Participating brands, small and large, were openly excited to be back in the spotlight with their participation at Geneva Watch Days. Conceived and set into motion by Bulgari and Breitling and joined by high-gravity independents such as MB&F, Urwerk, H. Moser & Cie., Bovet, and more, we have efficient, optimistic, and welcoming days behind us — shining new light on big fairs of old.
In our discussion with Mr. Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari and proud conceiver of GWD, he revealed the massive differences in cost and flexibility — with Geneva Watch Days costing a fraction of big fair budgets. The latter range anywhere between two and six million Swiss francs and often way beyond — per brand. The cumulative costs of Geneva Watch Days, split among 17 brands, was estimated to be around a million Swiss francs — again, per 17 brands.
Brands being wise with their money in ways that are more likely to be considered actually wise by mere mortals arguably has a better look when compared to the low-practicality, high-expense ostentation resulting from the one-uppery that big fairs have wired in their DNA. It’s not like the locations were compromised, either: Brands were situated inside posh Geneva hotels such as the Beau Rivage, Ritz-Carlton, and the Hotel des Bergues Four Seasons, while some, such as Girard-Perregaux and Ulysse Nardin, had boutiques or pop-up boutiques in between said hotels. Organizers were proud to have “the support of the city and the state of Geneva” — which sounds good, although one can hardly cross the street without the full support of the city and the state of Geneva. In fairness, during such troubled times, to gain the approval of Geneva for any event to attract masses of people is a true miracle.
New watches, all to be covered here on aBlogtoWatch with detailed hands-on images, were also launched by the majority of participants. This was quite literally a breath of fresh air after 2020’s past eight months having been defined by postponed events and product launches.
The overall sensation we got from our talks with those responsible not for marketing, but rather for product design and planning, is one that shows an increasing dedication toward proactively reading the market, the changes in public taste, and consumers’ recurring requirements, naturally overruled by subordination to brand DNA.
Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo S remains unbelievably thin but now comes fully wrapped in stainless steel, with a screw-down crown and 100 meters of water resistance — because Bulgari understood this was what its target audience expected. Breitling has launched a lightweight, highly accurate SuperQuartz watch to be worn by those athletes who don’t yet have a partnership with Richard Mille (and cannot otherwise afford a lightweight Swiss watch with a six-figure price tag). Plus, again, succumbing to its understanding of popular demand, Breitling is steering away from all-polished-shiny-everything with the quiet launch of an alternating finished bracelet for its dressier pieces. If brands changing expensively developed and recently introduced items in their portfolio is rare, then doing it because they are tracking developments in end-customer taste is truly exotic. Gérald Genta marks its return without Bulgari branding on the dials — both a popular request of many, for sure.
Geneva Watch Days suffered no shortage of exotic stuff either, with Bulgari pocketing its sixth world record with an ultra-thin tourbillon chronograph with peripheral rotor, Bovet expanding its uniquely own universe with yet more absolutely breathtaking stuff, and Ulysse Nardin quietly putting one of the most impressive watches out there with the new Blast that strived for a newfound connection between mouvement and habillage, i.e., the movement and all its surroundings (the dial and case). Although not a record-breaker per se, it is a mighty, mighty impressive achievement in its own right. The list goes on, but, as we said, we invite you to keep track of our hands-on coverage and in-depth explanation of all Geneva Watch Days novelties that are to come soon.
In summary, the Geneva Watch Days event was a brief but bright sparkle of light, with at least some of the Swiss watch industry’s notable brands signaling to the world that they are capable of organizing an event on their own — and that they, too, can start listening to end consumers, even if not everyone’s requests can be fulfilled at the same time. And all it took the Swiss Watch Industry to get here is for the world to be just 100 seconds from midnight.
A special thank you goes out to Bentley Motors who, with their Flying Spur 4-door grand tourer, transformed our 14-hour drive from Budapest to Geneva into a heavenly relaxing experience and made our travels during our 10-day stay in Switzerland safe and comfortable.