In January, the 27th edition of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva welcomed not only a couple of new brands (Girard-Perregaux and Ulysse Nardin, plus five newcomers that were added to the Carré des Horlogers), but also the public. For the first time ever, SIHH opened its doors to end consumers on its last day: a great opportunity for the 15,000 visitors to discover the novelties of some of the world’s most important watch brands. Also, a great way to get a better overview of where the industry might be heading in 2017 — and what we might expect from the watch industry’s biggest showcase, Baselworld 2017, at the end of this month. Here’s a look at five major watch-world trends.
1. Women’s Watches
This year, pretty much every major brand introduced an impressive selection of watches targeted at women, in some instances even with new complications. Among those were Jaeger-LeCoultre and, of course, Cartier, but also Roger Dubuis and Vacheron Constantin. Even IWC, despite its claim to be generally “engineering watches for men,” dedicated the relaunch of its Da Vinci collection to women.
2. New Materials
The search for innovative materials, mostly for watch cases, continues in 2017. Panerai and Richard Mille introduced watches with new materials (like Graphene and metallic glass); Roger Dubuis even decided to produce the movement for the Excalibur Spider Full Carbon with parts made of carbon.
3. Entry-Level Offerings
Visitors usually don’t expect entry-level watches at a show dedicated to haute horlogerie, but surprisingly many watch brands started to talk about “becoming more accessible” and expanded their collections with relatively more affordable products. This even included brands like Parmigiani, with watches available for less than $10,000, and Ulysse Nardin, with a tourbillon for less than $30,000. In absolute numbers, Baume & Mercier’s new Clifton Club models starting from $1,950 were most likely the most affordable SIHH novelties in Geneva.
4. Links to the Automotive Industry
Next to the world of sailing, cars continue to dominate — not only for marketing reasons, but fortunately also for research and development. Some examples: Baume & Mercier launched a new Shelby Cobra edition, Roger Dubuis added Pirelli as a partner, Richard Mille continues to work with McLaren (which led to the development of the brand’s lightest chronograph, the RM 50-03), and Parmigiani with Bugatti, and Montblanc’s new TimeWalker collection also started its engine in the world of auto racing.
5. Complications and New Records
We already mentioned Richard Mille’s RM 50-03 Graphene-based 40-gram chronograph (the movement alone weighs just 7 grams), which also turned out to be one of the most expensive releases this year. But quite a few other brands were also able to surprise the audience with yet another ultra-complicated addition to their top-level offerings: for example, A. Lange & Söhne’s Tourbograph Pour Le Mérite added for the first time a perpetual calendar to the range, and Vacheron Constantin’s Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 combines astronomy and watchmaking with 23 astronomical complications. And its calendar doesn’t need any intervention other than a date change every 400th edition of future SIHHs.