If you’ve been keeping tabs on the watch scene, you’ve likely heard of this important, week-long annual international fair that debuts the latest luxury timepieces. Its parent organisation is the Watches and Wonders Geneva Foundation, which was founded in September 2020 by Rolex, Richemont and Patek Philippe to promote watchmaking excellence throughout the world. 

For the love of horology

For decades, such similar fairs — mainly held in Switzerland — were closed to the public, and only accessible to invited media, retailers and VIPs from around the world. In the past, the most important events were Salon International de la Haute Horologie (SIHH) and Baselworld, which have since been dissolved. Watches & Wonders is the rebranded version of SIHH, and apart from a small virtual festival during Covid, the show was finally launched in 2022 in its current physical edition at the Palexpo convention centre.

Last year was the first time such an exclusive show was open to the public — to astounding success for the foundation and its 49 exhibiting brands.

Over the course of the whole week from end-March to early-April, it received 43,000 unique visitors, 5,400 retailers, 125 nationalities and 35,000 overnight stays. Some 12,000 public tickets, which are only valid over the weekend on the fair’s last two days, sold out even before the weekend of the fair started.

Roger Federer
Tennis champion Roger Federer at Watches and Wonders 2023 (Credit: WWGF/Keystone/Cyril Zingaro)

Lending star power to the event were celebrities from across the entertainment and sporting world, such as Roger Federer, Julia Roberts, Ronaldinho and Eileen Gu. It’s little surprise that the number of shares on social networks totalled 1.8 million posts, boasting an estimated reach of over 600 million people. 

What the response proves, is that there is indeed a huge amount of interest from the general public — with families attending with children in tow. In fact, a quarter of the tickets sold were purchased by visitors under the age of 25.

It’s said that these visitors were particularly attracted to the LAB experience, which offered them a vision of the future of watchmaking. Another draw for them had to be the In The City events and experiences, which included performances such as a concert, and special events held in watch boutiques across Geneva’s Old Town.

Watches and Wonders
Visitors young and old at Watches and Wonders 2023’s public days (Credit: WWGF/Keystone/Valentin Flauraud)

The time is now

Watches and Wonders 2024 is set to return in over a week’s time — from April 13 to 15, with the public days extended to three days this year.

All the essential trip-planning information can be found on the Watches and Wonders website and the mobile app, the latter of which will come in extra handy for navigating the fair onsite. Tickets for one, two or three consecutive days (Saturday to Monday) are already on sale. A one-day adult ticket costs CHF70 (S$106) for the weekend and CHF50 (S$75) for Monday, while a two-day and three-day pass are CHF120 (S$180) and CHF160 (S$240) respectively. There are concessionary rates for youths from 12 to 24 and seniors 60 and over, while children enter for free. 

Most hotels are represented on a free bus shuttle schedule that will run from various points in the city to the Salon from April 9 to 15. Operated in partnership with Transports Publics Genevois (TPG), the shuttle service also runs connections from the airport, where there will be a hospitality booth to assist with queries. A full timetable of routes is downloadable at the website’s Practical Info section, which covers F&B options and check-in requirements.

Ronaldinho
Football legend Ronaldinho at Watches and Wonders 2023 (Credit: WWGF/Keystone/Valentin Flauraud)

And the 2024 iteration promises to be bigger and better. The number of participating brands has risen to 54 this time. In addition to viewing the newest, finest and most innovative from the legacy manufactures, visitors can look forward to what other independent brands they can discover, and what more cult brands the likes of Ressence, Hautulence and Beauregard could deliver.

Public guests are also treated to several firsts in an incredible programme line-up. There are now thematic guided tours led by watchmaking experts, intimate product presentations held by various maisons, and 10 watchmaking lectures — on topics ranging from collecting to an AI future — hosted in the new Auditorium. 

Watches and Wonders
Visitors engaging in horological discovery in the LAB (Credit: WWGF/Keystone/Valentin Flauraud)

A brand-new LAB has been reimagined with schools, start-ups, and exhibiting brands presenting a glimpse into tomorrow’s watchmaking. Some 15 projects created by students from ECAL, one of Switzerland’s leading universities for art and design, will be on display. Timekeepers, this edition’s photo exhibition, features watches and clocks shot by Luc Debraine, the former director of the Swiss Camera Museum in Vevey. The Agora venue within the LAB also hosts daily conversations on a variety of subjects, from environmental challenges to new technologies.

Beyond the walls of Palexpo, excitement will be in full swing in the heart of Geneva. The free In The City programme will run watchmaking-related cultural and educational activities, ranging from a new Watchmaking Village on the Pont de la Machine, to an evening celebration of DJ sets, live music and street acts. 

At press time, Watches and Wonders’ social media platforms (@WatchesandWonders) are already firing up the imagination with a series of photo and video footage, as the show gradually takes over the entire city. Giant watches on ski lifts hanging above trams are currently traversing the Old Town. Isn’t it truly amazing that the fair has evolved from one that showcases new watches and trends exclusively to the trade, to one that welcomes horology lovers from every walk of life into one giant celebration?