Welcome to SIHH

By Michael Friedberg from SIHH in Geneva, Switzerland

Date — 16 January, 2012

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If you’re an insider, you can sneak into the SIHH – the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie – a day early, before it’s officially open.
The watches aren’t there and the huge exhibition halls are empty and aren’t ready. There are hundreds of carpenters, painters and electricians everywhere.

—Inside the booth

Today, Monday, January 16th, walking into the SIHH reflects a huge transformation. This is not a “trade show” but rather a European salon. There is plush carpeting and everyone is dressed in their business finest. There’s a certain buzz of excitement as one enters and obtains validated photo credentials to pass through electronic scanners. The halls are large enough to get lost, but in-between all of the company entrances are décor seating, fine dining areas, and espresso bars.

The approved visitor feels special too. He or she must be important in order to be treated so well. Today, Monday, is primarily for journalists in the morning, plus the beginning of incessant appointments with key retailers that will continue throughout the week.

All the companies’ booths are nicely presented, and certainly show off their new and important models well. The IWC booth, however, is in a different league, and it’s one of the major talking points in the salon. It’s literally breathtaking. It takes a visitor to a new world because it converts the space into something totally unique. This year, the visitor is a guest on an aircraft carrier, the USS F.A. Jones.

—Welcome to the Bar. Proud to Serve you Budweisers and Oreo Cookies.

Instead of the plush carpeting and mahogany trim, there’s the grey steel, industrial look of a Navy ship. In the center is a ramp leading to what looks remarkably like an F/A-18 Hornet, the supersonic fighter jet. Actually it’s a flight simulator.

—Come Inside the IWC Aircraft Carrier Lounge

We’ve all magically become Top Gun pilots. Our flight suits are ready and we’re waiting for the announcement from the P.A. system. The press today gets ushered into the Flight Control station, for which a briefing is in progress.

It’s great to see IWC’s many new models, which are excellent achievements of design and engineering. But these models are equaled by the originality and interest generated by IWC’s unique presentation. It’s something that has to be seen to believed, and can’t be experienced anywhere else.

—A Peek Inside IWC Admiral's Headquarters

Welcome to SIHH. It is very special to be here.

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