The times are certainly changing. We’ve existed in a world of fast, over-connected consumerism, which is most often meaningless and for pure entertainment. It’s time to change our patterns but also our relationship with time. While it might seem a little inappropriate to look at luxury items right now, we all need a bit of escapism, but most importantly, we should not forget that the arts and design are some of the key building blocks of civilisation. So, let’s set aside any unhealthy obsession over branded status symbols and admire fine watchmaking for its art and technical brilliance. And there are certainly many to admire with the watchmakers showing off their grand and astronomical complications, skeleton watches, and a selection of haute sports pieces that appear to be setting the trends so far.
The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting global shutdown has certainly highlighted the usefulness of our digital tools beyond the solipsism of social media. The vacuous celebrity and influencer culture has all but disappeared and those with any substance are now using their platforms to make real connections and rally there audiences to help where it’s needed right now. Many brands are doing the same, turning their production lines to the manufacture of essential protective medical supplies. Others are applying their creativity in different ways like Ressence which has joined forces with Sotheby’s against coronavirus and launched a competition #WatchesAgainstCovid19 to design a unique watch, which will go on auction.
The two major Swiss watch fairs, Watches & Wonders Geneva (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld, were scheduled to run sequentially in April this year but have been postponed until 2021. But this industry is resilient and knows how to react quickly in a crisis. Watches & Wonders and many independent brands have already turned to digital platforms to showcase their new novelties. Captured perfectly by Cartier’s “unexpected encounters”, Watches & Wonders hosted the launch of partner brands through scheduled webcasts on its new website this past weekend. The Swatch Group and Breitling did their own thing two weeks ago — Breitling with the more intimate BlueJeans video conferencing — and no doubt the other houses will announce plans and novelties in the coming weeks.
These tools are not so new but have been put to better use now, allowing some form of normalcy and business to continue, while also offering a lifeline, a human connection to those left alone. However, in my opinion — no matter your generation — virtual reality or augmented reality may indulge our fantasies and even help to reduce our carbon footprint, but they will never replace the joy of physical touch and truly connected experience IRL. I miss the opportunity of walking the exhibition halls, see and speaking to familiar faces, while handling the new novelties in person. For now, here are some of the highlights from the virtual Watches & Wonders. There is something for everyone.