While informal discussions between the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) and a few independent Fine Watchmaking brands had been the topic of countless rumours and much debate over the past few years, things have recently speeded up dramatically. As the event’s managing director, Fabienne Lupo, told GMT and WorldTempus: “The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie suggested to the SIHH Exhibitor Committee that the 2016 edition should be opened to other brands from the Fine Watchmaking perimeter”.
Alongside the above-mentioned brands Christophe Claret, De Bethune, H. Moser & Cie, HYT and Laurent Ferrier, visitors to the SIHH 2016 will also be able to admire showcases from Hautlence, Kari Voutilainen, MB&F and Urwerk. As Fabienne Lupo explained: “The list of new brands that should potentially be approached was established by the Cultural Council of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie in accordance with various qualitative criteria, and then submitted to the Exhibitor Committee which then ruled on each of the names. The SIHH will thus for the first time feature the ‘Carré des Horlogers’, a new area devoted to nine independent workshops and creative talents representative of ‘New Watchmaking’ ”.

These nine brands newly enthroned in Geneva’s Fine Watchmaking ‘temple’ will benefit from all the advantages of the historical exhibitors and the great Maisons that have been firmly instated there for half a century, such as Cartier, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin. Within a redefined show layout, they will occupy among other areas the space freed up at the SIHH entrance by Ralph Lauren, whose new strategy will now focus on the U.S. market. When questioned on their main motivations for joining the SIHH at the risk of losing their freedom, the independent firms chiefly focus on the benefits of extraordinary worldwide media visibility as well as among retailers. Their union has been signed and sealed for five years, and some will undoubtedly have to choose between SIHH and Baselworld as of 2017, for obvious resource-related reasons. Whatever the case, the CE0s of H. Moser & Cie and HYT – regardless of the diametrically opposite positioning of their brand – nurture equally firm ambitions for accelerated development.

Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie

 Edouard Meylan

Edouard Meylan, CEO de H. Moser & Cie. © DR

“When the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie asked us to be a part of the SIHH at first we didn’t believe it", says Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie. "But when we saw that the configuration genuinely included us within the SIHH and not in some kind of annex outside, we did not hesitate: as far as visibility, press and retailer contacts are concerned, the SIHH is the same as having a stand in Hall 1.0 at Baselworld ».
With Georges-Henri Meylan (former CEO of Audemars Piguet) on the board of H. Moser & Cie, son Edouard is well-placed to know, for example, that the impact from the presence at such an exhibition was significant for Richard Mille from the moment the brand was included in the very select.
With 100m2 for H. Moser & Cie and 50m2 for Hautlence, which also belongs to the Meylan family, the surface area of the stands is slightly less than that which the two brands occupy at the Ramada hotel during Baselworld, but the latter includes the reception and the cloakroom. The financial investment is big, but exhibiting in Geneva actually costs less than it does in Basel, mainly because of the hotel charges. In 2016 the two brands will therefore exhibit in January and March, but in future Edouard Meylan believes it will be more sensible to focus on just the one exhibition, “especially because our customers prefer to avoid multiplying appointments so close together”.
Another consequence of the presence of H. Moser & Cie, which has never hidden its ambition to increase production, will be an adaptation of the launch calendar: “we have revised our plans for new product launches, the SIHH will allow us to speed up our development”.

Vincent Perriard, HYT

Vincent Perriard

Vincent Perriard, CEO de HYT. © DR

The young brand from Neuchâtel is not about to abandon its presence in Basel either. “We will have two major launches in 2016,” says Vincent Perriard. “The first will be presented during the SIHH and the second, of course, during Baselworld. We want to continue generate interest in the brand and therefore to allow journalists visiting both exhibitions to discover two very different watches. At HYT we don’t just talk about transformation(s): some of our innovations are genuine revolutions!”
HYT is only three years old and has only been distributing its watches for around a year and a half, so the news is a great boost to the retail network of the hydromechanical horologists.
“Our distribution network and our retailers have already been informed about this great news and we have received great encouragement from them, because this is a very positive thing for the brand. Entering the history of the SIHH is a giant leap for a brand like HYT” adds Vincent Perriard.

 

Watch this space…
Tomorrow, WorldTempus will be publishing reactions from Pierre Jacques (CEO de Bethune), Christophe Claret and Laurent Ferrier, as well as a complete interview with Fabienne Lupo. The managing director of the SIHH will give her views on the contribution of these small independent brands, why some were not approached and whether others will be joining them in subsequent editions.