Thus, with the physical renditions of Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Switzerland’s famed Baselworld cancelled yet again on account of Covid-19, at the start of April the industry’s retailers, journalists and VIP clients descended not on a cavernous convention centre, but rather remained rooted to their laptops at home. Probably in their sweats, drinking tea.
While that crucial in-the-flesh product experience could never be supplanted, the irony is that Watches & Wonders’ online portal offered more brand-engagement opportunities than ever, trickling down to the benefit of everyone in attendance. Sure, the brands’ Instagram posts feature yet another pack shot, but not even the most fleet-footed of traditional fair-goers could access as many keynotes, Q&As, unveilings and panel discussions as afforded by Watchesandwonders.com and its 38-strong line-up of star players – accessible 24/7, Wi-Fi permitting.
Like most things affected by the pandemic (ie, everything) it’s still too early to know whether such a successful pivot spells the end of the “old way”. But for the customers and collectors upon whom the entire industry depends, who just want to know about the luxury fake watches themselves, the good news for this year is that the hills of the Swiss Jura are still alive with the sound of music (or ticking).
Post-crash, back in 2009, every watchmaker and their dairy cow seemed to rein in the R&D and hunker down on nostalgia. This year it’s nothing but dazzling technical wizardry, a return to oversize bombast, rainbows of colour pops, multi-carat bling, you name it.
The choice of alpinists since 1971, the new-generation Rolex Explorer II replica with white dial gets a 50th-birthday spruce-up. It’s equipped with a calibre 3285, incorporating all the bells and whistles that keep Rolex ahead of the rest in “tool watch” reliability: nickel-phosphorous Chronergy escapement and Parachrom hairspring, plus a 70-hour power reserve. Also essential to polar or subterranean explorers is that joyous pop of orange: a 24-hour hand allowing the wearer to clearly distinguish day from night. When you’re in the midst of a six-month winter, in temperatures that render batteries and LCD screens highly fickle, this is a lifesaver.