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Making time for Asia
IT'S official - Swiss luxury watches are no longer just boys' toys. For too long, men were spoilt for choice when it came to picking out a timepiece for themselves. Gold or steel, chronograph or minute repeater, tourbillon or double tourbillon, big or small - there are options aplenty.
But judging by the sheer number of women's timepieces on display at the second edition of Watches & Wonders in Hong Kong earlier this month, the Swiss are getting serious about opening up to a demographic that might have been in their blind spot for a little too long.
Not anymore as women are fast catching up with their male counterparts in collecting watches and the brands are sitting up to take note of it. "Thirty-five per cent of our customers are women," reveals Jerome Lambert, CEO of Montblanc, as the maison unveiled its new feminine Boheme collection - an all-mechanical line that even features a complicated perpetual calendar model for serious female collectors.
But to be fair, the three-day event, featuring 13 luxury watch brands under the Richemont Group, also had something for all 16,000 visitors who dropped by. Compared to the inaugural edition, the participating maisons looked better prepared this year as they brought along more novelties and not just the ones that were unveiled earlier in the year at the annual Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie.
Many were even produced exclusively for the Asian market as the Swiss watch industry strongly acknowledged the buying power in this part of the world. After all, there is a reason Watches & Wonders is held in the city that has been the biggest importer of luxury Swiss timepieces for years now.
With the mainland Chinese market slowing down after years of strong growth and the fair's dates coinciding with China's Golden Week holiday, it was also the perfect occasion for the maisons to try to woo those collectors back while leaving a strong impression with the new ones.
But as owning a watch also becomes less of a necessity with people now commonly referring to the clocks on their mobile phones to check the time, that hard truth has started to hit home. "You do not need a watch to read the time any more," acknowledges Baume & Mercier CEO Alain Zimmermann. "So it needs to be something more - it has to be part of a (memorable event); like a wedding, an anniversary or a graduation."
With the stunning horological masterpieces that were on display at this year's Watches & Wonders, nobody is about to forget it soon.
- An Asian persuasion Red, the number '8' and dragons rule timepieces made exclusively for this region
- Feminine complexity Watchmakers get serious about women's timepieces
- Making history again Some maisons turn back the clock to remind visitors of where it all begun as they put updated spins on classics