In a press release distributed earlier today, Richard Mille has announced their intention to withdraw from the SIHH. While the brand will still display at the 2019 show in January, as they have in the past, they will not be present at SIHH 2020. This undoubtedly comes as a hit to SIHH at large, as Richard Mille has become a noted player in the modern haute horlogerie landscape and has previously used the show to launch several noteworthy pieces.
Citing changes to their distribution and boutique network over the past few years, Richard Mille no longer feels that exhibitions are a good fit for their overall brand and sales strategy. Specifically, Richard Mille cites its move to take more of its retail in-house to mono-brand boutiques, reducing its reliance on the more traditional multi-brand stores. They’re far from the only brand doing this, with loads of other high-end watchmakers having taken the same approach over the last few years in the face of increased demand, grey market woes, and rampant discounting.
This news also comes not long after Swatch’s well-covered departure from Baselworld, and while I think it’s a safe bet that RM and Swatch have made their decision for vastly different reasons, it is another noteworthy move that undermines the traditional thinking around the exhibition, trade show, and retail model in general.
In a time of considerable change for the two major watch fairs and all of the exhibitors, the music is still playing, but Richard Mille isn’t looking for a chair.
Update: Just after news broke about Richard Mille, we received confirmation that this year will also be the last for Audemars Piguet at SIHH. In an interview with Le Temps, AP CEO François-Henry Bennahmias cites his brand’s exclusive distribution strategy and growing focus on speaking directly to end customers and not the industry itself, noting that the SIHH is focused almost exclusively on the latter.
It’s also worth mentioning that Audemars Piguet is a founding member of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) and will continue to be involved with outreach and cultural activities, restricting its withdrawal to the SIHH show itself.