This year has been incredibly strange for everyone, to say the least. The “invisible enemy” has changed daily life as we know it. Last year, I found myself on an airplane nearly every week, and towards the end of the year, I was actually hoping that 2020 would be a bit more modest in terms of travel. Although it has its perks, traveling is exhausting, and when you fly across the globe for just one or two days of work, jet lag takes its toll.
From the very beginning, this year was quieter than previous ones. Normally, I would find myself in Geneva in mid-January for SIHH; however, the show was rescheduled to the end of April along with Baselworld. The future of the world’s (previously) largest watch and jewelry event remains uncertain as more and more brands announced their departures. The Swatch Group didn’t attend last year, and it was very noticeable.
Then came March, and everything ground to a complete stop. I recall returning from a visit to Bvlgari, and the airports were already eerily quiet. Just a few days later, my home country (the Netherlands) announced its national lockdown. Everything that was already planned or in the works had to be either postponed or canceled. Who would have thought this could ever happen? So, while I am indeed traveling less in 2020, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind – be careful what you wish for!
Geneva Watch Days: The Atmosphere
After working from home for months on end, Geneva Watch Days was looking like it might be the year’s first in-person event. Back in March, the organizers rescheduled it to August and advertised it as the “only significant gathering for the watch community in 2020.” This was after the official cancellations of both Baselworld and Watches & Wonders. The latter still took place in a digital format, but it just wasn’t the same. Having your inbox flooded with endless press releases just doesn’t work. Sure, you can get a sense of how a watch with slight alterations or new color schemes is “in the metal” based on existing timepieces, but new models are impossible to judge from picture-perfect images alone. It just goes to show that you need to hold a watch in your hands to form an opinion.
Finally, it was time to hop on a plane and make our way to Switzerland for Geneva Watch Days 2020. It was nothing like any other event we’ve ever been to – in a positive way! Most meetings and events were spread around the city center, taking place in hotels overlooking the famous Jet d’Eau fountain or in centrally-located brand boutiques. In short, it was a fantastic experience! It was great to meet up again with colleagues and friends, as well as individuals from different brands.
Of course, it was strange to have your temperature taken or to have to go through a thermal scanner at all large events. We fully understand why this was necessary for everyone’s safety. The organization did their best to make the event as successful as possible while still abiding by all the rules and regulations. You had to disinfect your hands before entering stores, and face masks were obligatory. Thankfully, face masks were widely available, and many brands handed out small bottles of hand sanitizer.
All that aside, let’s look at what made this event so great. Historically, attendees would spend pretty much all day at a single event location. Brands would have massive stands with small meeting rooms, and I would be running from one meeting to the next throughout the day. At Geneva Watch Days, however, I found myself in brand boutiques or nice hotels, all of which were much more atmospheric and personal. There was time and space to stretch your legs between meetings and enjoy beautiful views of the city around the Rhône River. That said, not all participants were pleased with the new set-up. Of the nearly twenty meetings, we ended up having to drive to two, but this all was pre-arranged.
About the Watches
It’s easy to forget what the event was all about when recalling the structure and experience. We were there for watches – and we saw a lot! We even got to see quite a few pieces under embargo. Brands were generally more open to us taking photographs of these watches than they would have been a few years ago. It’s great to see these timepieces up close and to be able to share live images as soon as the embargo gets lifted, though those dates aren’t always fixed.
Since there were a lot of independent brands in attendance, many of the watches we saw came with steep price tags. They are nice to look at, but most people will never be able to shell out well over 100k for a timepiece. Nevertheless, we enjoyed seeing them, including some incredible creations. It wasn’t all about exotic watches, however. We’ve picked some of our favorite pieces from the show. It wasn’t easy after seeing so many models in such a short time, but here are a few that stood out.
Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Steel, ref. 103431
The Octo Finissimo line has been a favorite of mine since the moment I first saw it. It has only been around for six years, but Bvlgari has done a great job of creating something truly unique in such a short time span. I think it’s safe to say that this is a future classic; in fact, I have no doubt it will be. The new steel Octo Finissimo comes with a deep blue sunburst dial and is a fantastic watch that I could easily see myself wearing.
Carl F. Bucherer Manero Flyback, Ref. 00.10919.08.53.01
Who doesn’t love a good chronograph? The new Manero Flyback models instantly stood out during our visit to Bucherer, especially the version on the strap. I find metal bracelets difficult since I don’t think many of them work well, but I digress. This timepiece looks great and wears well despite being on the larger side. I think 40 mm is the perfect watch size; the further a case diameter deviates from this, the less likely I am to appreciate it. That said, there are always exceptions to the rule, and this model is one of them.
Louis Moinet Space Revolution, Ref. LM.104.50.50.014
It’s always a pleasure to visit Louis Moinet. This time, their new releases included the Space Revolution, an unorthodox creation that will keep your eyes glued to your wrist. Two space ships “battle it out” beneath a huge domed crystal. They travel around in different directions multiple times an hour while two satellite tourbillon space stations float nearby. All of this takes place against a deep black dial.
Panerai Luminor Marina Fibratech™, Ref. PAM01662
Although Panerai has never really been my brand, I have to say that I was impressed this time around. While their catalog is limited (not necessarily a bad thing), their focus is clearly on innovation. The Luminor Fibratech is a great example of this. Its case is made of mineral basalt fibers, which are stacked into sheets and then compressed into blocks. This timepiece combines Panerai’s iconic look with state-of-the-art materials. Available on 156 different straps, the combinations are endless!
It was great to be back at an in-person event, and hopefully, we can all return to normal soon. Watch brands are looking for innovative ways to present their new releases, and I can safely say that I really appreciated the format of this event. I would love to see more events adopt a similar set-up. As far as we know, the exhibition costs for Geneva Watch Days were just a fraction of those for Baselworld – sounds like a win-win to me.