On Scene: Geneva Watch Days 2020

A new normal for watch fairs?

Twenty-twenty will remain as a most peculiar year for the world as well as for trade fairs. Having taken place August 26-29,Geneva Watch Days (GWD) might be the only physical show the watch industry will see this year, at least in Europe. How did it fare? Was it a success for the brands, media, and public? Here is an overview of the atmosphere.

After the demise of Baselworld and the rescheduling of Watches & Wonders to Shanghai (will it really happen?), GWD was a ray of light in the dark times the watch community was experiencing. First mooted by Jean-Christophe Babin, chief executive of Bulgari, and a few other watch brands, GWD quickly grew as many brands hopped on the bandwagon, hoping to salvage what already looked like an annus horribilis.

“Phygital” is the new normal

More than 20 brands were showing during the four days of GWD, which was a series of exhibitions and events at venues across Geneva, rather than being concentrated in a large hall as the traditional fairs are.

Most brands were part of GWD itself – Artya, Breitling, Bulgari, Bovet, De Bethune, Czapek, Ferdinand Berthoud, H.Moser & Cie., Gerald Genta, Girard-Perregaux, MB&F, Maurice Lacroix, Louis Moinet, Ulysse Nardin, and Urwerk.

But the official GWD exhibitors were accompanied by an array of independent brands more than happy to share a common audience. Carl F. Bucherer tagged along by presenting its novelties at the Bucherer store in Geneva, while Le Salon des Horlogers, a small, cosy store in the city centre, hosted some notable independent watchmakers: Romain Gauthier, Ludovic Ballouard, Kari Voutilainen, and Laurent Ferrier.

Accompanied by nonstop emails containing press releases for new watches, a flurry of pictures on social media- GWD seemed like an almost-normal watch fair.

The Ulysse Nardin Blast Tourbillon at GWD. Photo – Ulysse Nardin

The pleasure of finally being able to examine new timepieces in real life was tangible. Everyone was excited to touch and feel the novelties, try them on and scrutinise every detail. To name a few highlights: the Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RE, Bulgari’s sixth world record with the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph, the Gerald Genta Arena Bi-Retro, Ulysse Nardin’s new Blast Tourbillon, and the Infinity editions at Girard-Perregaux.

At the same time, most brands organised digital presentations for overseas journalists and clients who could not make it to Geneva – mostly those in Asia, the United States and Middle East. The quality of the presentations seem to have greatly improved, as brands realise the potential of virtual exhibitions and get a better feel of how to pull it off in an attractive fashion. Complete with cameos by brand ambassadors and presented by chief executive Georges Kern, Breitling’s webcast to launch of the new Endurance Pro was a good example of what is being done now.

The Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RE movement

Europe showed up

General consensus amongst the exhibiting brands is that a large number of journalists showed up, as well as a good proportion of Europe’s retailers. A vast majority of participants came from around Switzerland, but also from all major European countries: France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, and even across from Channel from the United Kingdom. Even a few Russian visitors were spotted.

Most of the brand PR people claimed they were almost as busy as at a normal watch fair, which was probably a bit exaggerated, as the Calvinist city was definitely not as lively as it was with SIHH. 

The salespeople seemed satisfied with the turnout and more importantly, the orders for new watches from retailers, who seemed to be making up for the wasted time and being deprived of new launches for most of the year to date.

The reception building for GWD. Photo – GWD

Brands also went the extra mile to support to the their retailers – in certain cases – for instance by granting exclusive sales rights for some new launches for a limited period. The new Bulgari Aluminium line, for example, will be available at retailers only for the first two months.

Other brands embraced the digital world completely by launching some models exclusively online, like Bulgari with the Gerald Genta Arena Bi-Retro that will only be available online, or the Girard-Perregaux 1966 Infinity Limited Edition, which will be offered only on Mr. Porter for the first month.

We are social animals

Despite the year so far, the overall atmosphere at GWD was laid back and relaxed. You could feel the happiness of people who could finally meet face-to-face – even behind a face mask. The greater watchmaking family was thrilled to finally reconvene after a long time apart.

It was heart-warming to see familiar faces, exchange thoughts and ideas in person, joke and laugh together, instead of being alone behind a screen. GWD was proof that physical and digital can co-exist, and in fact work well together. At the same time, the smaller, more local approach of GWD ticked a lot of boxes as far as conviviality was concerned.  

The chief executives of the participating brands. Photo – GWD

One of the major verdicts of GWD is confirmation that nothing can replace the human side of the business. Physical proximity – even if contactless – encourages a better communication; solicits genuine, immediate feedback; and provides an authentic intimacy that is useful in an industry centred on very small objects. That is proof that the physical trade show is indeed necessary and useful, no matter the scale or setting.

Bravo to the leaders who believed in the decentralised format of GWD and saw it through during this challenging period. The event was a great success and offers hope for the future.


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Breitling Introduces the Endurance Pro

Sporty, fun, and lightweight.

While best known for its mechanical aviator’s chronographs, Breitling has a diverse history of quartz watches for professionals, most notably the multi-function Aerospace and the Emergency with a built-in distress beacon. The latest in Breitling’s range of quartz instrument watches is the sporty and casual Endurance Pro.

The quintet of watches share the same black dial and carbon composite case, but with the dial flange and strap in five bold colours. While the colours are fun, the utility of the watch is taken care of with a chronograph and bidirectional rotating bezel that can be used as a solar compass.

Initial thoughts

As a sports watch, the Endurance Pro gets many elements right. For one, it is notably lightweight despite its large size. The case is made of Breitlight, an proprietary carbon composite – carbon fibres within a polymer – that is three times lighter than titanium, making it unobtrusive on the wrist.

Second, while mechanical movements have more appeal for enthusiasts, a quartz calibre more practical for a sports watch. Compared with a balance wheel, a quartz oscillator is less susceptible to external influences such as shock, magnetism, and orientation. And a quartz sports watch is convenient, it can be picked up and worn right away, with no winding or adjustment necessary.

Even though the Endurance Pro is the most affordable quartz watch made by Breitling (and also its lowest-priced men’s watch), the price tag is still US$3,000, which is expensive for what it is, even with the ultra-light case and high-end quartz movement.

Design and function

The colours and 44 mm size give the watch a masculine, sporty look. Legibility appears good, and the dial flange features a pulsations scale, a useful tool for athletes to measure their heart rate.

Also practical is the rotating bezel engraved with cardinal points, allowing it to be used as a solar compass. It’s a simple matter of aligning the hour hand with the sun, and the midpoint between the hour hand and 12 o’clock indicates south. Turning the bezel to mark south then allows for an easy reading of the other cardinal points.

High-accuracy quartz

While quartz movements are more stable than their mechanical counterparts, a quartz oscillator is susceptible to temperature changes. That’s because the high frequency vibration of the quartz crystal – which functions as the regulator of the movement – varies according to temperature.

A version of the Thermoline movement made by ETA, the SuperQuartz cal. 82 in the Endurance Pro addresses the problem with a sensor that measures ambient temperature, and then adjusts the digital regulating algorithm of the movement to compensate for the temperate-induced variations in frequency.

Key Facts and Price

Breitling Endurance Pro

Ref. X82310A51B1S1 (orange)
Ref. X82310A41B1S1 (yellow)
Ref. X82310D51B1S1 (blue)
Ref. X82310A71B1S1 (white)
Ref. X82310D91B1S1 (red)

Diameter: 44 mm
Height: 12.5 mm
Material: Breitlite carbon composite
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Breitling Cal. 82
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, and chronograph
Power reserve: 3-4 years

Strap: Rubber or recycled nylon strap

Availability: To be announced
Price: US$3,000

For more, visit breitling.com


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Habring2 and Massena Lab Introduce the Erwin LAB02

Two-tone "sector".

A year after the debut of the Erwin LAB01 in bronze, which sold out swiftly, Massena Lab has discreetly launched the followup. Announced only to “friends and family” via email, the Erwin LAB02 retains the familiar “sector” dial, but in a two-tone rose gold and silver finish.

As with the first instalment, the LAB02 is made by Habring2 and designed by Massena Lab, a watch-creation studio founded by industry insider William Rohr.

Initial thoughts

Habring2 are always excellent value, and the Erwin LAB02 has the added appeal of having been designed by Mr Rohr, a veteran watch collector. Though the design is not novel – it is based on a vintage Patek Philippe – the look is extremely appealing, and it has been executed with a careful attention to detail, as evidenced by the textures of the dial for instance.

While the original edition sold out in an instant, the LAB02 is a low-key launch, with the watches being delivered over a period of months, which makes it easier to land one. So it is accessible not just in price – a bit under US$6,500 – but availability, a useful thing when it comes to small-run limited editions.

Vintage inspiration

The new Erwin models itself on a 1930s Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 96 that had a similar, dual-colour dial. Illustrated Mr Rohr’s well-honed eye for detail, the dial of the Erwin is not just made up of twin colours, but also two surface finishes. The rose gold-plated chapter ring has a fine, concentric pattern, while the silvered portions are vertically brushed.

The case and movement are identical to the standard Erwin, which means a wearable 38.5 mm case that’s just 10.5 mm high. Inside is the A11s, a hand-wound movement made in-house by Habring2 that was developed with the Valjoux 7750 as the foundations, but heavily modified and improved. Notably, majority of the parts are made by Habring2 – which is based in Austria – or its suppliers outside of Switzerland.

Key facts and price

Habring2 Erwin LAB02
Ref. E-LAB02

Diameter: 38.5 mm
Height: 10.5 mm
Material: Steel
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: A11s
Features: Hours, minutes, and deadbeat seconds
Winding: Hand-wind
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Calfskin with pin buckle

Limited edition: 50 pieces
 From now, direct from Massena Lab
Price: US$6,495

For more, visit Massenalab.com.


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