Date
21 October 2017
The Hong Kong Watch Show, which debuted in 2013, attracts buyers from across Asia, the industry's biggest market. Photo: Internet
The Hong Kong Watch Show, which debuted in 2013, attracts buyers from across Asia, the industry's biggest market. Photo: Internet

Swiss mull future of Hong Kong watch show amid falling sales

Organizers of a Swiss watch fair held annually in Hong Kong may cut the event to one every two years amid declining sales in the industry’s largest market.

The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie in 2013 started Watches & Wonders, branching out from the two biggest trade shows in Switzerland, the SIHH in Geneva and Baselworld.

The group is in talks with exhibitors on the future format of the show, Bloomberg reports, citing Richard Mille, chief executive his eponymous watch company

The event mainly showcases Richemont-owned brands like Montblanc, Cartier and Vacheron Constantin and some independent players such as Richard Mille.

“Some brands have been fighting to get out, completely out, to stop the Watches & Wonders,” Mille said.

“Some of the brands want to do it every two years, some say every year. It’s a negotiation.”

A decision will be made after this week’s show in Geneva, Fabienne Lupo, chairwoman of the foundation, said by e-mail.

Demand for pricey timepieces in Hong Kong has suffered from China’s crackdown on extravagant spending and currency fluctuations that make watches less expensive in other markets.

Swiss watch exports to the island city plunged 23 percent in the first 11 months of 2015 and are facing the first annual decline since 2009.

The industry is already pulling back, with TAG Heuer shuttering a store there in August.

Mille, who said the main reason for brands reconsidering the show is the time and investment it requires, would prefer the exhibit to go on every year.

It usually takes place in late September.

Richard Mille’s watches start at about 70,000 Swiss francs (US$70,000) and can reach 1.8 million francs.

“The objective of going there was to make contact with clients who maybe couldn’t or wouldn’t go to the boutiques and we could enlarge our client data base easily,” Mille said. “It’s not cheap, but it’s worthwhile.”

Montblanc chief executive Jerome Lambert said, it’s “too early to say where it goes and how it goes and what will be done. Whatever happens, we’ll remain very active in Hong Kong with major exhibitions”.

Hong Kong also plays host to the annual Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, which had almost 800 exhibitors last year.

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