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.”

Watch Anish discovers the Vacheron Constantin Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication from the SIHH stand, as featured on the Vacheron Constantin Instagram page.

Another brand who understood the power of influencers was IWC, who launched its new Da Vinci collection before SIHH began with a dedicated influencer marketing campaign. The brand invited influencers including Kristina Bazan, Karolina Kurkova and Xenia Tchoumi for a special photo shoot in Florence, Italy. The brand then used a dedicated Instagram account @IWCStyleJournal to share photos of the influencers and friends of the brand wearing the new collection along with the hashtag #TheCodeOfMe.

Kristina Bazan posts an image from the IWC #CodeOfMe campaign ahead of SIHH 2017. Image courtesy of @kayture Instagram

Influential male blogger Matthew Zorpas, aka The Gentleman Blogger, who was last year named as IWC’s first-ever ambassadorship contract posted live from the gala dinner and shared his pre-SIHH #TheCodeOfMe campaign photos alongside the message that IWC praises non binary gender orientation, hoping to spark a bigger ripple for greater inclusivity within the industry.  

Brand Ambassador Matthew Zorpas in the IWC #CodeOfMe campaign. Image Courtesy of IWC/Jake Armstrong

IWC also took to Snapchat to share behind the scenes photos of the star-studded gala dinner, which featured the likes of Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, actress Taylor Schilling, actor James Marsden, singer Ronan Keating and model Adriana Lima, amongst many more. The brand also installed a 3D photo booth, reminiscent of Hollywood awards shows, offering fans an immersive way to view not only the guests but the watches themselves.

IWC used Snapchat to keep fans updated with what was happening on the stand. Images courtesy of Snapchat/IWC

Interestingly and in a bid to connect with their younger audience, the brand also jumped on board 2016’s Mannequin Challenge, a viral Internet video trend where people remain frozen in action like mannequins whilst a moving camera films them.

IWC wasn’t the only brand to use Snapchat to document live from SIHH. Jaeger LeCoultre leveraged the platform’s new Spectacles to offer those watching from behind a screen an exclusive look at their new collections. This newly launched product from Snapchat allows users to create Snap Stories with the touch of a button found on the connected glasses’ frame.

And futhermore, in a bid to attract visitors the stand during the SIHH open day, Jaeger LeCoultre teased fans with a video of their new augmented reality app, On Your Wrist, which allows the user to see the watches directly on their wrist. 

Is 2017 the year the watch industry will fully embrace digital?

Today’s luxury consumer demands experiences and emotional connections, and luxury watch brands are starting to realise the importance of providing channels for them to connect with the brand in a personal way, in the moment and whenever is convenient for them.

With the luxury consumer demanding to be entertained, brands need to demonstrate their value in an ever increasingly competitive marketplace, and this is especially true during events such as SIHH, Baselworld and the like. By leveraging social media channels such as Snapchat and Facebook during SIHH, the brands ensured show-goers could be part of a bigger narrative and importantly established a connection with non with show-goers who were then able to share in, and at certain points direct, the experience.


Exhibiting brands at SIHH 2017:

A.Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piguet, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Girard-Perregaux, Greubel Forsey, IWC, Jaeger LeCoultre, Montblanc, Officine Panerai, Parmigiani Fleurier, Piaget, Richard Mille, Roger Dubuis, Ulysse Nardin, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels,


Christophe Claret, Gronefeld, H. Moser & Cie, Hautlence, HYT, Laurent Ferrier, Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps, MB&F;, Ressence, Romain Jerome, Speake-Marin, Urwerk, Voutilainen

For more information on SIHH:

Influencers | Social Media | Watches