SIHH 2017 is a wrap. It’s done. After months of anticipation and speculation (along with regret for us Aussies leaving behind summer for subzero temperatures) the first watch fair of the year is behind us, the next one not too far away. But before we even think about the ‘B(asel)’ word, Felix and I want to share the moments that defined SIHH 2017 for us.
You’ve seen some of the watches, you’ve probably had glimpses behind the scenes on Instagram and you’ve hopefully got the sense from us that the fair hasn’t been quite the doom and gloom many expected. Things are slowly, safely and steadily returning to business as normal, but very much a ‘new normal’, with some major corrections now absorbed. But the Friday Wind Down isn’t all business and neither was SIHH. Putting watch world machinations aside, here are three moments each that meant something to us. In the parting words of Vinnie Jones in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, “It’s been emotional.” And we make no apologies. It’s what happens after a 24-hour flight, and then five days of four hours sleep…
Andrew moment #1
I was nervous about interviewing James Marsden for IWC – really nervous – because, as I admitted to him in the first few minutes, I’ve just finished watching Westworld. Those who know about the TV series will know what that means. James eased the pressure instantly: “You probably don’t recognise me without all the bullet holes then.” I didn’t think the interview could get any better than an opener like that. But it did. Because, it turns out James is a watch lover of a very high order. The kind of watch obsessive who asks a brand’s creative director if they can make him something very technically difficult. The kind of guy who opens Watchville before he opens Facebook. “I read you guys every day. Thanks for what you do,” he said, before listing some of our recent stories. Without exaggeration, it was a top-five-all-time-T+T moment for me. Thank you, Teddy. Not much of a rind on you (Westworld reference), but an impressive amount of watch knowledge.
Felix moment #1
On Wednesday evening, our photographer Marcus and myself hung out in the IWC booth shooting watches, breaking free from the usual meeting rooms and getting creative amid the opulence. As proceedings came to a close, we noticed a room full of flashing lights, noise and a kaleidoscopic photo booth (honestly, how could we not notice it). This little video shows Marcus, with his best duckface, art directing. For me, it sums up the fine line we walk at SIHH between the absurd and the sublime.
Andrew moment #2
Sometimes you can forget that the people behind the moving and shaking of the watch industry are, in fact, real human beings. So much is said and speculated about them that it can have the effect of making them caricatures, emblematic of an idea, skill or achievement. I was reminded of this in my interview with Davide Cerrato, Montblanc’s head of watches and former Creative Director at Tudor. Given Montblanc’s out-of-the-blue pivot to motorsports, it seemed reasonable to ask what he’d say to any sceptics who considered this opportunistic, an optimistic leap of faith, despite a link to racing through Minerva? His mood changed instantaneously. He was suddenly quite angry. The quotes and the story can wait, but needless to say it brought home like a lightning bolt the fact that our watch world’s leaders are not playing any kind of game. It is their careers, reputations, lives and, dare we say it – their passions. And it’s real.
Felix moment #2
I’ll let you in on a secret. Watches aren’t the thing I most look forward to at watch fairs. What I really get excited about is catching up with the diaspora of enthusiasts, collectors and – my favourite amorphous term – ‘watch media.’ SIHH and Basel is where we all get to catch up, shoot the breeze, gossip and (occasionally) talk watches.
Andrew moment #3
Two years and two days ago, on the Tuesday of SIHH 2015, I was lucky enough to meet Walter Lange. It was shortly after our photographer took a very rare portrait of him holding the Zeitwerk. Today, the lovely Kirsten from A. Lange & Söhne confirmed that it was very unusual for him to agree to be photographed in this way. As you can see, it’s a beautiful shot, with light and shadow interplaying to frame his face, couching the subject in enough darkness to give him mood, seriousness, singularity. The way he cradles the watch is tender. Not posed. Not obligatory. A symbiotic type of human-object dynamic, one giving the other life, then vice versa. Walter Lange passed away on the Tuesday just gone, exactly two years after the shot was taken, on the day he traditionally attended the fair and met the people, met the fans like myself. It was uncanny timing and it cast a shadow over the final days. R.I.P Walter Lange.
Felix moment #3
The passing of Walter Lange had a profound effect on the fair, and while I mourned one of the industry’s legends, I thought too about the incredible achievements of his life – heroic in their own way. It really brought home for me the scale of many of these watch brands. We’re so used to the constant yearly cycle of new releases, and a regular turnover of CEOs and the like, that it’s easy to forget that many of these companies have already been here for generations, and will (hopefully) be here for many more after we’ve gone. Comforting, in a strange way.
The week in numbers
13,577: Average steps walked each day by Felix and I at SIHH (14.3km)
18: Mentions of ‘Brand DNA’ over the four days. Hoping for some fresh clichés in 2018. Happily only 1 ‘Savoir Faire’ all week. Excellent result!
900,000,000: Revenue of Audemars Piguet in 2016 in USD, up from $800m the year before. Production will remain at just 40,000 pieces for “at least” the next five years.
5: Things we learned about Ryan Reynolds and his watches. Our favourite fact relates to the aura of his grandfather’s watch. We feel that.
3: Tired but happy Aussie guys today heading to Geneva Airport, for different destinations; Marcus and I to Amsterdam for a couple of days’ break before more shenanigans in Europe next week. Felix for the green grass of home. Thanks for your comments, concentration and company this week, it’s been a gas. Have a great weekend, and stay safe Melbourne, our thoughts are with all of you,
Andrew + the team