Geneva watch fair ticking over after sales boom years

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Geneva watch fair ticking over after sales: On Tuesday, the 2024 Geneva watch exhibition got underway amidst muted demand for high-end Swiss timepieces in China and cautious spending on luxury goods globally.

The Watches and Wonders salon will be open until April 15 and will display the newest creations from 54 top watch manufacturers. Among these brands are Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Chopard, Hermes, and Chanel, among many others. Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen and Chinese actor Wang Yang are among the famous faces perusing the timepieces, elevating the prestige of the esteemed occasion.

The growth trajectory of Swiss watch exports has slowed from its record-breaking three-year peak in 2020, when they reached 26.7 billion Swiss francs ($29.5 billion). Following several years of double-digit growth, exports slowed to a 7.6% increase in 2023.

Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern spoke about the change, calling the present atmosphere “a little calmer,” which he took to mean that things are getting down to earth. Stern, on the other hand, is bullish about his brand’s future because of the constant interest from collectors at auction.

Previously only accessible to members of the industry, the Watches and Wonders salon is opening its doors to the public for the last three days of its run. Guided tours and interactive exhibits centering on the future of watchmaking are part of this inclusive approach, which hopes to attract a new generation of purchasers.

Based on his analysis of market trends, analyst Jon Cox of Kepler Cheuvreux financial services predicts that manufacturers will have a “soft landing” in 2024, prioritizing practical designs over flashy decorations. Industry watchers, such as Oliver Muller of LuxeConsult, have noticed that, contrary to expectations, the fair has showcased some truly remarkable technologies and works of art.

As a result of a clientele that is less vulnerable to economic swings, luxury businesses like Patek Philippe continue to prosper, while other firms may see a slowdown due to economic uncertainty and changing consumer behavior.

It is worth noting that certain watchmakers are facing issues due to cautious consumer spending, especially in major regions like China and Hong Kong. This is echoed by Karine Szegedi, consumer industry lead at Deloitte Switzerland. Watch component subcontractors have also feeling the pinch, with fewer or delayed orders indicating a general slump in the sector.

As a showcase for innovation, craftsmanship, and perseverance in the face of altering market conditions, the Geneva watch exhibition continues to be a cornerstone event for the luxury watch industry, despite these obstacles.

Ethan Sullivan

Ethan's penchant for the pulse of the fashion world extends to covering lifestyle topics, offering readers a seamless blend of the latest style updates and lifestyle trends.

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