In case you haven’t noticed, it’s raining men. I mean, watches. What was once a real world horological love fest for industry insiders (known as SIHH) is now the Watches and Wonders digital data dump. You can thank The Richemont Group for “reimagining” the event, pimping their 15 watch brands and some 25 others. It’s a horological cluster-you-know-what that defies logic (extremely). Think of it this way . . .
If you ran Jaeger-leCoultre, would you want to reveal your insane Reverso Quadriptyque at the same time as Vacheron Constantin releases its latest “novelty”? Patek Philippe? H. Moser & Cie? A. Lange & Söhne? Never mind guilt by association. This is invisibility by association. Or, if your prefer, a spectacular landing at the wrong airport. A really crowded airport.
There are only so many people interested enough in watches to pay attention to new watch alerts pinging their iPhone like popcorn against a metal pot lid. At some point, even diehard watch nerds fall prey to Stendhal syndrome – the “psychosomatic condition involving rapid heartbeat, fainting, confusion and hallucinations, allegedly occurring when individuals become exposed to objects, artworks, or phenomena of great beauty.”
Actually, it’s the reverse. The end result of perusing dozens of beautiful (and not so beautiful) new watches is boredom and disinterest. Not to beat a dead horse (much), Watches and Wonders has proven itself a home-away-from-home for our old friend overchoice (a.k.a., analysis paralysis). Standing in the middle of a howling gale of new watches, the best, indeed the only sensible decision is . . . not to buy anything.
That is, of course, the consumer’s perspective. The original Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie kept the barbarians outside the gate. Watchmakers met watch dealers to prepare for the year ahead, with “journalists” playing an endlessly soothing second fiddle. All experiencing the expense account joy of eating stodgy food and getting drunk with business partners, friends, rivals, whales and the occasional hooker.
Devoid of actual face time, Watches and Wonders is all about new product buzz. More than 40 – yes 40 – watchmakers vying to impress themselves, each other and potential customers with their latest shiny objects. To palm off any criticism by their corporate overlords, [so-called] journalists and consumers that they’re not at the forefront of the latest watch trends.
In terms of the aforementioned consumer sales – which is the point of being in the business of making watches – Watches and Wonders’ horological hoedown violates one of marketing’s most important rules: don’t try to be better than the other guy. Be different.
How can you be project a compelling, focused and unique brand message in a virtual room filled with hundreds of watches screaming “LOOK AT ME! I’M SPECIAL!” In that environment, how different does a watch have to be to get any attention? How long does that attention last?
The Internet has changed the way consumers process information, of which they’re receiving nearasdammit an infinite amount. The challenge: get up-close-and-personal with the customer. Establish a connection based on their individual taste and circumstance. Listen to them so they’ll listen to you. Interact! Communicate! That’s the goldmine of the future.
Watches and Wonders is not that. By transforming an industry event into online content vomit SIHH is drowning in its own “success.” HoDinkee and the usual sycophantic suspects love love love it, but Watches and Wonders is an enormous waste of time, money and effort. It’s a missed opportunity for watchmakers to not play. To do something personal, focused and different with dealers, journos and consumers.
Meanwhile, Richemont’s Watches and Wonders medicine show is about to decamp to Shanghai for a physical get-together. I wonder who’s
greedy brave enough to travel to China during a pandemic. And whether or not watchmakers held anything back so they can turn on the new watch spigot again. For the industry’s sake, for my sanity, I hope not.