneva and dug into the Hotel Kempinski, the writing is on the wall. Because in all the time that I’ve faithfully attended your trade show, I’ve watched you let hotels jack their prices up three times and compel guests to pay for the entire duration of the fair even if they only stay a few days, quickly reselling those same rooms as soon as they leave, in a shamelessly nefarious act of double-dipping.
Yes, you oh great law-abiding Swiss-German town, I’ve witnessed you let restaurants, like the world’s crappiest Thai joint, Jeffrey’s, triple their prices during the week of Baselworld, as the owners cackled gleefully and rubbed their paws in a Dickensian caricature of naked avarice. And what’s worse, even as we are collectively being bent over and taking it up the tuckus you and your grizzled curmudgeony wait staff don’t even have the decency to be nice about it, instead, providing the world’s surliest inept service, even as we line your coffers with unimaginable wealth.
What’s that you say? How could you and your citizens make a living otherwise? Well, I would imagine, just like any other city in the world, by creating a sustainable economy that does not incorporate the blatant unabashed ripping off of every person that visits you during your annual trade fairs.
Number of exhibitors in 2018 are expected to be half that of last year’s at 600-700 (Source: Forbes.com). As a result, the fair’s duration has been reduced by two days.
Already big brands, the likes of Hermès and, Ulysee Nardin and Girard Perregaux earlier, have exited the fair in favor of SIHH. Rumors are swirling that more are likely to follow in 2019. Georges Kern of Breitling, for instance, has publicly expressed his disinterest for the Baselworld fair for the coming year.
But you know what? I can accept that, as a journalist, I will never be able to book even the crappiest flea-infested dump of a hotel since the waiting list for reservations, like Patek Philippe ownership, stretches ad infinitum for generations to come. I can accept that, for my lunch, I have to ingest the world’s most expensive sausage that, from a cost versus value perspective, should be served on a solid platinum stick crowned with a ruby cabochon.
What I cannot accept is that you, Baselworld, have not invested in the technical infrastructure to allow us journalists to do our jobs properly in the era of the Internet and social media. And the very least you could do is implement free broadband Wi-Fi for all brands, retailers and journalists, to give them the ability to enable Instagram Live with clear and non-pixelated transmission. The least you could do is keep the haphazardly meandering public out of the way for a minimum of four days, so that we can play our part in the recovery of the once-beleaguered industry that is finally once again finding its footing.
Beefed Up SIHH
SIHH 2018 saw an extensive overhaul of the fair facilities, with heightened security, larger entrance ways and reception areas.
For members of the press, a great deal has been done to make reporting from on the ground a lot easier with better internet service and even a more decked out press room.
But the best bit may be the well lit booths created all across the fair floors, called “White Box” where you can do quick photography for social media, or use the space to film interviews.
Because, you know what? SIHH did just that. They invested in creating tech hubs through the salon, along with social-media-friendly staging areas with great lighting that uplifted moods and, most importantly, made the watches that the brands had been toiling away on for the better part of the year, look simply amazing, when we shot, took video or “storied” them with our phones. And that’s the good news for this year. That collectively the watches from SIHH were good. Really good, and if you want to read more about them simply flip to our special section.
Let me explain something to you, Baselworld organizing committee. Rolex, Patek Philippe and Chopard are all based in Geneva, while the mighty Swatch Group already exhibits their watches at Geneva’s La Cité du Temps. The day these companies decide to throw their own fair, extending the period of the SIHH by another few days, thus not compelling us to take out a second mortgage so as to pay for plane tickets twice, you will be totally and inexorably screwed. And you know what? From a moral, ethical and every other perspective imaginable, you totally and utterly deserve it. And I for one shall dance on the ashes of your funeral pyre. Peace out.