About time: Watches and Wonders Shanghai opens doors to public for first time | Jing Daily
Watches and Wonders returned to Shanghai for the first time in two years from September 13 to 17, with 14 luxury watchmaking maisons presenting their latest timepieces and innovations over two stories of the West Bund Art Museum.
The horological summit brings together the global watch industry twice a year at events in Geneva and Shanghai. This year, for the first time ever, the invitation-only industry event opened to the public over the weekend, presenting a program of conferences, exhibitions and hands-on workshops designed to engage younger consumers.
During the event, Jing Daily caught up with Watches and Wonders Geneva Foundation (WWGF) CEO Matthieu Humair to discuss how haute horlogerie is adapting to changes to consumer channels and four of the most prestigious watch brands curated unique experiences for Chinese watch aficionados.
This year sees the watch extravaganza return to a live event format in Shanghai for the first time since the pandemic broke out.
“We ran a digital edition for the past two years that accelerated our digital transformation, enabling visitors to follow the entire program live and on replay across the world on different platforms, including WeChat and Weibo in China,” says Humair.
Now that the world can meet again, Watches and Wonders decided to expand its reach by welcoming the public to its event on select days. The Geneva iteration held in April this year hosted a record 43,000 unique visitors (up from 22,000 visitors in 2022) and 5,400 retailers from 125 nations.
Humair puts the stellar showing down to “the young generation’s high interest in watch-making, coupled with watchmaking brands developing greater flexibility and different ways to engage with their evolving consumer bases.”
Finding new ways of attracting and interacting with young generations is a focus for the event’s organizers. Originally rolled out in 1991 with five brands as the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) to showcase new collections to watch professionals and the media, over the years the watch showcase has expanded to include more haute horlogerie brands.
In 2020, SIHH changed its name to the more succinct Watches and Wonders, and in September last year WWGF was established.
“Our mission is to promote watchmaking excellence throughout the world with the organization of events, such as Watches and Wonders, and also spark interest in watchmaking as a fashionable vocation among young people,” says Humair.
This year’s edition in Shanghai attracted 12,000 unique visitors over five days, including nearly 5,000 end-clients and public visitors during the weekend. They were joined by Chinese celebrities, including actress, singer and model Dilraba Dilmurat, actor Zhang Ruoyun and former competitive swimmer Ning Zetao.
In conjunction with the brand presentations, guests took part in a program of immersive experiences tailored to Shanghai. These included panels with brand CEOs and experts to decipher the latest watchmaking trends; interactive workshops where visitors could try their hand at assembling a watch movement; live presentations of master watchmakers at work; and a photographic art exhibit by Karine Bauzin exploring our relationship with time.
Seamless omnichannel integration is vital in the China market. All the event’s conferences and panels were broadcast live via WeChat, Weibo and Xiaohongshu, while KOLs live streamed on WeChat. Several of the new timepieces on show were available to purchase online with direct links from live-streams to e-commerce platforms. Combined social media shares helped expand the event’s to an audience of 75 million people over its five-day period.
The biggest draws were the brand booths where China-first global launches and new horological innovations were revealed. Each of the 14 participating brands provided a deep-dive into their brand heritage and DNA through their artistically designed pavilions and interactions.
Read on for a few of the standouts:
IWC Schaffhausen: Engineering beyond time
Featuring sleek black and chrome, IWC Schaffhausen’s pavilion referenced 1970s German industrial design and was inspired by its brand motto, “Engineering beyond time.”
The Swiss luxury watch manufacturer debuted its new Ingenieur Automatic 40, a luxury sports watch inspired by the iconic Ingenieur SL designed by Gérald Genta in the 1970s, and now re-engineered for the 21st century with modern movement technology, and improved case proportions and ergonomics.
Speaking to Jing Daily during the Shanghai event, IWC Schaffhausen’s CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr said: “Our motto is engineering beyond time, which refers to the duality of our engineering spirit with a long-term perspective and approach. IWC prioritizes form and functionality to craft mechanical timepieces of the highest quality that are ingenious, robust and enjoyable to wear and use, across generations.”
“We are directly in touch with our customers through events like Watches and Wonders, our uniquely designed flagship stores, and poetic localized storytelling,” adds Grainger-Herr. “In the latter aspect, I see Chinese creativity beginning to influence tastes around the world, which is very exciting.”
Vacheron Constantin: Artistry-enriched novelty
Vacheron Constantin’s striking monochrome pavilion enclosed five multi-sensory mini-sections, each referencing new novelties. Of special interest to Chinese visitors, the Métiers d’Art The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac – Year of the Dragon watch took 25 days to hand engrave and bookends the maison’s cycle celebrating the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. Other newly-launched highlights included a new Traditionnelle model in jade green and the first jewelry watch in the Patrimony self-winding collection, the richly bejeweled Snow Light timepiece.
Aside from exploring the new timepieces, visitors could snap pictures of themselves inside the pavilion’s interactive photo booth, which created a 3D optical illusion of visitors standing high above an architectural abyss.
Piaget: How thin can we go?
Piaget’s storytelling centered around the maison’s specialty of creating refined ultra-thin watches. Visitors marveled at the Altiplano Ultimate Concept model, a new mechanical watch in the brand’s signature midnight blue that is 2mm thin. This watch has previously only been designed by request and personalized for a handful of customers.
The Swiss luxury watch and jewelry company also honored “50 years of brilliance” for Limelight Gala, the jewelry watch collection created in 1973 that’s extravagantly set with precious gems — each watch takes hundreds of hours to handcraft.
Jaeger-LeCoultre: Adventurous spirit
Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre took visitors on a journey through its heritage of sports watches under the theme of ‘The Adventure Spirit.’
Divided into four chapters, the pavilion covered the genesis of the modern sports watch in the 1940s with military wristwatches for pilots, then explored the development of underwater sport and diving watches, followed by the bold designs of the 1970s.
The fourth chapter examined the discovery of chronograph watches, the quintessential sporting complication. Visitors were introduced to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new 2023 chronographs, including: two new Polaris Chronographs with lacquer dials; the Master Control Chronograph Calendar with a triple calendar complication; and the Reverso Tribute Chronograph displaying the indications in rectangular format. The nature-inspired pavilion, replete with ivy-covered walls and a cocktail lounge, was a nod to nature, a core Jaeger-LeCoultre value.
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