Geneva Watch Fair Showcases New Collections Amidst Low Sales

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The Watches and Wonders salon, one of the most anticipated events in the luxury watch industry, kicked off in Geneva, showcasing the newest creations from 54 major watch brands, including iconic names like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier, and Chanel.

While the Swiss watch industry celebrated record-breaking exports in previous years, 2023 saw a notable slowdown, with exports growing by only 7.6%. This decline contrasts sharply with the 11% and 31% growth rates observed in 2022 and 2021, respectively. The cooling demand, particularly from China, coupled with cautious consumer spending on luxury items, has contributed to this deceleration.

Thierry Stern, the president of luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe, remains cautiously optimistic about the market’s trajectory. Despite the calmer conditions, Stern notes the continued popularity of his brand among collectors, with nearly all of the 72,000 watches produced annually selling out during the fair.

In response to changing consumer preferences, the salon is embracing a back-to-basics approach this year, focusing on more understated luxury designs featuring “more steel, less bling,” as described by industry analyst Jon Cox of Kepler Cheuvreux financial services.

The fair is also reaching out to a younger audience with public access days, featuring guided tours and interactive exhibits that explore the future of watchmaking. This initiative aims to engage the next generation of luxury consumers and inspire a renewed interest in the art of timekeeping.

Despite the industry-wide slowdown, high-end brands continue to thrive, with watches priced above 25,000 francs driving 69% of the industry’s growth, according to a study by US bank Morgan Stanley. This data underscores the enduring demand for ultra-luxury timepieces among affluent consumers.