Two years ago, the FHH (Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie), the Swiss organization that runs the well-known SIHH exhibition in Geneva, took a chance on a luxury-watch show in the United States.*
The foundation teamed up with the Miami Design District to launch Watches & Wonders Miami (WWM), an educational and promotional event for luxury watches aimed at consumers, from hard-core watch collectors to the merely curious.*
Last year's launch event went well. But this year's show, held over the Presidents' Day weekend, went better. Much better. Thirty watch brands participated, up from 21 in 2018; attendance increased 40% to 28,000 visitors.
Fabienne Lupo, chairwoman and managing director of the FHH.
"We could not be more pleased with the results of Watches & Wonders Miami," Fabienne Lupo, chairwoman and managing director of FHH, said in a statement the day after the show closed. The show exceeded expectations, Lupo said. So much so that FHH wants to make it a permanent fixture on the U.S. watch calendar.*
The FHH and Miami Design District confirmed that they will hold a third edition of the WWM next year on Presidents' Day weekend.*
Investing In The Americas

W&W Miami was the first time many of the year's new watches were available to be seen in the United States.
Watch shows are part of FHH's mission. The foundation was created in 2005 to promote awareness of and interest in fine watchmaking. The founding companies were the Richemont Group, Audemars Piguet and Girard-Perregaux. Today, FHH has 44 partner brands, which support its activities in education, training and special events.*
In addition to SIHH, the foundation has for years wanted to have a strong regional show in a major watch market. It believes it has one in Miami.*
Earlier in this decade, FHH launched Watches & Wonders Hong Kong. The timing was inauspicious. It held annual WWHK shows from 2013 to 2015. "It was the wrong moment to have this event," Lupo says, "right when there was a great slowdown in Hong Kong and China." That show had a b-to-b [business-to-business] focus, Lupo says. "It was kind of a small SIHH," with brands presenting watches to the watch trade rather than watch consumers.*
FHH folded WWHK and rethought the b-to-b focus. It decided to rework Watches & Wonders with a b-to-c [business to consumer] approach, and decided to move the show to Miami.*
Why Miami? "Because we know that there is great room [for luxury watches and jewelry] to grow in America, North and South," Lupo says. "It is important to invest in this market. And Miami is a perfect hub to connect North and South America." *
Watches, Cars, And Yachts

The presence of an automotive concours and a yacht show helped bolster Watches & Wonders.
The collaboration with the Miami Design District was a natural development: numerous FHH members have boutiques there. Of the 30 brands at this year's show, 16 have boutiques in the Design District. Those without a freestanding boutique had temporary pop-up boutiques at the venue during the show.*
Another element in the WWM formula is a partnership with two other events occurring in Miami over the Presidents' Day weekend. On display at the Miami Yacht Show, held at One Herald Plaza, were 500 yachts and superyachts from the world's foremost custom boat builders. A free shuttle service ran between the yacht show and the WWM. Also at the Design District on Feb. 16th and 17th was the Miami Concours, which featured about 100 sports cars and luxury automobiles from prominent collectors.
The partnership between the luxury watch, car and yacht shows helped boost attendance, Lupo said. Besides watch collectors and aficionados, WWM attracted "people who love beautiful objects and who want to understand more and are kind of curious. For the brands, this is a great opportunity to meet new audiences.
This year saw the addition of exhibition space for independent brands and brands without Miami Design District boutiques.
"The main attendees are from Miami and Florida. But more and more there are visitors from around the U.S. and international, especially Latin America," Lupo said.
Visitors got to see new watches presented at SIHH or about to be presented at Baselworld months before they will be available in stores. They could purchase or order watches, of course. "But this is not the purpose of the show," Lupo says. "The purpose is to be a communication platform, where visitors can learn about watches and understand them better. Learn about the history of a brand, about the savoir-faire behind the pieces. They also get to meet some amazing independent watchmakers like Kari Voutilainen and Romain Gauthier, who are there. It's really more like an education platform."*
To that end, the show offered a full slate of conferences, workshops and panel discussions.
Miami And More

Watches & Wonders will return to the Miami Design District in 2020, and may also expand to other markets as well.
Next year, SIHH and Baselworld, Switzerland's two huge watch shows, are coordinating their show dates and moving the shows to April. That will make WWM even more interesting to consumers, Lupo thinks. "Watches & Wonders Miami could be a kind of preview of both shows," she says. "It will reinforce even more the importance of this event."*
Meanwhile, based on the success of WWM, FHH is considering taking the show back to Asia. "We wanted to test this formula of an event more oriented to the public," Lupo says. "And for sure it is a success."
"Asia will be the next destination. We will keep a main international event in Geneva with SIHH. And then we will add local events with the Watches & Wonders concept, based on the b-to-c perspective. So, we have one here in Miami. And we will develop one in Asia, probably in China, but we don't know yet where and when."


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