Most regional watch fairs around the world follow a familiar format, but few can claim to be the launch pad for as many special editions as the annual Salón Internacional de Alta Relojería in Mexico.
Now in its 17th edition, SIAR is one of the Americas’ biggest consumer luxury watch shows, where brands present special editions with a distinctly Mexican flavour alongside their regular timepieces.
Big names such as Bulgari, Hublot, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Tudor and Vacheron Constantin , and independents such as Bovet, Chopard, De Bethune and Franck Muller, will again be present at the October event and many will be creating special editions for SIAR. In past years, dials, cases, bridges or rotors have been embellished with Mexican motifs, from national and state flags to eagles and writhing serpents, and even elaborate Aztec calendars, each designed to appeal to patriotic collectors.
“Even though China and the Gulf states are the markets with the largest number of limited edition pieces made for them, SIAR in Mexico has gained incredible traction with many brands creating special editions launched during the fair targeting the Mexican market,” says Alexandre Ghotbi, head of watches for Europe and the Middle East at auction house Phillips.
With price tags typically between $30,000 and $500,000 — and some more than $1mn — Carlos Alonso, founder and general director of SIAR, estimates that at each event some $40mn worth of watches are sold to the show’s 4,000 visitors. At last year’s SIAR, Swiss house Bovet sold an Alma 1822 Récital 26 Brainstorm, Chapter Two LatAm edition with a price tag of $450,000.
Last year, Chopard brought out a limited edition of 50 LUC Skull One Calavera Pop Art watches with a brightly coloured skull on the dial, dedicated to the Day of the Dead, one of Mexico’s most important celebrations. This is the sixth skull watch that the independent Swiss house has made for Mexico since the first version in 2018. In 2022, Bulgari created the Octo Striking Mexico Edition, a limited run of 10 pieces with the Aztec calendar etched on the sapphire case back. The skeletonised dial featured red hands and malachite hour markers, echoing the colours of the nation’s flag.
Other notable editions include the 2013 Vacheron Constantin World Time Mexico, a unique piece with the national emblem engraved on the rotor and Mexico highlighted in green on the dial.
“There is a history of special edition watches for specific retailers such as Tiffany, Wempe or Asprey,” says Ghotbi. “Little by little, brands have moved away from retailer editions and into models for specific markets, aimed at high-end collectors looking for hard-to-find, rare pieces. The watch brands make the effort, as it is a way to talk to local collectors and show commitment to that country.”
Founded in 2006 by Spanish-born Carlos Alonso, SIAR evolved as an extension of his successful publishing business focused around the Tiempo de Relojes watch magazine and a small but highly engaged group of subscribers.
“The spark for SIAR was a dinner in 2001 organised for the late Severin Wunderman, owner of [Swiss brand] Corum watches,” says Alonso. “We invited our top readers, a key cluster of watch-enthusiasts that I had nurtured over the years.” The dinner was held in artist Frida Kahlo’s iconic house in a historic neighbourhood of Mexico City.
“At the event, Corum presented 12 unique diamond-set watches with Mexican motifs, from fighting cocks and bullfighters to elaborately painted skulls. The watches sold out. These provocative pop-style watches showed Corum that daring special editions were the way ahead, so Mexico became the testing ground for this phenomenon and other brands soon followed suit.”
By 2006, Alonso was inundated with requests from watch brands to hold dinners with his club of watch-lovers. “We were a magazine, not an events organiser, but we realised that it was time to gather the brands under one roof,” he says. “That is how SIAR was born.”
The three-day event went from having 14 brands in attendance in its inaugural year to more than 50 expected this time round. Retailers from around Mexico invite their best clients to personal tours of the show, visiting the brands at their booths. The watchmakers offer Mexico-specific editions produced in small quantities, aimed at their bigger-spending customers. The retailer will make a commission on sales for personally introducing their client to the brand without having to invest in expensive and potentially speculative stock.
The brands themselves are presented with a sizeable and engaged audience of collectors who are keen for unique pieces with a Mexican twist. The three days are packed with a host of entertainment options as well as access to celebrity brand ambassadors and key figures of the watch world. Last year, Bulgari hosted a dinner at the Anahuacalli Museum with a special menu created by Mexican star chef Martha Ortíz Chapa.
Also last year, Hublot’s presentation party for the Big Bang E Mexico model was attended by former professional footballers Jared Borgetti and Luis “El Matador” Hernández.
“Our event is unlike any other, as it brings together retailers, brands, agents, watch-lovers and the press,” says Alonso. “The effectiveness of this pioneering sales format is confirmed in the number of customised watches with Mexican motifs that come to SIAR each year. We attract collectors from all over the Americas looking for special pieces.”
So far, very few Mexican-themed watches have found their way to auction houses. “We haven’t seen any Mexican editions come to auction, as I suspect that the collectors hold on to them,” says Ghotbi at Phillips. But this may change, as Ineichen, the Zurich-based auction house, plans to host an online sale directly from SIAR this October.
“Just having ‘Mexico’ on the dial is not a big deal,” advises Ghotbi for those looking to invest in a watch with a mariachi twist. “Look for a different dial layout that doesn’t exist in a regular model or a significant change in aesthetics, such as the use of a different metal.”
SIAR is at the St Regis Hotel, Mexico City, on October 17-19
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