Miami Design District To Host An International Watch Show This Month

A new Swiss luxury watch fair is coming to the U.S. that will combine entertainment, education and of course the newest timepieces from some of the world’s best-known brands.

Watches & Wonders Miami will be held February 16 – 19 at the Miami Design District, a center for art, fashion and luxury. The public event is co-produced by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), a Geneva-based organization that promotes fine watchmaking internationally. FHH is best-known for the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), an annual luxury watch trade fair in Geneva.

A total of 21 watch brands are participating in this inaugural event, including A. Lange & Sohne, Audemars Piguet, Bulgari, Cartier, Hermès, Hublot, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Louis Vuitton, Panerai, Piaget, Tag Heuer, Vacheron Constantin and Van Cleef & Arpels. Fifteen of the 21 brands already have retail spaces in the Design District. The remaining firms will set up pop-up stores in the district for the weekend.

The weekend will include workshops, lectures and virtual reality experiences. There’s also a multi-media exhibition, “Telling Time,” involving nine films, creative installations and dramatic performance works by international contemporary artists.

Luxury brands and others involved in the world of watches will have special events. For example, Bulgari is bringing in its master watchmaker to its store in the design district for special workshops.

The auction house Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo will exhibit highlights from its upcoming Spring 2018 auctions—including a selection of Rolex Daytonas from its Daytona Ultimatum sale. Paul Boutros, Phillips’ head of Watches, Americas, will host a seminar on the market for vintage watches and the auction process for collectors.

Watches is the focus of the event but there will be other activities. Most notably, the inaugural Miami Design District Concours, February 17, that will feature more than 125 exotic and collectible automobiles, including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls Royce. A grand opening party will be held February 16 with a musical performance produced by Grammy Award-winner Emilio Estefan.

The Miami Design District is an 18-block neighborhood and shopping district dedicated to innovative fashion, design, art and architecture. It also has dining, entertainment and public art installations. The district is the creation of Miami Beach real estate developer and art collector Craig Robins, CEO of Dacra Development. He also co-founded Design Miami, an international design show held during Art Basel Miami Beach. So he knows a thing or two about putting on a successful fair.

In a recent interview Robins he says he has been in talks to produce this show with FHH for nearly three years. “We almost did it last year but we didn’t think we were ready so we postponed it till this year,” he said.

The event was first announced in December and didn’t get much traction. It was formally announced during a presentation at SIHH, held January 15 - 19. The annual luxury watch fair is one of the two most important trade fair in the world. Robins attended SIHH for the first time this year to participate in the announcement and was impressed in both the quality of the show and in the overall passion for luxury watches.

“I didn’t realize what a big deal it was until I went to SIHH,” he said. “It’s just a mind blowing event. I also wasn’t aware of the power of having a partner like FHH. It is such a force in this industry. I couldn’t have a better partner. The design district is an important destination for watches and high jewelry year round. To host a global event that showcases the design district and other watch brands that aren’t here—we’re thrilled.”

Robins said the weekend of February 16 was chosen because it is a holiday weekend (President’s Day). It’s also when the popular Miami Yacht Show is being held, nearby on Collins Avenue. He and FH officials see a luxury watch show as compatible to a luxury boat show. In addition, it's the time of year that Miami receives a lot of visitors from South America.

The land that houses the Miami Design District was at one time a warehouse district that had fallen into urban decay. In the 1990s Robins and his partner, L Catterton Real Estate, a global real estate development and investment fund, began buying land and developing a master plan for a “creative neighborhood.” Today, the design district is a fashion and luxury retail destination, a restaurant destination and a home for two museums. Its focus is on modern and contemporary art, architecture and design with buildings and art installations created by world renowned practitioners in those fields. Robins says the design district has the infrastructure to support an international watch show in the same way that it has been a catalyst for Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami.

“We see the design district as a lab of creativity, a place to visit and experience amazing cultural expressions,” he said. “It’s a destination where spontaneous things could manifest into important cultural happenings.”