Fashionable Watches

PRIMETIME – Watchmaking in the News – February 2020

PRIMETIME – Watchmaking in the News – February 2020

Hello and welcome on for this
new edition of PRIMETIME – Watchmaking in the News and the big news is naturally the
cancellation of Watches & Wonder, ex-SIHH, and Baselworld and with this comes obviously
a lot of questions and a bit of thinking; what are some of the consequences, how is
the future looking for watch events, could this actually be an opportunity or the end
of it all and I will develop on all these points and more in a minute. But nevertheless don’t worry there are some
other news, and a bit of breaking news too, such as a few cool new watches presented recently,
but overall let’s be honest we are in some kind of bleak moment for the industry and
this naturally goes well beyond watchmaking, nevertheless enjoy the show, I will try to
present things on the positive side, well you know me, I’m an optimist by nature,
glass is always half full as long as you look in the other direction, no just kidding. So let’s do this in a crescendo mode and
I had mentioned in a previous edition of PRIMETIME that Seiko had already announced that they
wouldn’t take part in this year’s Baselworld and this was way before this coronavirus situation. Instead they wanted to do their own event
in Tokyo in early March, but actually there were probably a bit more political reasons
than this, but anyhow and this time due to the Covid-19 well they had to cancel the event
in Japan and this is too bad because 2020 marks the 60th anniversary of Grand Seiko,
first a collection sold only in Japan and since 10 years only sold internationally. Well a couple of years ago Grand Seiko became
a full entity/brand of its own and is doing what it takes to get the recognition they
deserve with some really fine products. Well to mark this 60th anniversary and we’ll
probably be in for a few products releases throughout the year and they started to do
so with two, actually 4, but two mechanical ones, one man and one woman version from the
Heritage line, both automatic, both with blue dials and the first one equipped with the
High-Beat Caliber 9S85 and limited if one can say so to 1,500 pieces and the ladies
model with Caliber 9S27 and limited to 300 pieces. Still talking about ladies piece, MB&F revealed
new versions of the Flying T, the brand’s first piece dedicated to women launched last
year, but this time these Flying T’s are coming without any diamonds set on them, but
either in a rose gold with beautiful black guilloché dial or in platinum case with blue
guillloché dial. Both models are limited to 18 pieces, a more
reasonable number associated with the term “limited” in my view and really beautiful
looking pieces. Ok, there were just a few other interesting
watches, a few, but here at we had a few more to show you as we decided
to add a vintage watch section to our boutique and this for two reasons; first is obviously
to help us finance our video production, ok, but secondly it is also to offer the opportunity
of acquiring and wear some cool pieces at a decent price, a nice way for those entering
the world of mechanical watches and/or a way to complement a collection for those already
into it. Every month we will present approximately
10 news watches, here’s a quick glimpse at what will soon be added and just to let
you know, but our patrons do get first choice on all boutique add-ons as they receive a
special message informing them on the new selection with a private URL, again a small
and normal perk for those supporting us on Patreon, you’re all welcome to join and
we’ll normally film all new additions, films also available on our other dedicated YouTube
Channel, because I really don’t want to bother you with this here
on and you can always visit our website for further info, but really the
idea is that we have a club/lounge here in the Old Town of Geneva and the three pillars
of our club are obviously our video coverage, then our travel arrangement, our watchtrippin
activity and we unfortunately also have to face this Covid-19 with this and then this
boutique, whether online or physical, but please stay reassured because our mission
number one will always remain the video production. Ok enough of this and let’s now go hardcore
and let’s talk business because quite some action here recently and this was obviously
really up in the air but with the rapid deterioration of the situation in Europe with the Covid-19,
well decisions had to be taken and like I said it goes well beyond the watchmaking industry,
but many public events have simply been cancelled all over the place. Here in Geneva, the Geneva Motor Show was
about to open this week, but organisers had to pull the plug just a few days before the
opening and all in all this will have severe consequences but let’s focus more on its
watchmaking impacts and despite what some people wanted to show with some questionable
performance numbers masking the fact that 3 million watches were less produced in 2019
in Switzerland alone, well the industry was already facing some tough times and what will
ineluctably turn out as a serious blow on global economic growth at least on the 1st-semester
of this year, well people have other things on their minds instead of buying new watches
and this is naturally understandable, but the cancellation of the big shows will also
have an effect on the overall visibility of the industry and the many new watches which
should have been presented and this means that brands will have to find alternatives
and it could turn out to be interesting, see who will better manage this context and how. So let’s get back on these last few days
and be chronological; at first, a few brands continued to pull out of the shows, nothing
new but this time specifically because of this coronavirus, such as Bvlgari from Baselworld,
a big and very visible player of Hall 1, followed by Citizen, which at that point meant no presence
of large Japanese companies anymore, quite a signal. But on our side and prior to the current situation,
I was seriously questioning how we would cover this year’s edition of both shows and I
really wanted to take our coverage on a slightly different route and the cancellation will
simply make things even clearer on how we plan to do things. Anyhow as days followed, the level of anxiety
was also climbing at the HQ of both show’s organizers, what do to? There were no clear signals coming from the
Watches & Wonder side, but you have to remember that Watches & Wonder is mainly a Richemont
Group brand event, ok it summarises a bit too much since we also have so many independent
brands present and there were supposed to be a few new ones such as Arnold & Son, Febergé,
Purnell, but what I particularly mean is that many Richemont brands are very exposed in
Asia in general and in China in particular, so to put it short, they’ve taken quite
a serious hit over the last few months and therefore the board of the Group found itself
in a rather prudent mood and mode and basically thinking of how to best deal with the situation,
cut some of their losses while not losing face too much. On the Baselworld side, more or less 10 days
ago we received a press release stating that everything was going to plan, actually even
used the sentence “business as usual”. Well that seemed quite confident, a bit too
much for sure, but what was indeed business as usual was the prices of things. As I said, I had not yet made any arrangements
for the team and myself to go there, but I started looking for accommodations and as
a quick reminder the organisers had said a few months ago that they made deals with the
local hotel association to maintain prices as reasonable as possible, well when I checked
the web, well no surprise there, still ridiculously high for some clumsy hotels and not much different
on the AirbNb side of things, also people thinking we’re still in the good old milking
days and it will be interesting and sad at the same time to check out these prices in
a couple of days… Well now all this is gone, any greedy temperament
has just been washed away and people can only adapt to what could become a much longer than
expected reality, because it’s only when things seemed to get a bit out of control
in Italy a few days back that everything accelerated around here and the paradox is that it coincided
with the first “good” news if one can so coming from China where the numbers of
people infected and casualties were starting to decrease. Well last Thursday, the 27th, the news came
early morning that Watches & Wonder would simple be cancelled, Watches & Wonder at the
convention center and all other festivities/activities which for the first year were meant to happen
throughout Geneva. BREAKING NEWS
And now comes some breaking news, because between the moment we recorded this PRIMETIME
and the moment we were about to push the publish button for our patrons, well some fresh news
just came in as a group of brands under the leadership of Bvlgari and including so far
MB&F, De Bethune, Girard Perregaux, Ulysse Nardin, well they just announced that they
will still do “something special” during the original days of Watches & Wonder, meaning
end of April 26-29th and this will be called the Geneva Watch Days. To make it short, some brands will still host
special exhibitions in their respective boutiques in Geneva and so far that’s about what we
know about it, but what’s interesting is that each brand will do with what they have,
it’s not necessarily an arms race, but a way of leveraging the influence of each other
in having member of the press and retailers still come to Geneva and try to benefit from
some extra visibility, because yes, visibility is the big victim of this crisis. We will keep you posted on this initiative,
because ultimately could be good and again in phase with the evolution of watch events. Ok, back to you and let’s get back to the
story of the day. In the meantime Baselworld still giving the
illusion that it could win this battle and saying that it would communicate its decision
on Monday the 1st, but on Friday morning the 29th Swiss authorities officially banned any
public activity till March the 15th when it implied grouping of 1,000 people or more,
well the grounds weren’t looking good and Baselworld simply couldn’t wait till the
1st and on that very Friday also announced the cancellation, but they actually took the
attention of not using this word, cancel sounds like a defeat and instead referred to the
fact that the event was actually postponed and this till 2021 and not very elegantly
already announcing dates and personally I think they could have waited a few days for
this, like a grieving period to be respected, because yes some will seriously suffer from
this. Many expenses have already been paid when
it comes to participating at these events, a lot of cash is already out, of course some
will be saved, but this could significantly weaken some companies that are already struggling
a bit and could unfortunately replicate what has recently happened to the brand De Grisogono
which went bankrupt, a brand mostly known for its very creative jewellery, but had also
come up with some really interesting technical development over the years and I’m talking
almost 20 years and more recently on the design side with the New Retro, personally thought
it had an interesting design. Well this company is gone, but I have to add
that some rotten investments hade been made in the company, which obviously didn’t help
but doesn’t explain everything and coming back on that same black Friday was also announced
that Romain Jerome, RJ Watches, would also file for bankruptcy. Alleluia, what a cheerful day and true those
two brands had been struggling, so no real total shocker, but still sad news and not
a positive sign for sure. So some brands will face tough times, cash
has been spent for nothing, less visibility, less social media presence, retailers and
collectors not coming and with a bit a sarcasm it can only prove so right for the LVMH brands
to have done their little thing earlier in Dubai and also for those brands that cleverly
piggy tailed the event, for once it wasn’t LVMH invited as the free guest of SIHH/Watches
& Wonder, but the wheel turned around. Anyhow the consequences of these cancellations
will have an effect well beyond the brands. Just on the event side, think of all the suppliers,
stand and booth builders, hotels, catering, security services, limo services, well it’s
just a huge loss, and for the industry as a whole obviously the consequences will be
severe even though not all can and should be blamed on the show’s cancellation and
this coronavirus situation and I am sincerely worried that technical suppliers of many brands
will indeed suffer greatly, jobs are on the line but now the big question; what next? Could this be a serious opportunity to think
differently? In the short run, certainly, in the longer
run, well we know that we do like to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, but
let’s remain optimistic and for me, the fundamental assessment can be summarised as
follow; does the industry need a large watch event? For me the answer is yes. Does it need to follow today’s concept? Well most certainly not. Again, the overall environment has changed,
social media changed most of the rules and brands prefer to distil the divulgation of
their new pieces throughout the year, avoid unnecessary cannibalisation. Watch dealers also prefer to order throughout
the year now and some dealers have also been slightly abandoned over the last years with
brands and groups taking into their own hands the retailing of their products, but anyhow
to have a single moment where the industry reunites definitely has some pertinence, but
to do so coming back to some rationality and yes why not one event for all, send a signal
of unity in this highly competitive environment would be nice and I know I may be dreaming
a bit, but that’s the only thing that would make sense to me, otherwise let’s have brands
do their own things when and wherever they want, but I believe this would just precipitate
the ill fate of some players. So one location and yes the Basel people are
more flexible as they own the facility, but overall infrastructure is better in Geneva
in terms of hosting and logistics and I’m not being a chauvinist by saying this. Naturally scraping Baselworld as the location
would mean the fatal recognition that their investment strategy with these new halls was
unnecessary, oups a few hundred million there, but one has to think of the bigger picture
and yes there will be losers, but do we want/need a shock that can revitalise the scene or just
a slow and inevitable death? Ok everybody agreed that this year’s dates
were too late, but there has also been some talks of pushing back the events in fall,
September-October timeframe and this would actually make sense, let brands prepare adequately
for the high demanding end of season period with Christmas and so forth, well time for
a change, but now we know that nothing will happen in 2020 which means that the various
“small” watch shows around the world mainly held during the second semester should become
higher priorities for brands to reach out to the final consumers. So to summarise things, I just hope we get
back to one big and consensual event in 2021, whether early in the year or indeed why not
in fall, but again I might me wishful thinking and on a totally different topic and to show
you that nothing is simple with watchmaking, well the restoration of London’s iconic
Big Ben is also going through the roof and way above budget, but here it’s mainly expenses
linked with the actual building work, the tower kind of leaning like the Pisa tower,
well nothing is easy for sure. So all in all and as a recap we have a big
problem on the demand side, brands not selling watches in Asia, watches whose prices have
increased too much over the last 10 years and no longer appealing to European and in
American markets. But at the same time, we start to see a problem
on the offer side with Asian companies not being able to produce and deliver what has
been outsourced to them, likes cases, dials and so forth, well the good news and I am
being ironic is that stock levels will be again super high and this is never a good
thing, especially if you add that often in such crisis the value of Swiss Franc generally
increases and this is currently the case, meaning that Swiss exports become more expensive,
well definitely not making things any easier. Well you kind of see the conundrum and this
is not going to be an easy way out of this one, a fascinating one for sure, but a pretty
complex and brutal one I’m afraid. Anyhow, we still think positively here, we
still have so many passionate stories to share with you and I would really like to thank
those that commented our latest QP artistic experiment, that was fun to do, but much more
complicated than what it looked like, but it has given us ideas. Anyhow, a huge thanks for watching, many thanks
to our patrons for your extremely appreciated support, please remember that patrons have
some timely advantages when it comes to the new pieces added to the boutique, special
vintage watches in particular among other things, we of course still have a few slots
available for our watchtrippin activity and yes we’ve also been hit by Mr. Corona, but
let’s obviously remain optimistic, thanks to all, remember that time is what you make
of it and a massive Viva Watchmaking to you.

Reader Comments

  1. I’m starting to get into used timepieces cause it’s fun to think about where that timepiece has been

  2. Many thanks, Marc for the update, I think that even the smaller watch shows this year would be either canceled or not visited as much as last years.
    I think that Extended reality and exploring remote presence should be the main concern for watch brands if they want to stay proactive.

  3. Marc, the show cancellations are are great opportunity for the Watches TV : why not ramp up video production and present a “virtual” Baselworld?

  4. Who is outsourcing the cases and dial's from Asia? I mean i can guess that Tissot, Certina, Rado (Steel cases, probably not the ceramic one's) etc are doing it, but any high end brand?

  5. Hi Marc, agreed with you with the fact that there should be one industrial fair at one location where everybody can meet each other: basically a festival of like minded people!

    I read somewhere that the number of brands filling for bankruptcy will increase because of the sales slump due to the virus. And the signs are already there: the share price of Swatch group is declining. Not a good sign for the entire industry. Its time the industry becomes more humble and open to changes.

  6. I think 💭 during these tough times it’s good for brands to release videos of new items, maybe it’s better to’ve shows in summer rather than winter 🥶 in future.

  7. "Not very elegant" really polite of you to say so, but you know in business is dog eat dog , unfortunately, but what can we do right? As you said Marc let's hope this is an opportunity for the Brands to come up with something interesting for the industry, Retailer Ads, customers etc. PD I love the moving QP screen savers

  8. There needs to be a massive change of watch retail in Switzerland , in order to compete with Microbrands they need to make watches more accessible , why pay 2500k for a watch that you can get for 600-800 for the same internals and in some cases better exteriors , these watch shows like Basil always seem pointless to me as i can't buy or wear the watches on display , i just can't understand why they exist except for self gratification.

  9. Unfortunately the watch world is taken over by non watch people for “investment opportunities” and prices have gone up, pushing real watch lovers out of the game. Basel world and SIHH are also to blame indirectly so that should help a few real watch enthusiasts. If these watch profiteers don’t get pushed out of the watch world, the people that will suffer are the Swiss watch industries and the watch enthusiast. Then the watch world will go silent (dead) for a decade and come back slowly. It’s happened many times, and it’s time it will come around again.

  10. Thank you Marc-André and team for a very informative monthly video, with humour and "sans langue de bois".

  11. It's a disaster. The lost income for many of the "industries" associated with these events is what saddens me.
    Restaurants, rent-with-driver "limo" services, hotels (to a lesser degree), journalist (who needs them when you can see the watch on livestream) and so on 😕
    Most brands will be ok..they'll weather this out too.

  12. No sweat, Baselworld 2020 watch booklets, brochures & magazines are printed and will pop up at the beginning of May 2020 !

  13. To charge extra because the hotel staff will have much to do could be okay if the staff gets some extra payment. But they will likely not see a penny.

  14. I do hear what you are saying about the Swiss watch industry and I would agree that one show would be amazing. I think that blaming it all on the virus is a bit strong I believe that its hitting far more that one industry and in more that one country. But supper to here your thoughts too. Keep well and I will look forward to the next video. Thanks.

  15. Nice obituary! lol jokes aside, wonderful breakdown of the situation and possibilities for industry change.

  16. So far the only significant damage seems to be concentrated around the services supporting the event. The somewhat decreased exposure of the new releases by watchmakers can be compensated for by online content either by the watchmakers themselves or by channels such as yours.

    Either way I think it's going to be an interesting year. Even though I already have my next 2-3 watch purchases lined up 😅

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