SIHH 2015: taking stock
Already at the start of the Salon, one thing was obvious: a crisis was brewing, but it did not really have a name. Was it the recent decision be the Swiss National Bank to uncap the franc's exchange rate? No, the crisis was elsewhere….
It was not the January 16 decision by the Swiss national Bank to put an end to its policy of artificially maintaining a "floor exchange rate" for the Swiss franc that was weighing on the atmosphere of the SIHH.
The ambiance was a little like that in a school yard, when when children who are far too spoiled suddenly start envying their neighbors. Indeed, the timekeepers were all magnificent, some were even original. There too, however, many have gotten accustomed to accepting the unacceptable and the trend towards lower prices, is essentially smoke and mirrors, because only two brands made a real effort to come up with something that seemed to respond to the deflationary tendencies of the market.
Montblanc casts a long shadow
A quick scan of the reports coming in suggests that once again, Montblanc managed to save its bacon thanks to a subtle game of seduction. This explosion of creativity, which we hope to see turn into the real thing, is certain to do some harm to a maison like Baume & Mercier. Its reasonable pricing policies and its strategy of "seducing" young graduates is clearly overshadowed by Montblanc's decision to boost mechanics and functions. We know that the world of watchmaking tends to focus more on the product rather than the story. But the Montblanc collection also suffocated the collection offered by Jaeger-LeCoultre and drew attention to the limp-wristed choices made by A. Lange & Söhne, despite its flagship product whose production remains intensely limited.
But in this competitive atmosphere, and in the face of wild proliferations, there is something calming and agreeable in IWC's choice of taking a monothematic tack and reinterpreting the Portuguese collection.
And the rest of them?
Yes, we might well have forgotten them, what with that famous war of personalities bubbling over through the major brands present at the Salon. Cartier obviously did their own thing, with an abundance of creations that made one's head spin. Nevertheless, the Clé collection did catch many by surprise, though there is no evidence, in spite of the horological syncretism out of which it grew, that it will succeed in overtaking the Ballon Bleu, which we know drew mostly a female audience. And while expectations of novelties rode high with Audemars Piguet, the brand thrilled us mainly with acoustical studies. This work may well be the CEO's own very personal way of telling us that within this ambient cacophony, the truth in fact lies elsewhere.
Nevertheless , at the heart of this white horological noise, we must mention the quiet rise of a maison like Ralph Lauren, which boasts a well-balanced set of collections, evidence that the brand has reached cruising speed by intelligently using the calibers of the others in the Group. Piaget, one imagines, failed to really slake the thirst of its fans. The Altiplano chronograph reveals a paucity of sex appeal for lack of a striking dial (cutting back on material just to beat a record was not the best idea here).
Another note: Roger Dubuis did manage to impress the audience but more due to its unfettered booth and enhanced reality technology than by his collection of superb skeleton models. And then there is Vacheron Constantin, whose 260th birthday took second place to the announcement by Montblanc of the upcoming launch of the E-strap extension to its watch bracelets. And Richard Mille, who is, after all, the prophet of the horological future, did not even react to the arrival, into the heart of this temple of Haute Horlogerie, of an electronic tool that is thought of as damaging to the traditional craft.