Whilst the focus of Watches & Wonders is quite rightly the fabulous timepieces, it pays to pause and look at the equally impressive corporate booths.
WWSH Opening - Credit Watches and Wonders
Having exhibited at multiple trade shows in the Defence Industry in my past life, I know only too well the significant logistics and cost of stand build, and some of the Shanghai booths are as good as they get. I regularly spent over $100K on stands, and Shanghai looks to be in that league. No expense has been spared, but why?
Watches and Wonders Signage - Credit Watches and Wonders
While some notable brands stay away, others are set on making a splash in the Chinese market. You only have to look at the plethora of Rolex Authorised Dealers in Hong Kong to understand how lucrative the SE Asian demographic is. Sales of luxury watches in China are expected to peak at US$36 Billion by the end of 2023. And the effect is widespread. In the four years preceding the pandemic, Range Rover sold almost as many cars in China as in Europe. Therefore, a local watch show is an excellent chance to reaffirm your presence, especially as China has been closed off for so long due to draconian lockdown policies.
The Look of Shanghai 2023
Clean and minimal are the design ethos of choice for the Shanghai show. The booths are vast walls of white and soft creams, and the industrial look of a few years ago has been swept away. Most of the stands look contemporary and remind you of high-end brand boutiques in expensive malls or airports.
A Lange & Söhne
A.Lange and Söhne Booth - Credit Watches and Wonders
A Lange & Söhne have gone for a light and dark theme with a giant watch replica, allowing the public a rare glimpse of the detail in a modern watch. The colour scheme is well chosen when you look at their principal release, the beautiful Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Booth - Credit Watches and Wonders
Jaeger-LeCoultre has opted for the high-end boutique look with sophisticated gold panelling and laboratory-style tables and lamps, which subconsciously add a haut-horology craft area sensation.
Panerai Booth - Credit Panerai
Panerai has one of the best stands for several reasons. Externally it bucks the trend with dark wood and images of watches on rocks with waves crashing around them. It does look a bit dated when you consider the look others have favoured, but that styling still works for so many buyers, so thank goodness at least one brand has gone for a dramatic look. Internally the Panerai stand brings more surprises by looking more like a trendy wine/whisky bar with a wall full of bottles. In fact, this is a functional bar, so it is no surprise that stand PR shots look particularly busy.
Roger Dubuis Booth - Credit Watches and Wonders
Roger Dubuis was a letdown when you consider the watch releases like the Excalibur Spider Revuelto Flyback Chronograph. Their graphic displays are based on blueprints and schematics of car parts with an odd pipework stand build. No doubt this replicates some element of a Lamborghini, but it is very subtle and lacks impact. Perhaps a Lambo supercar in the middle of the stand would have livened things up a bit?
IWC Schaffhausen Booth - Credit Watches and Wonders
IWC has copied their design from W&W in Geneva. True to form, their stands are minimal and lack imagination. Sure, this is the current corporate look but it seems tired now and could do with a facelift.
Ulysse Nardin Booth - Credit Watches and Wonders
Ulysse Nardin has a stunning boutique that majors on the release of another FREAK model. It is a really imaginative stand which has a large FREAK watch on the floor which is reflected in a mirrored ceiling panel. The public can walk within the watch movement, and they look up to see clearly where they are standing in the watch. It's really quite clever and gets a thumbs up for innovation.
Vacheron Constantin Booth - Credit Watches and Wonders
Vacheron Constantine has selected the expensive lounge look and nailed it with a clean and sophisticated area to showcase their latest creations.
Baum and Mercier
Baume & Mercier Booth - Credit Watches and Wonders
Finally, we liked Baum and Mercier, who paid homage to their latest creation, the 12-sided Riviera. The stand consists of a passage of giant bezels that collectively look like the gun barrel at the start of a James Bond movie. For sure, it's not intentional, but very cool.
Looking at exhibition stands is part of the joy of a major show. You can feel inspired by the right look, and that is all part of buying into a brand. Considerable thought generally goes into stand design so next time you walk through one take time to look at the imagery created; it is just another part of the wonder of buying watches.
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