The Friday before this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie opened, the Swiss National Bank announced that it would detach its currency exchange rate from the Euro. This seemingly innocuous proclamation sent ripples throughout the Swiss watch industry and was all the talk at SIHH. The Swiss franc immediately shot up in value: good for some, bad for watch brands, whose products instantly became up to 20 percent more expensive abroad. There were rumors of retailers canceling orders, doomsday predictions in the halls of the Geneva Palexpo.
Despite this dark economic cloud, which matched the January sky in Geneva, we still wanted to see the new watches from the 16 exhibiting brands. Among the “novelties” shown, there were a few overriding themes that seemed to reflect market and design trends of the past few years. First of all, gold is back, and not just the “safe” white gold — rose gold, yellow gold and two-tone watches were aplenty, showing that what goes around truly does come back. Watches are getting smaller again, with a few exceptions (see the Panerai below), a trend we can get behind. And there seems to be a return to classic designs — not just “heritage” inspired, but design codes that have stood the test of time. Last year was an orgy of divers and sports watches; there was a noticeable dearth of such brutish specimens this year, giving way to classic complications. Globes seemed to be everywhere, used in innovative ways to show world times and day and night. It was a more subtle show — even IWC’s booth felt more like a chic hotel lobby than an aircraft carrier flight deck (see SIHH 2012), which still managed to be immensely satisfying to anyone who loves high watchmaking. And in that respect, SIHH lived up to its name. Here are 10 of our favorite watches from last week.