Watch shows are a really fun and exciting way to learn more about the watch world, and the largest in the UK is happening soon. This week we want to highlight what happens at a watch show, why you should attend, and what to expect from the brands when you are there.
What is a Watch Show or Watch Fair?
Watch Shows take two forms. Those for established brands selling and promoting new watches, and those for second-hand and vintage watch dealers and buyers. Both of these types of show have been held for decades around the world, but the largest number can be found in the USA, Germany, and Switzerland. There have been fewer shows in the UK, but currently there are a selection of both types held throughout the year, and The Watch Collectors' Club will be attending the WatchPro Live Salon on November 12th, 2022
A shot from Last year's WatchPro Salon Live in the ballroom of The Londoner Hotel
The Watch Show for new Watches
These shows serve two purposes; to educate retailers like jewellers who might be looking for new and interesting brands to stock in their store, and to show off (but not necessarily sell) watches to the general public. They usually sell tickets to attend, run for a couple of days and are held in a large hotel ballroom in a city centre. In the UK this is almost always in London.
There is usually a large range of brands showing their timepieces, from very small companies that may make very high-end or hand-crafted watches, to large global brands who want a large presence at the show to show their new releases or educate people on certain ranges. This means attendees can see an amazing range of watches in the same place, with more brands than even the largest watch store may have. There may be watches that cost £100,000 in the same place as some that cost a few hundred. The brands also bring their own staff who are able to explain the ideas behind the design, materials, history and technology of the watches.
A Watch Show is a great place to get up close with watches you may have never seen before and try them on! There may be brands there with no retail presence in the UK, brands that only take commissions, brands that are very famous with long waiting lists, as well as brands just starting out. You can try all these watches on at a watch show. It's entirely about learning and exploring these brands and their watches. We've written more about evaluating watch brands here.
William Wood are a British Watch brand that is not present in retailers, and as such as best viewed at watch shows and fairs. The rest of their business is done online.
Questions to ask at a Watch Show
At the stand of a brand you know already, a good question to ask is "Which are your newest pieces?" or "Do you have anything special to show off at this show?" and the staff will point you to what they are most excited about.
If you don't know anything about a brand but are interested in what they are displaying, maybe say "Please introduce me to your brand and show me your most popular watches." You can then see if you connect with what they are trying to do. You might not like their most popular models but might like something else they have. Do not hesitate to ask to try on the things you like the look of.
Always be confident to ask the price. Sometimes it is not obvious how much a watch might be, as there is so much variety and difference in manufacturing techniques. If you really like something and then discover it is way out of your price range that's fine. The brand will not mind and you can say something like "Oh well that's more than my normal budget, but maybe one day!". If a watch is lower in price than you expected then that is a wonderful surprise and you can ask "How do get this quality at such a good price?". They will be flattered and help you understand more about the brand's areas of expertise.
If you want to buy one of the watches at the show you should ask if that is possible. Sometimes it will not be for logistical reasons and they will take your details to arrange a follow-up appointment or call to complete the transaction. Do not be put off; hopefully, you will enjoy the process of reconnecting with them after the show, especially if they invite you to their store or arrange a personal meeting somewhere. It also gives you time to do more research online, and prepare any further questions you might have before you make the purchase.
A handmade watch by famous watchmaker Kari Voutilainen. These are incredibly rare and expensive and have a very long waiting list. To see them up close at a watch show is a fun privilege, even if you will never actually own one.
Vintage Watch (and Clock) Shows
At antique fairs and specialist vintage watch and clock shows there is a very different atmosphere to those shows that sell new watches. The stands will be full of specialist dealers in watches and clocks and much of their interest in being there is in dealing or swapping with each other. Specialists will attend very early in the morning to see what bargains can be had, and many people will know each other well.
They are open to the public and can be fun to attend. You will see watches you've never seen before and probably encounter an extraordinary variety of timepieces. You can ask to try everything on, and it is usually the case that everything is for sale.
If you are interested in vintage watches, these kinds of shows are for you, and you will be able to see a range of vintage timepieces and start to get to know the dealers. We always recommend being extra careful when it comes to vintage watches, and following the rule: "Buy the Seller, not the Watch". You can read more in our guide to buying vintage watches.
A Pair of vintage watches from the 1940s. you are likely to find watches like this for very reasonable prices at a Vintage Watch and Clock Fair or Show.
Watch Shows and fairs are great places to go to see and try on a lot of watches and learn more about watch brands. While they can be large, busy, and confusing, a few simple questions can get you started and should lead to a really fun experience. The Watch Collectors' Club hope to attend most watch fairs in the UK to help members make the most of them, find the watches that they are most interested in, and connect them with brands they might love. Please let us know if there is a watch show you think we should be going to, and keep an eye on our watch events page for details of all our other events.