SIHH Is Court For the Old Guard, the Gauntlet For Those Just Getting Started

For newcomers and veterans alike, SIHH continues to be the bellwether of evolution and innovation for the watch industry.

Pictured Above: RedBar Founder Adam Craniotes at the Cartier welcome dinner at SIHH

The first-time visitor to Geneva may find, if conditions are just right, the entirety of the 224-square-mile lake for which it is named completely obscured. Because Lake Geneva sits in a glacial depression shielded by the Alps to the south and west, it often holds moisture which builds into dense clouds. In these instances, it would be easy for the novice, flying from a distant city, to become disoriented, fearful that the city — and the awaiting airport — is too far away when the Airbus A330 makse its arc above the lake and banks into the mist.

A first-time attendee of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) may be struck by a similar feeling. The Watch Industry is a special kind of juggernaut that neither asks for permission nor seeks approval. Watch aficionados of all walks must dance to its tune, engaging with and, hopefully, consuming, the latest models with a thirst and excitement matching (or better yet, eclipsing) last year and the year before. But much like that descent into the clouds, the beginner watch enthusiast can be easily disoriented — is this new piece good or bad? — nevermind understanding why.

SIHH is a unique opportunity for watch enthusiasts to get an audience with the brands, guided by the journalists who have dedicated themselves to studying the offerings from the brands year after year.  

But many of those who attend SIHH are plugged into the brands all year long, getting updates and press releases regularly. More still are deeply engaged, enjoying special manufacture visits or curated events up and down Madison Avenue, guided all the while by the best reps the brands can muster. By all calculations this is a good thing for us watch folk, but it does pose an interesting question: if those that cover the industry are so plugged in throughout the year, why do they muscle through red-eye flights, ditching their ergonomic roll-y chairs for a week of hunching over laptops in the press room of the Palexpo convention center.  What draws them to this city on the lake?  What does SIHH offer that can’t be had the remainder of the year?

Adam Craniotes, founder of RedBar, believes that SIHH is integral to building relationships among journalists and with the brands.

“I think it ties into the reason we collect watches.  It’s for personal reasons.  It’s not just seeing the watches, it’s also meeting the shot callers who are making it happen.  And for the press to reconnect with the press — there’s great value in that.”

Journalists connecting over the physical examples of new models allows for discourse that can lead to deeper understanding and new ideas. This increased awareness makes for richer context, benefitting watch lovers looking to those journalists for insight.

HODINKEE Senior Editor Jon Bues sees SIHH as an important opportunity to interact with those inside the industry.

“There’s really no substitute for coming to Geneva and seeing all of the new watches in person. You can talk to the people who make and market them, and that allows you to write stories you couldn’t if you’d stayed at home.”

Yearly insights are important, but experienced journalists attending the salon year after year benefit from seeing larger trends unfold.

Veteran timepiece journalist Roberta Naas, who has been attending SIHH since its inception, still feels the rush of discovery  each year. 

"The SIHH is important for so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is the first show of the year, it is like the pulse — you can witness what the year’s key complications will be, the directions in terms of pricing and styling — it sets the tone for the rest of the year." 

The watch industry may seem inscrutable to newcomers and outsiders, but salon is a crucial annual opportunity for journalists to get a larger perspective. With the new models firmly in hand, we have an opportunity to make sense of the year to come, helping enthusiasts at every level get oriented, and more importantly, excited, about our shared love.

Stay tuned over the next few days as we bring you our own insights into this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. 

Photo c. Atom Moore

Follow SHIFTed's story in real time on Instagram @Shiftedmag #SHIFTedatSIHH.

Jacob Sotak
Jacob Sotak

Jacob Sotak is the Editor in Chief of SHIFTed. After 10 years in the U.S. Army, he took a job on the national-news desk of the New York Times, for which he wrote often about issues of importance to veterans. Prior to launching SHIFTed, Sotak was Chief Operating Officer of Analog/Shift, focusing his attention on researching and writing about timepieces; his work has also appeared in iW magazine and Gear Patrol.

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Timely musings on vintage watches, men's fashion, cocktails, cigars, travel, cars, racing and more . . .

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