I was going to wait until the end but it makes sense after a request to have a short summary of the general feel of the situation of this years SIHH.
Here is the final Press Release by the SIHH:
Summed up it says that they went in fearing the worst yet things not being as bad as anticipated. Compared to other years I would put attendance closer to a 40% less and not a 20% as mentioned in the release. There are other reasons apart from the "... tough economic climate in the American and Japanese markets..." (believe me, Europe is not that hot either). Essentially the Richemont Group has significantly lowered the number of invited press (I should say bribed, but I won't...), the invites to collectors and guests have been more strict. There has also been a cutdown on dealers that did not meet payments in due time that where obviously not invited. Many of the freelance press (especially from the far east) have not attended due to cost and distance. Bare in mind that the travel time for many of them is around 20 hours to get to Geneva. A good bunch will have chosen to go Basel 2009 instead. Which makes more sense for freelance reporting due to the variety of products and newcomers that Basel offers.
In general there where few new things this year as products are concerned (mind you, they only had 9 months between fairs this year!). There is a feeling of consolidating for now and "wait and see what happens..." further down the line. I know from almost all country managers that things have gone better than expected, which initially looked very grim. More than one feared for their jobs. Buyers have been cautious and realistic when placing orders as well. Let's hope that there are few order cancelations unlike last year.
As far as horology is concerned the star of the show was AP's "ChronAP". The question on ALL the competitor's lips was "... Have you seen AP's chronometer?". Much the same reaction as Jaeger's "Gyrotourbillon" last year. As far as brands are concerned Jaeger leCoutre would be probably the most coherent strategy. They focused on filling holes and adding much awaited pieces to the collection. Their stuff makes sense This year they decided to focus on the more human stuff leaving limited ultra-expensive pieces for a later date. Smart move.
The general outlook for the luxury and super-luxury segments is that things will get better on the financial crisis stabilizes and gradually pics up. This is expected to slowly happen around summer this year (unless several financial institutions go bust in quick succession). For the mid to low range things look a bit more difficult since they are more dependent on the economic crisis which will take considerably longer to heal.
The Swiss watchmaking industry was remarkably quick to the draw when firing people in order to prevent further problems down the line. There is a general feeling that things have changed and what was easy to sell only one year ago is not worth manufacturing at the moment. Tourbillons at any price are gone (about time) and silly experiments have lost their appeal. Due to this crisis the tables have turned and for the first time in many decades the ones holding the better hand are the customers. Up until now it was as if as a customer you granted the "privilege" to purchase their products. Now this has changed, the customers won't buy unless they like. The equation is simple really; You make something I like, you get money. You make something I don't like, you no get money. You no get money, you close business. Simple.