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Luxury SIHH Opens Amid Uncertain Economy

The International Salon of Luxury Watchmakers (SIHH) opens today amid uncertainty and lowered expectations. The Salon is a barometer for the important Swiss luxury industries, an indicator of the effect the global downturn will have on high rollers and big spenders.

Analysts are expecting fewer visitors this year and commentators have noted that there are fewer invitations to suppliers being offered, fewer gala evenings and private parties planned.

Thus, before the doors even open and the numbers are in, investments for celebrations and largesse made by the exhibiting brands are said to be somewhat less than in the previous years.

Recruiters and HR analysts are saying that Executive management at the luxury brands will be looking to trim costs, which will certainly translate to fewer jobs and feer job opportunities.

SIHH Geneva

Global exports of the Swiss luxury watch industry decreased slightly in 2008 over 2007. In November 2008 the sector exported for a total of $1.5 billion of product, representing a decline of roughly 15% over the same period in 2007.

The global recession and the grim predictions for 2009 are said to be causing purchasing hesitation even among the wealthy.

Because the wealthy tend to like bargains even more than the rest of us, the threat of a deflationary economy may cause rich buyers to forgo purchases under the impression that prices will decline.

The luxury watch industry refers to watches that cost from several thousand to over a million dollars. Marketing analysts believe that the lower segment of the market – from $5000 – $30,000 will be hit the most (among the clientele — the professionals in the banking and financial sector who have lost their jobs and are reducing their lifestyles in consequence) , but that the more expensive segments of the markets – items over $50,000 will be much less affected.

But the industry is anxiously waiting to see the results of the event. The president of Cartier recently commented that there could be a 20% reduction in attendance this year over last year’s fair. Spokesmen from other brands have been more optimistic.

There remains the added variable of the change in date for the SIHH. This year the Salon is being held in January to decouple it from Basel World. Previously, like Basel World, the SIHH was in March. Buyers previously able to travel once and attend both events now have to make the choice to come especially for this one event. The year 2009 was probably not the best moment for the SIHH’s organizers to declare themselves a manifestly standalone event.

At the SIHH, which is a smaller and more upscale event than Basel World, visitors find new models from the Richemont Group’s brands – including Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Parmagiani, Panerai, and Roger Dubuis.

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