This may come as a surprise to our Niseko-loving readers, but for the past few years, I’ve made it a point to visit only warmer cities during year-end vacations with my husband. Firstly, it’s because I shrivel up in freezing weather. Secondly, since I began writing about fine watches for a living, January has meant one thing: a trip to Geneva in the dead of winter for the Salon Internationale de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) watch exhibition. I saw no reason to warm up – or should I say, cool down – for this work event by subjecting myself to sub-zero temperatures a month before.
Like last year, these major Swiss watch fairs, SIHH and Baselworld, which takes place during the slightly balmier beginning of spring, will not happen this year. They have morphed into digital events under different names or been shelved because of the pandemic, among other troubles.
While I’m glad I get to stay warm, I do miss attending the fairs, and especially the camaraderie of travelling and getting up close with the year’s latest timepieces with my fellow watch journalists. At SIHH, for example, we move around like a pack of horological hounds: attending brand presentations in the exhibition halls, trying on and photographing watches – thanks to the guys who helped me model watches that would have looked laughably oversized on my 5.3-inch wrists – and subsequently raving about the novelties we have seen.
Other memorable shared annual rituals include heading to the steak frites restaurant near our hotel every year – despite a general consensus that the steak and fries actually aren’t very good. Or rushing to buy chocolates, such as those by Laderach, during pockets of free time – yes, even after Laderach came to Singapore, prices in Switzerland are quite a bit lower.
As Simon Gockeritz, a watch collector I profile in this issue, says, “The community aspect is half the fun of watch collecting. Now that there are no events, I miss meeting new people and mingling with fellow enthusiasts to talk and share.”
Another enthusiast who I recently profiled was Nana Ahmad, a sales manager whose husband passed away unexpectedly last March. A member of SWAG (Singapore Watch Appreciation Group), she shared how her fellow collectors, who had also known her husband, rallied around her after his passing. These days, they can also be counted on for practical help when her sons, aged 16 and 19, want to wear her watches. “My husband used to resize the bracelets or change the straps. I haven’t had the time to learn to do so myself. I’m also worried I might scratch the bracelets with the tools. So, I just text ‘I need resizing help’ in the SWAG group chat and my friends will immediately offer to help.”
I miss my horological village. I’m looking forward to the eventual return of physical watch fairs, where we can again come together to lay our hands on the latest – even if I have to layer thermal underwear to do so.