The Independents of SIHH
2016 was a major turning point for SIHH. It marked the year that not only was it the usual vehicle for Richemont’s own watch brands (along with a couple of special guests of course), but they welcomed a host of independent watchmakers to the halls of the Geneva Palexpo. By a host I mean 9 which, at the time, was pretty groundbreaking.
For the 2018 edition though, double it. Well, almost. This year saw the Carré des Horlogers populated by a grand total of 17 unique, independent watchmakers. That’s one less than the entire other half of the show!
Out of context none of that really seems like it matters, but it can’t be overstated just how much it does. With Baselworld losing exhibitors quicker than Weinstein Company dropping future projects, SIHH is providing a home for the displaced. It’s like the independents’ Israel.
Of course, the additions are helping SIHH too. Something needs to breath fresh life into the weirdly cliquey realms of Cartier, Audemars Piguet et al. In fact, while the usual suspects were all touting the same red thread of ‘heritage inspired by modern tastes’ ad nauseum, the Carré was where all the action was happening.
You wouldn’t, for example, see a Montblanc with a snake winding in and out of the dial, surrounded by sheer black and emeralds in a dial more modern than an Instagram influencer in the world of cryptocurrency. That simile will age badly – unlike the Christoph Claret in question.
Ressence did their usual mind-bending, oil-filled malarkey with their self-setting Type 2; MB&F and Sarpeneva collaborated again in their lunar obsession, the MoonMachine 2 and Romain Jerome out-quirkied the real web-slinger with the RJ x Spiderman. Because of course they did.
As for the five new entries, they more than carried their weight. Armin Strom revealed a long-overdue classical version of their phenomenal (not to mention extraordinarily technical) Pure Resonance making me want it very much indeed. Romain Gauthier on the other hand showcased one of the few ladies’ pieces of the fair with the inspired dark mother-of-pearl Insight Micro-Rotor.
DeWitt managed a coup with what I consider to be one of the finest pieces at the fair – odd considering the ‘complication’ of the Academia Endless Drive is more pointless than a moonphase indicator to an astronaut. Still, it’s black lacquer contrasting with the steampunk open screw in the centre it just magnificent.
Among the 17 independent brands of the Carré des Horlogers there wasn’t a single re-issue or bog-standard anniversary timepiece, no ‘heritage-inspired’ driven going on. Instead it was a melting pot of inspired, inimitable and borderline insane watchmakers – and quite possibly the future of SIHH.