Despite a far-from-gloomy Baselworld, the watch industry desperately needs some wind in its sails. Could the recent high-level personnel changes be the answer ?
Price continued to be an important consideration at Baselworld, with one of the highlights being Frédérique Constant’s 8,000 Swiss franc perpetual calendar. The new piece lays down a challenge to the industry and Peter Stas, the brand’s CEO, admitted he could do the same with a tourbillon, but that he has other ideas up his sleeve. The watch industry’s biggest annual exhibition may have been slightly quieter than usual, but there was still no shortage of innovation with watches such as the world’s thinnest minute-repeater presented by Bvlgari, and the general feedback after the show was more positive than expected. A straw poll among exhibitors returned forecasts ranging from a slight decline to modest growth this year. The annual report on the watch industry published by Swiss bank Vontobel, the most comprehensive and complete study of the year, concluded with an overall expectation for industry growth to be flat in 2016. Shortly after its publication came the news that Swiss watch exports plummeted by over 16% in March and, surprisingly, by over 30% for the USA. WorldTempus readers can see a more indepth picture of the US market after our visit to the TimeCrafters exhibition in May. Apple’s results also took a nose-dive over the first quarter, however, so the Swiss watch industry is by no means the only one suffering.
Whether by chance or by design, a number of high-level management changes at some of the biggest brands were announced less than a month after Baselworld closed its doors. Ahead of his 70th birthday, Stephen Urquhart stepped down as President of Omega, handing over the reins to Raynald Aeschlimann, who has worked at the company for 20 years. After overseeing a period of impressive expansion that saw the brand return to the US, Tudor’s boss Philippe Peverelli moved sideways to take over the Rolex Group’s POS subsidiary.
The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève has announced that its 16th prize-giving ceremony will be held on November 10th 2016 at the Théâtre du Léman, and also proved that it is keeping pace with current trends by creating a prize in a new category dedicated to watches with multiple time zones. At the same time, Vacheron Constantin was making its mark with an ambitious photography project across 12 time zones for the new Overseas collection (see more in this issue and view the gallery on worldtempus.com), while Louis Vuitton, who were absent from Baselworld this year, presented a new GMT Voyager collection in Paris