Swellboy on… a watch-show spectacle

Thanks to medieval aesthetics and an avian predator, one exhibitor certainly made a stand in Geneva

Image: Brijesh Patel

Despite many impressive offerings, the 2013 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva was arevelation not so much for a timepiece – or a bracelet – but for a stand. The exhibitor booths at its Basel counterpart are ariot of self-expression, whereas at the SIHH a uniform serenity usually prevails, and one strolls expansive boulevards punctuated by large, neutrally clad sofas, elaborate flower arrangements, bars and restaurants.  

However, this year Roger Dubuis wentnuts, and I don’t mean nuts by Swiss standards (which means parking your car ata slight angle to the pavement or wearing a louder than average pocket square in abuilt-up area), but properly bonkers. Roger Dubuis is a young brand, but its stand evoked a semi-mythical ancientpast that was part Highlander, part Macbeth,part, well, let’s just say that they brought in a live eagle. Ifthey had not had a Polaroid camera there to capture my uneasy moment next tothis avian predator, I would have thought someone had slipped a powerfulhallucinogen into my Coke Zero.

The whole stand had been trickedout to resemble a castle, and staff were wandering around in costumesthat were somewhat inspired by the sort of thing one sees on the more lurid sort ofshortbread tin, while also exhibiting a generic medievaIism, albeitsans wimples or codpieces. I quiteexpected Banquo’s ghost to appear brandishing a bloody dagger or to see ErrolFlynn as Robin Hood swinging from the giant, polished goldeneagle sculpture in the centre.


I have to say that I loved it and keptcoming back every day to congratulate them and see what new attractions the standboasted. For instance, the eagle that had dominated the first day’s proceedingswas replaced by Daphne Guinness, across whom I stumbled while she wasdiscussing the designs for a watch she’s making with Roger Dubuis. I have no ideawhat it will look like, but I think it safe to assume that the word “ordinary”will not appear on the brief, unless prefixed with the word “extra”.

Of course, this rather suigeneris approach to selling watches brings its own problems. As we all know, some form of sports sponsorshipis a significant part of the marketing of modern watches. I recently wrote aboutthe rising importance of the football watch and around the SIHH I bumped into aWimbledon tennis champ, an Olympic sprinter, a Premier League football clubmanager and what seemed like the entire pit-lane setup of the Mercedes Formula One team.

Accordingly, I have now decidedthat Roger Dubuis needs to take up sponsorship of jousting, and I suggest thatit is high time for a revival of the famous Eglinton Tournament of 1839. This gloriousIvanhoe-themed event, laid on by the young Lord Eglinton, did much to reigniteinterest in the gothic and was intended to be some sort of romantic riposte tothe utilitarian spirit of the industrial revolution. I wonder how the exhibition halls of nextyear’s SIHH will cope with the whinnying of horses and the crash oflance against armour? At least it will be a good way to check the shockresistance of the watches.