Time stands still for no one, despite the ever-present threat of pandemic and the chronological irregularity it has wrought. All of which makes Shanghai's West Bund Art Centre(WBAC) a time purveyor extraordinaire,as Watches & Wonders (previously known as the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH)chimes into the Paris of the East for itsinaugural edition. The debut Watches & Wonders event in the region was held in Hong Kong in 2015.
Earlier in the year, the organisers of Watches & Wonders Geneva cancelled the Swiss show, citing concerns over COVID-19. Given the pandemic and its emerging second wave, the fate of September's Shanghai fair lies in the balance, but such is the appetite and resilience of Chinese luxury watch consumers and their suppliers that it seems destined to proceed.
As a result, Watches & Wonders Shanghai is an invitation-only event, and organisers promise to implement strict safety measures. Over the course of five days (from September 9 to 13), WBAC will showcase the culture and expertise of 19 hauts de gamme brands inside two halls, against a backdrop of what the organisers – the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) – describe as "brand keynotes, product launches,talks, panel discussions, explanations of the latest technologies and a hands-onintroduction to chronology", which tallies with the current emphasis on the "experience" and "experiential" qualities in the luxury sector.
The coronavirus pandemic has left many businesses in limbo – and the watchmaking sector is no exception. As a result, the FHH will tackle the subject head-on by reaching out to some of the industry's leading figures (retailers, consultants and other experts) to gain an understanding of how they have been impacted by the virus and are coping with it, and their hopes for the future of the watchmaking business. This unprecedented situation, with major cities locked down and homes turned into office spaces, is also redefining our relation to time.
The exhibiting brands, which mostly comprise the Swiss-based luxury Richemont stable, include A. Lange & Söhne, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Panerai, Parmigiani Fleurier, Piaget, Purnell, Roger Dubuis and Vacheron Constantin. Never timelier, this fair's one to watch.