SIHH 2017: From Virtual Reality Surfing to Snapchat Spectacles; Luxury Brands Embrace Digital To Connect With Fans


Genna Meredith | January 27, 2017

The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), now in its 27th year, was the first luxury event of 2017 and the perfect moment to look at how luxury brands are adopting digital into their communications. Digital Luxury Group’s Genna Meredith reports.

The power of SIHH, the annual salon hosted by the Foundation de la Haute Horlogerie that finished January 22, can still be felt in Geneva, Switzerland. Publicity for the brands exhibiting in the show, seen in the form of large outdoor banners, continue to adorn the streets, with stores hoping to grab the attention of potential shoppers by offering them the opportunity to try SIHH novelties.

The show, which was originally set up by five brands who left Baselworld to start their own private gathering dedicated to fine watchmaking, featured 30 brands this year. Brands exhibiting at the show included the Richemont portfolio of brands (Baume & Mercier, Cartier, IWC, et al.) as well as others including Audemars Piguet, Parmigiani and Richard Mille. And, for the second year running, the event also opened its doors to ten independent workshops and creators including HYT, Romain Jerome and Urwerk, inside their newly refurbished setting; the Carré des Horlogers.

The Carré des Horlogers, the new SIHH area dedicated to independent creators and workshops. Image courtesy of SIHH

Press Pass not required

Along with Baselworld, SIHH is seen as one of the most significant events in the watch world. Notably, 2017 was the first year that SIHH was open to the public, with this past Friday, January 20th set aside as the day when the public could purchase a special 4-hour ticket to the once invite-only stands, after the rest of the week was strictly limited to press and invite only contacts.

But gone are the days when the press are the first and only to view the new releases. With the demand for live content, the watch industry is embracing the power of digital to connect with their fans directly in the moment. From live-streaming interviews with watchmakers to offering 360 degree videos of the stands, watch brands were competing for the attention of fans online with many taking advantage of the various digital methods to do so.

Genna Meredith spoke to press, influencers and brands to learn more about how brands used digital to connect with fans during SIHH.

“Today, information immediately goes directly to consumers; brands have to hold back, keeping upcoming product launches quiet to maintain brand excitement all year long.”

First interesting insight speaking with Watch Editor Stephen Watson of Hearst Digital, who has been attending SIHH for many years, long before the advent of social media; “As press we had the unbridled luxury of viewing all of the new releases slated for the entire year. For a long lead print editor, it was a dream for planning stories months ahead of time.” He continued, “Today, information immediately goes directly to consumers; brands have to hold back, keeping upcoming product launches quiet to maintain brand excitement all year long.”

Surfing the Digital Wave

Swiss watch manufacturer Baume & Mercier stood out as one of the most interactive experiences at SIHH, boasting its very own surfing simulator where show-goers could compete to win one of the newly released Clifton watches.

2017 is a sports-minded year for Baume & Mercier, and there was no ignoring it with the surfboards and skateboards decorating the stand, and of course the imposing Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe parked in the central walkway.

The Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe proudly displayed at the front of the Baume & Mercier stand at SIHH 2017 / Image courtesy of Baume & Mercier.

The brand took the opportunity to take note of players’ email addresses after competing on the surfboards to ensure they could follow up after the show with specific product information and generate word-of-mouth. The surfing simulator experience was reinforced with new “Gentlesporstmen” video content where impeccably dressed top sportsmen wore their new Clifton Club or Clifton Club “Shelby Cobra” timepiece whilst playing sport.

SIHH show-goers take to the virtual surf boards in the Baume & Mercier stand

And to ensure they kept their fan base up to date, the brand took to Facebook to share news on their novelties as well as launching live video footage direct from SIHH with Alexandre Peraldi, Product Design Director. 

“The attention span of our audience is diminishing so we need to attract, and retain them, and video content is one of the best ways to achieve that.”  

Baume & Mercier Marketing and Communication Director, Sandrine Donguy, spoke about the importance of digital communications for the brand. “We are guided by the commitment to create emotion through an unforgettable experience, both at the stand and for those following online. The attention span of our audience is diminishing so we need to attract, and retain them, and video content is one of the best ways to achieve that.”

Baume also offered show-goers and non-showgoers alike the opportunity to receive exclusive updates on SIHH 2016 and their new collections with their WhatsApp newsletter.

Influencer Marketing still going strong

Influencer marketing campaigns continue to make waves within the watch industry, with Vacheron Constantin, the oldest manufacturer of fine watches, launching its own influencer campaign with a bid to connect with a more digitally savvy audience looking to discover more about the timepieces.

The brand invited influencers including Anish Bhatt (Watch Anish), Amr Sindi (The Horophile)and Ariel Adams (A Blog to Watch), to the stand to discover their new Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 for the first time. The brand recorded their first reactions and published them on their social media channels. Anish even posted his first live wrist shot at SIHH from the Vacheron stand sharing the image with his 1.7million followers.

Watson adds, “Vacheron Constantin (@vacheronconstantin) did a beautiful job on Instagram showcasing their new collection at SIHH. By creating video posts using influencers, a highly complicated collection was presented clearly with charm, not only showcasing their beautiful watches but also just how excited watch fans can get by using their esoteric knowledge to help explain them.”