Exquisite watches at Athens salon

Since 1998, Athens has hosted one of the few and most internationally important salons on high-end watchmaking accessible to the retail public. «Very Important Watches 2003,» which opens tonight at the Athenaeum Inter-Continental Hotel and runs through Monday, is probably the largest and most comprehensive exhibition organized thus far, with over 30 of the most prestigious watchmakers participating. This is also the first time that Rolex and Cartier are taking part, one of the exhibition’s biggest successes considering that both companies are rarely involved in watchmakers’ salons. The growing response of the public but also the increase of sales that the exhibition has helped generate for companies (sales are not made at the exhibition) is a likely reason for this year’s expansion. Costis Stikas, the man who conceived the exhibition and has organized it from the start, says that many companies make half of their annual sales through the exhibition. He also says that since 1998 while the sales of watches has increased worldwide by 23 percent, in Greece the increase has been some 49 percent. Greece is one of the most prosperous markets for the sale of watches. «It is largely through the exhibition that watches have become a trend in Greece. ‘Very Important Watches’ has also helped boost the sales of watches. And, it has helped people learn more about watchmaking, the mechanisms and the design,» says Stikas. The benefit seems to be twofold: the public gets to see a great number of watches gathered together in one place and the merchants are given the opportunity to examine watches without the risk of buying them and being left with an unsold stock. When it comes to rare and expensive watches, or limited editions, the benefit of close-up viewing can be extremely useful since in retailing a merchant may find that even if he stocks a particular model, the client may be interested not in that particular watch but an existing variation of the same model, for example the same watch in platinum instead of gold. Apart from those watches that cannot be found in the market easily or must be ordered specially, «Very Important Watches» also includes watches that are not available at all. Those are usually collector’s items, or one-of-a-kind watches such as the Opera 3 model by Girard-Perregaux. Exclusivity is one of the exhibition’s aspects and what possibly motivates the public to visit. First-time participation by some of the most important firms is another. «My objective is to add new firms to the salon each year, not just any firm but always at the high-end of the watchmaking business,» says Stikas. Apart from Cartier and Rolex, this year the salon will feature, also for the first time, Brueget, the German watchmaking firm A. Lange & Söhne, Glashütte, also German, Van Cleef and Arpels (the company will open a retail boutique in Athens) and Chronoswiss. Omega is the only company of high-end watchmaking that will not be participating. Stikas says that it is hard to include all the important companies, especially when a firm is in the process of changing representatives, which is quite frequent. Out of the various watches exhibited, highlights include: Van Cleef and Arpel’s Ludo for ladies, a model inspired by haute couture, Cartier’s Pendule Mysterieuse table clock whose hands appear to be suspended in the air, Harry Winston’s unusually designed Opus 3 model, and for ladies, Vacheron Constantin’s Egerie, a new oval-shaped model. Also on display is a limited series of the Jaeger LeCoultre’s reverso with the Greek flag painted on the back. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Rolex has made an edition of the classic submariner with a green outer rim. Chopard, which is a company mainly known for its ladies watches has in recent years made its entrance into the world of men’s watches and has manufactured its own Tourbillon mechanism. Another highlight is IWC’s new Portugieser with Perpetual Calendar, a watch that is programmed to calculate every leap year and the moon phases (the first miscalculation of the leap year will happen in 2500 and for the moon phase in 2580). «Very Important Watches» will also include a selection of Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and other prestigious watchmakers. Athenaeum Inter-Continental (89-93 Syngrou). Open Nov. 22-24, 12-9 p.m. For info call MINIMAL: 210.729.9276.