A Reflection on the GPHG in Australia

News • 23 Oct 2019

A Reflection on the GPHG in Australia

by Daniel Yong

What would you think of if someone were to ask you, where in the world is the largest consumer base for luxury watches? If one were in the know, they might answer you with either China, the United States, Japan or Hong Kong. Sure, the market over there is fierce with the watch obsessed, and I suspect that the people’s passion for horology will continue to grow. But I dare say, there is a sleeper amongst the mix, and that is Australia.

Bani McSpedden, Watch Editor of the Australian Financial Review

Now this is all based on my own assumptions, but for years, we have been behind our friends on the other side of the globe. Our influences have been from either mainstream media or from word or mouth. Influences from Hollywood and clever marketing has built a passion for certain brands amongst collectors. Think James Bond and the Omega Seamaster, or the Cartier Tank and its famous American presidents who wore them. However, with the presence of social media being a strong vehicle for influence and a taste of horological education in the 21st century, it is natural that the tastes of Australian collectors become diverse and more refined.

Carine Maillard, Director of the GPHG (Click here for our interview with Carine)

Therefore, it isn’t a coincidence that the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) had reached the land down under. Organisers of the event, in collaboration with The Hour Glass, recognized that the appreciation for horology in Australia is rapidly growing and it was time. And for the first time ever, hundreds of aficionados gathered and gawked over the curated offerings from multiple brands that were selected by highly respected panel members from the industry.

As a quiet observer, moving alongside the selections (they were sealed in display boxes), I feasted my eyes similar to that of a child with his parent’s permission to select his own Christmas present. Unfortunately, there were no taking home of watches for me, but a long-lasting appreciation for brands I had never heard of.

During the formal aspects of the event, we heard from the likes of the Swiss Ambassador, Bani McSpedden (watch editor for the Australian Financial Review), with even a show up by our boy Ian Thorpe. It was a pleasure hearing from these significant individuals and the strong appreciation for horology in Australia. What stuck out for me personally, was what the GPHG was all about. As stated from a previous article, the GPHG is not about why Swiss watchmaking is superior, but rather an appreciation for watchmaking altogether. It was clear from the formal speeches that Swiss watchmaking harmoniously works alongside other manufacturers from neighbours such as those from Germany and Japan.

Kari Voutilainen Starry Night Vine running for the Artistic Crafts Prize

Let’s face it, without competition, there isn’t a drive to innovate right? And this was obvious with the carefully nominated pieces. There featured those from Grand Seiko, that gorgeous platinum hand hammered piece rumored to be the most expensive Grand Seiko to date. An array of beautifully diamond decorated art pieces from MB &F and beautifully executed artistic pieces from the likes of Jacob & Co. But hold on, there wasn’t just pieces worth more than cars, but those within reach of everyday folks like myself. My personal favourites were the new Doxa Sub 200 selected for the divers category and the Hamilton Chronograph, selected for the iconic category. Both of these priced within reach for most, equally made me froth (almost literally, but that could have been the champagne).

So, what were the reflections from the collectors and bloggers? Amongst the drinks and canapés, there were reflections and thoughts from everyone. Some people discussed which models they fell in love with, while there were those that were hoping to see models from other brands. Regardless, if I could summarise the event into one word for Australian watch collectors, it is hopeful and let me explain why.

De Bethune DB28 Yellow Tones running for the Men’s Prize

Not a marketing ploy but a celebration of watchmaking

Most events that do occur in Sydney or Australia, are usually orchestrated by a certain brand celebrating a particular new model they want to get potential customers interested in. However, what the GPHG offered, was a showcase of an extensive list of brands to showcase to collectors who are already deep in the rabbit hole of watch collecting. What better way to expose collectors to new brands and models than to get them while they’re trapped! Let’s be clear though, we wanted to be trapped. Am I right? In addition, imagine a room full of enthusiasts, bloggers and influencers, paired with beers and champagne. Tell me, what do you think the result is going to be? I’ll tell you, lots of enabling that’s what! For example, a person who only collects Hamilton might be talking to someone who collects Zenith Chronographs. When someone is passionate about anything, their passion tends to rub off onto others. Therefore, the Hamilton collector will now walk away thinking about Zenith chronographs. Catch my drift? There’s no stronger marketing move than word of mouth.

Zenith Defy El Primero Double Tourbillon running for the Men’s Complication Prize

Australian collectors are serious about horology

Finally, what the event has shown us, is that the world understands that Australians are serious about horology. When we look at our neighbours in China and the US, there are so many events that celebrate watches while also being backed up by some of the biggest watch online media groups. I think it’s fair to say that our time has come. With the conclusion of the GPHG, we can now look towards the next steps.

Our collectors are now interested and hungry for the next best product. Generally speaking, the watch hobby was dominated by men as it has been echoed that “women wear jewelry, while men wear watches”. Based on my observation and the clientele in the room, there was a good balance of both gentlemen and ladies and so said statement isn’t valid anymore. Women want watches and damn it they want complications too. After speaking to one particular lady friend in attendance who I’ll refer to as Jane, she was dropping reference numbers and why certain movements made sense for particular models. And to be honest, I was out of my depth during the entire conversation. So this is a call out to the international market, the GPHG was a successful event and we want in.

Girard-Perregaux Quasar in the running for the Iconic Prize
Tags: gphg gphg 2019

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