Editor’s Note: Ian Ellery is TWL’s man on the ground at this year’s major Swiss watch fairs and will be providing us with live daily updates as he travels back and forth between the GTE and the SIHH over the coming week.
Sunday marks the busiest week of the Geneva watch season. While nothing beats Baselworld in terms of scale if there is such a thing as quality over quantity, and I think there is, then this week this is the place to be, these are some of the best watches money can buy. Running from Sunday to Friday, the second edition of the Geneva Time Exhibition is twice the size of last year’s show and while the exhibition hall itself may not be the most conducive to luxury, I find the architecture a bit too 1960s brutish style for my taste, they have given it a lower light level atmospheric feel.
The first piece of good news is that the Nespresso coffee is at least free which should enable me to keep going. But the real question that seems to be on everybody’s mind is what is the attendance going to be like? The event has been changed from a public one to pre-registered/invite, hopefully that will improve the quality of attendees but might reduce the overall numbers. I guess we will see at the end of the week.
The range of brands here is significant from established brands that one wouldn’t really class as independent, to small companies, with less than 10 employees making only a few watches per year. There is a level of equality among the brands as the booths are all pretty much the same size at around 12 sq m, some a little bigger, some a little smaller, but it does give the smaller brands the opportunity to compete with the larger brands without having to spend large amounts of money.
The frenzy of press releases that always accompanies these types of events have thrown up several interesting items that deserve a closer look; first off I find myself in front of the HD3 stand. These guys have been promoting their digital, yes really, Slyde watch with one of the best videos of the year. The first thing to know about the Slyde is that it is not mechanical. Now normally that would mean me moving swiftly to the next booth but this watch has been created by legendary designer Jorg Hysek so it has to be taken seriously. Mr Hysek is no longer associated with the company that bears his name and is now working with HD3 and his son Jorg Jr.
This digital watch has a configurable touch screen with an interface not unlike an Apple iPod Nano, but with a much greater resolution. By moving your finger from top to bottom you can scroll between the faces of the watch, analog, digital, chronometer and moon phase. Then by scrolling left to right you have more personal setup, pictures etc. Initially available in steel and titanium, without a mechanical movement this is a light watch so for my money the steel version gets you a more substantial feeling, but for a sleek, lightweight solution titanium is the way to go. The watch has a sealed rechargeable battery and a charging base that connects to a computer or standard charger via a USB cable.
At around 4k euros it is also good value for money, a very impressive offering. The official launch is at Basel world with watches shipping in September. Here is a digital watch I would actually buy.
The major stop for the day is Ladoire, who over the last couple of weeks using a very impressive viral marketing campaign have cleverly managed to raise the profile of their brand very quickly. The Black Widow range contains 4 models, Mr Green, Mr Race, Mr Grey and Mr Ice, though mechanically similar they each have a different colour palette that relates to the name.
The range follows the general style of previous Ladoire models in retaining the curved rectangular shape while at the same time managing to be much more striking. The case has been thinned; the face sapphire is now flat rather than curved and so much lighter. The other main difference is the physical size, a little smaller in all dimensions than previous models it hugs the wrist and is consequently more comfortable.
Ladoire uses a distributed hand system and perhaps the only real criticism of the previous watches were that they lacked readability, once you got used to the system they were fine but with the Mr Green that’s not an issue. Green is not really a colour often used in watch making and it really makes a difference here, the time pops right out at you.
Limited to 12 examples of each colour and priced at 68,000CHF all models are available to order now. However if this is something for you be quick, collectors are going to be buying one of each to get the set and the Mr Green looks like it is going to be the most popular model, but once they are sold there will be no more. I think I would go for the Mr Grey, it is a great compromise between wacky styling and an unusual dress watch, but I love the Mr Green too.
It’s a great thing when small brands can make such an impact and it really shows what can be done with an intelligent marketing plan and a great product.
One of the other fun pastimes at this type of event is people watching. Holding GTE at the same time as SIHH Geneva draws watch people from around the world and around the corner. Sometimes it can be best to sit still and watch the world go by. Writer Beth Doerr is on the Jury for the GTE show prize and so is flitting around looking at all the watches entered in the contest and marking them.
Watch photographer and development guru Ian Skellern is taking photos, but he is also wearing two watches and one of them is an MCT Sequential One. Photos of this watch don’t really do it justice, first of all it’s big, but it is the funky mechanism that catches the eye. The centre vane is a three quarter circle on which are placed the minutes. It is three quarters because at the gap is shown the hour. So far not so complicated, but in fact there is an hour indicator at each quarter and at the top of the hour everything jumps. The centre minutes revolve through ninety degrees to display the new hour. In fact the hour numbers are made up of fives vanes, and at the 30 minute mark they switch to the hour value due in two hours.
The issue with type of watch is always the power distribution and deciding how the increments will be handled. Urwerk tends to have a constant change while here we have a jump mechanism. Whilst the power overhead is probably more it is much more impressive in my opinion. At around 100K CHF you do at least feel you are getting a quality product.
What really made my day though was Stephen Forsey (of Greubel Forsey fame) stopping for a quick chat and making a throw way comment about how the SIHH announcements could make for an exciting week!
Off to SIHH tomorrow for the next three days and then back to GTE on Thursday. Several other makers to get to as well, I just hope I get the time.