SIHH 2015: Impressions Of A Newbie
From the word “go,” the SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie) was an entirely different beast than what I was expecting, especially after having attended Baselworld as both a spectator and a journalist.
From my experiences at Baselworld I expected the SIHH to be just another trade show, perhaps with a dash more glamour. But I was wrong . . . and for all the wrong reasons.
I had expectations of fountains of champagne, busy journalists running by trying to make it to their next meeting, and a few collectors gently strolling the halls laughing and talking about their latest purchases.
The reality was something else entirely. Out of the approximately 14,500 attendees, there were only about 1,200 journalists, however, despite constituting just a fraction of the people at the show, they represent a pretty significant amount of the world’s horologically-focused media. The rest was made up of retailers, brand representatives, and collectors; all with very different concerns than us wordsmiths.
In fact, the journalists looked (relatively) calm compared to the hectic schedule of Baselworld, and the retailers (I’m assuming) looked like the ones with a lot on their minds. And yet, despite all that there was still a general sense of relaxation and enjoyment at the SIHH.
This surprises me only when I think about it in the context of the endless supply of cappuccinos and espressos that were being served at one of the many complimentary café counters.
It was at these counters where my imagined fountains of champagne turned into the reality of overworked espresso machines and constant platters of pastries and sandwiches to keep the guests fed and mentally sharp. The gastronomical services are actually crucial for the organizers of the SIHH because a majority of the exhibiting brands’ business for the year is discussed during this very short week.
Everyone must be fed, comfortable, and in good spirits to facilitate negotiations for the next fiscal year.
So while jewelers and watch buyers decided on which wares to source for their stores, the journalists (I among them) had a bit more time to peruse the offerings, chat with colleagues, keep themselves properly nourished, and decide what articles we were going to write over the next few weeks. Some had planned factory visits for in-depth write-ups, and some were focused on making sure they knew all the details for every new release since their readers were counting on them for the hard facts.
But at no time (okay, maybe once or twice) did I really feel rushed or forced to overlook anything that I wanted to see. That being said, there will always be things you don’t see either because of scheduling constraints, or because you got wrapped up talking about one of the pieces and never actually got to the other ones.
In such cases, there is always the press kit and more than enough time to go back outside of your meetings to look and inquire. I did this on multiple occasions and was able to see things I missed because our team actually had free moments, heck, it seemed like hours compared to the ten minutes or so you might get lucky to steal at Baselworld.
In the “once or twice” situation mentioned earlier, it was simply a meeting that kept getting double booked so that I did not get a chance to really see a certain brand even though between the three of us we did get photos of all the pieces and the information in a few different ways.
Beside that, I thought that the SIHH was a cake walk compared to Baselworld. Now I must state that I was not in charge of creating or keeping the schedule, so for a more accurate depiction of that stress one would have to look to our fearless editor-in-chief. But as a team member, it felt as if the team as a whole was much more relaxed and energized than at Baselworld.
The environment helps a lot with that. Complimentary food and drinks at any time, plenty of places to sit down and relax with colleagues… and with only 16 brands in attendance at the SIHH, there are no worries about having to “see it all” because you have plenty of time for that.
This allowed us to focus on enjoying the pieces and asking questions that we otherwise wouldn’t have had time for. It also allowed for sufficient time to meet with friends and discuss the happenings of the fair.
In fact, this is where the SIHH and Baselworld differ very little: the connection with people.
The majority of time spent at the SIHH, while viewing watches and incredible creations, is spent connecting with people and developing relationships with the brands and colleagues. I don’t know how many conversations were had about what the cool things there, or what we were looking forward to this year, or even catching up on private news like babies and new jobs.
It was like a reunion of sorts for me since I am so far from the action I only get to participate once a year. Seeing old friends and meeting new ones, and getting the chance to meet people I respect and admire is a great opportunity.
I also noticed that there seemed to be very little competition between the brands at the SIHH. And since all the guests were invited by the brands and the SIHH, a sense of camaraderie was clear in the way people discussed the happenings of the day. For me, this was the most surprisingly enjoyable aspect, because I like large groups of people that get along, and it just removes so much stress from the world.
Okay, that and getting to play with all the new pieces from all the brands you’ll be reading about in the coming weeks.
After a week of meetings, meals, press conferences, and private interviews, I was left feeling not overwhelmed, but overjoyed to have been a part of it all. My parting gift of a head cold did reduce that joy on the long flight back to Atlanta, but barring that brush with some pesky rhinovirus, the experience came up spades for me.
As a first-time invited guest, I wish to extend my thanks to the organizers for the coveted invitation and to my team for being such great people to work with. I look forward to another SIHH in the future, but for now, it’s on to the articles!