At this time of the year my inbox is dominated by the second biggest watch fair of the year, after Baselworld, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. SIHH opens its doors in a few weeks, and the press releases and appointments are flowing in thick and fast. It only seems like a few months ago that I was leaving the heat of the Australian summer for SIHH 2015. The watch industry has had a tumultuous 12 months since then, and Time+Tide has been riding its own rollercoaster – though I’m pleased to say that it’s been more highs (and helicopters) than lows. But before I go through some of my personal highlights for the year, let’s take a quick birds-eye view of the industry as a whole.
The year got off to a rocky start for the watch industry, with the Swiss National Bank scrapping their longstanding cap on the franc days before SIHH opened its doors, causing the largest ever day of currency trading and a 30% increase in the value of the CHF. The mood at SIHH was subdued. There was an uneasy hush as all and sundry speculated about the longer-term impacts on the industry.
Things didn’t improve as the year rolled on; luxury markets were softening all over, with China’s tough new anti-corruption policies having a significant role in slowing growth in the region. Adding to this was the drama of Apple’s smartwatch release. Fears of a second quartz crisis loomed – only this time it would be a ‘connected crisis’ as consumers seek wearable tech to sync with their digital lives. If these threats, real or perceived, tell us one thing, it’s that the boom times of the early noughties are well and truly behind us.
Even storm clouds have silver linings, and the good news is that Australia is performing well. For the first 11 months of 2015 we imported 193.3 million francs worth of Swiss watches, a seven per cent increase from 2014. We’re also seeing more boutiques opening doors down under. We might not be the biggest watch market in the world, but we’re growing while much of the world contracts. And in uncertain times that counts for a lot.
2015 was also a year of change for Time+Tide. It became my full-time gig early in the year, and soon after it demanded 100% of Andrew’s focus as well (a conservative estimate to be honest), as he shed watch writing posts at several magazines. We also brought Andy Green on-board as our community engagement and event guy, and shortly afterwards Kate joined the ranks making sure everything was running smoothly behind the scenes. Add to this a seemingly endless flow of photographers, videographers, designers and contributors and the Time+Tide office, which seemed so spacious this time last year, is beginning to look a little cramped.
The best thing about having a bigger team is being able to do more. Of course the bread and butter of the site is news and reviews, but we’ve achieved some awesome stuff in 2015. Here’s a few of the standouts for me.
We knew getting menswear illustrator Matt Miller to paint the Longines 2015 novelties live from Baselworld was a good idea. But we were unprepared for how brilliant Matt’s paintings were.
Time+Tide is written by Australians, for Australians. So it only made sense that we shine a light on local brands as well as the big Swiss players. So we dedicated an entire week to home grown watches, and rounded it all off with a night at the pub.
We’ve held a lot of events this year, but our exclusive ‘Black & White evening’ with Montblanc was a coming of age for us. It was our first event in Sydney – not our home ground – and 60 people seemed like a lot at the time. But Andy Green, and our guest of honour, master watchmaker Julien Miribel nailed it. Oh what a night.
After 18-months in business we thought it was time to check in and see what you liked about Time+TIde and what we could do better. We put together a pretty exhaustive survey (and gave away a brand new blue Pelagos to boot). We were pretty blown away by your feedback, and Alan is blown away with his new watch.
Tudor Australia were among our earliest supporters – but we were still honoured when they gave us the Australian exclusive with one of the biggest watches of the year – the Black Bay Black. And the fact that they happened to have a 1954 Tudor sub to compare it to was the icing on the cake.
In November we became one of the 14 sites included on Watchville, the largest watch news aggregator and app around. Of course this doesn’t change how we work one bit, but it’s good to be included with the world’s best watch sites.
Video has been a major focus for us this year, all up we shot around 50 videos, including live on-the-wrist reviews, interviews and some epic feature pieces that included drones, helicopters and motorbikes. One of our favourites is our video with Sydney Hobart champion skipper Mark Richards, where he talks about his ‘lucky charm’ Yacht-Master.
We’ve achieved a lot in 2015, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that this is only the beginning. Expect to see even more from us in 2016. See you next year.