Watches and Wonders, the world’s largest watch event, opened an offline version at the West Bund Art Center in Shanghai this week after a week on its digital platform watchesandwonders.com.
It’s the second year that the fair has chosen China as the main venue for the physical event.
Running through Sunday, the fair is an exhibition of luxury, high-end watches, displaying 19 brands, almost twice as many as last year.
“It’s been a very challenging year for watchmakers and the industry in Europe because it’s where we manufacture the watches,” said Emmanuel Perrin, president of Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, a foundation based in Switzerland that promotes fine watchmaking around the world.
“But walking out of the valleys in Switzerland, we’re super resilient with incredible adaptability. Most of those watchmakers have been in business for more than 100 years and have gone through crises regularly. They survive each time with stronger creations, innovation and engineering,” he said.
Moving from Geneva to Shanghai last year was a last-minute decision, but it turned out to be a wise one as the watch fair was surprisingly successful after attracting a large number of visitors, media, retailers and professionals.
This year, the Shanghai edition has more participating brands and more interactive events, lectures and talks. Visitors can take a close look at some of the watches unveiled online at Watches and Wonders Geneva, and they can also be the first to see new models created especially for the Chinese market, immerse themselves in unique pieces and iconic heritage watches, and discover the latest releases as well as the latest trends.
The Cartier booth shows a vast range of exceptional creations, and Rolex, in its first participation in Watches and Wonders Shanghai, reveals new timepieces from its collection. Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, A. Lange & Söhne, Ulysse Nardin, Roger Dubuis, Tudor and Baume & Mercier also have surprises in store.
“Moving to Shanghai is a temporary decision, and Geneva still remain the mother event,” Perrin said. “But we will see if satellite events are possible in future.”
Watches and Wonders Shanghai will keep up a brisk pace of activities focused on watchmaking culture and learning. Visitors can roll up their sleeves to assemble a mechanical movement, have a close look at a craftsman’s seasoned hands at workshops, and delve into new technologies and innovations with IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Montblanc.
The watchmaking industry has been badly hit by the pandemic, but the global health crisis has also boosted various industry trends, including a substantial shift online and a renewed consumer awareness of sustainable development.
“It has made us think and work digitally,” Perrin said. “It’s a traditional industry, but now we have to adapt to new circumstances.”
To further its China digitalization and empower new online-to-offline consumption, Watches and Wonders takes part in the Tmall Super Brand Day this month. During the collaboration, each participating brand presents their exclusive offers on the Tmall Luxury Pavilion, an online shopping platform.
“Swiss watchmakers are getting more in touch with customers directly and digitally. It might be difficult for this traditional industry, but it’s triggering new, creative ideas for us,” Perrin said.
In a digital era when the younger generation is more willing to pay for a smart watch than a luxury watch, traditional watchmakers are also embracing the new technology.
“As long as you wear something on your wrist, a watch or something that looks like a watch, for me it’s already a good start,” Perrin said. “And if we do our job properly, then we can offer much more than just giving time. Our members are always keeping pace with technological revolution, super quick to adapt to new times.”