Watch trade shows: where rare watches are bought and sold

In the world of watches, trade shows and auctions play a crucial role in the buying and selling of rare timepieces. These events, such as SIHH and Baselworld, not only showcase new products from brands but also provide a platform for consumers, distributors, and dealers to come together. There are different types of watch shows, including annual trade shows and regional shows, each with its unique focus and audience. Additionally, auctions offer an opportunity for watch enthusiasts to acquire highly sought-after pieces and provide exposure for sellers. Understanding the ins and outs of these trade shows and auctions is essential for anyone interested in the watch industry and the buying or selling of watches.

The landscape of watch-buying and selling is changing, and these shows and auctions are at the forefront of this transformation. From pre-releases to pop-up events, the industry is constantly evolving, offering both challenges and opportunities for consumers and sellers alike. While trade shows like SIHH and Baselworld primarily cater to the industry’s insiders, there are enthusiast-focused events and pop-up shows that allow for a more inclusive experience. However, it’s important to recognize that major shows and auctions are not meant for end consumers. Whether you’re a watch enthusiast or looking to buy or sell a valuable timepiece, understanding the role of trade shows and auctions is essential in navigating the watch market.

Types of Watch Trade Shows

Watch trade shows are events that bring together industry professionals, watch enthusiasts, and brands to showcase and trade watches. There are several types of watch trade shows, each with its own focus and purpose.

Yearly Trade Shows

Yearly trade shows, such as SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie) and Baselworld, are highly anticipated events in the watch industry. These shows occur annually and have a global impact, attracting brands, retailers, and collectors from around the world. They serve as platforms for watch brands to introduce new products and innovations to the market.

Regional Trade Shows

In addition to the major yearly trade shows, there are also regional trade shows that focus on specific areas or markets. These shows provide more localized opportunities for brands, retailers, and collectors to connect and trade watches. Examples of regional trade shows include the IWJG Shows in the United States, which are dealer-focused events where dealers and collectors come together to buy and sell watches.

Enthusiast-Focused Events

Enthusiast-focused events, such as pop-up watch shows and sponsored events like Red Bar gatherings, cater to watch enthusiasts and collectors. These events provide a platform for individuals to showcase their collections, network with other enthusiasts, and learn more about watches. Unlike major trade shows, these events are not primarily for end consumers but rather for watch enthusiasts who want to connect and share their passion for timepieces.

Key Trade Shows

Among the various watch trade shows, two stand out as major industry events: SIHH and Baselworld.

SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie)

SIHH is one of the most prestigious watch trade shows in the world. It takes place in Geneva, Switzerland, and is known for its exclusive and luxurious atmosphere. The show is focused on specific brands, including some of the most prestigious names in the industry. At SIHH, brands introduce their latest collections and innovations, creating buzz and excitement among watch enthusiasts and industry professionals.


Baselworld is another significant trade show that attracts the attention of the watch industry. Held in Basel, Switzerland, Baselworld features over 500 exhibitors, making it one of the largest watch trade shows in the world. Like SIHH, Baselworld is a platform for brands to showcase their new watches and innovations. However, Baselworld also includes a broader range of exhibitors, including independent brands and a variety of watch-related products.

Pre-Releases and Watch Reveals

Traditionally, watch brands would unveil their new collections at trade shows like SIHH and Baselworld. However, the rise of pre-releases and leaks has changed the way watches are revealed to the public.

Impact on Traditions

Pre-releases and leaks have had a significant impact on the traditional model of watch releases at trade shows. Instead of saving all their new models for display at trade shows, brands now often unveil their new watches in advance. This shift has both positive and negative effects, as it creates more buzz and excitement leading up to the shows but also reduces the element of surprise.

Changing the Way Watches are Revealed

With the advent of social media and instant communication, brands are now under pressure to create hype and anticipation for their new releases. Pre-releases and leaks allow brands to generate buzz ahead of trade shows, building excitement and increasing awareness among consumers and collectors. However, this also means that the element of surprise is diminished, as many watch enthusiasts already have an idea of what to expect before the show.

Anticipation and Hype

The pre-release and leak culture surrounding watch trade shows has created a sense of anticipation and hype in the industry. Watch enthusiasts eagerly await the unveiling of new models and innovations, discussing and speculating on what brands will showcase at each event. This anticipation and excitement contribute to the overall atmosphere and importance of watch trade shows.

Pop-Up Watch Shows

In addition to the major trade shows, there are also pop-up watch shows that provide a different type of experience for watch enthusiasts.

Definition and Characteristics

Pop-up watch shows are temporary events that offer a more intimate and immersive experience compared to larger trade shows. These events often feature curated collections of vintage and contemporary watches, giving attendees the opportunity to see and try on unique timepieces. Pop-up watch shows are usually organized by retailers, collectors, or watch enthusiasts who share a passion for horology.

Enthusiast-Focused Events

Pop-up watch shows are typically targeted towards watch enthusiasts and collectors. They provide a space for individuals to connect, share their passion for watches, and discover new brands and models. These events often attract a dedicated and knowledgeable audience who appreciate the craftsmanship and history behind timepieces.

Not for End Consumers

Unlike major trade shows, pop-up watch shows are not primarily aimed at end consumers. While attendees may have the opportunity to purchase watches at these events, the main focus is on creating a unique experience for watch enthusiasts rather than direct sales to consumers.

Importance of Trade Shows

Watch trade shows play a vital role in the watch industry, serving various purposes and benefits for brands, retailers, and collectors.

Understanding the Watch Industry

Trade shows provide a comprehensive overview of the watch industry, showcasing the latest innovations, trends, and collections. Attending these shows allows industry professionals and enthusiasts to stay up to date with the latest developments, gaining valuable insights into the market and emerging trends.

Networking Opportunities

Trade shows present excellent networking opportunities, bringing together industry professionals, retailers, collectors, and watch enthusiasts from around the world. By attending these events, individuals can build relationships, establish partnerships, and exchange knowledge and expertise within the watch industry.

Discovering New Trends

Trade shows offer a platform for brands to introduce their new collections and innovations. By attending these shows, retailers and collectors can discover new trends, styles, and technologies within the watch industry. This knowledge helps them make informed choices when selecting watches for their stores or personal collections.

Exploring Brands and Models

Trade shows provide a unique opportunity to explore a wide range of watch brands and models in one place. Attendees can browse through different booths, see the watches up close, and even try them on. This hands-on experience allows for a better understanding of the quality, design, and craftsmanship of various watches.

Overview of Watch Auctions

Watch auctions are another significant aspect of the watch trade industry, offering a consolidated marketplace for buying and selling watches.

Consolidated Marketplace

Watch auctions provide a centralized platform for sellers to showcase their watches to a global audience of collectors and enthusiasts. By participating in auctions, sellers can reach a wide range of potential buyers, increasing their chances of finding the right buyer and achieving a favorable price for their watches.

Selling Watches for Value

Auctions can be an effective way to sell watches, especially rare and highly sought-after models. The competitive nature of auctions often drives up prices, enabling sellers to achieve a higher value for their watches compared to traditional retail channels.

Exposure and Potential Gains

By selling watches at auction, sellers can benefit from the exposure and marketing efforts of auction houses. Auctions attract a diverse pool of buyers, including serious collectors, investors, and enthusiasts, which can lead to greater demand and potentially higher selling prices.

Risks and Hit or Miss

While auctions offer the potential for favorable results, they do come with risks. The success of a watch auction depends on various factors, including the condition, rarity, and desirability of the watch, as well as the overall market conditions at the time of the auction. Auction results can be unpredictable, and there is always a chance that a watch may not sell or may not achieve the desired price.

Benefits of Selling Watches at Auctions

Selling watches at auctions can offer several benefits for sellers, particularly in terms of exposure, valuation, and authentication.

Exposure to Wider Audience

Auctions provide sellers with access to a global network of collectors, enthusiasts, and investors. By showcasing watches at auction, sellers can reach a broader audience than they would through traditional sales channels. This increased exposure can lead to greater demand and potentially higher selling prices.

Potential for Value Increase

Auctions create a competitive environment where buyers bid against each other to secure a desired watch. This competition can drive prices up, potentially resulting in a higher selling price for the seller compared to selling through other means. The potential for value increase makes auctions an attractive option for those looking to sell valuable or rare watches.

Expert Evaluation and Authentication

Auction houses employ experts who have extensive knowledge and experience in the watch industry. When selling a watch at auction, sellers can benefit from the expertise of these professionals, who can provide accurate valuation and authentication services. This ensures that sellers receive fair market value for their watches and eliminates the risk of selling counterfeit or misrepresented timepieces.

Established Market Price

Auctions establish market prices for watches based on the bids received during the auction. This transparency in pricing can be advantageous for both buyers and sellers, as it provides a benchmark for the fair value of a particular watch. Sellers can use auction results as a reference when pricing their watches, ensuring they are priced competitively in the market.


Watch trade shows and auctions play a crucial role in the watch industry, providing platforms for brands, retailers, collectors, and enthusiasts to connect, trade, and discover new timepieces. Whether attending major trade shows like SIHH and Baselworld, exploring pop-up watch shows, or participating in auctions, these events offer unique opportunities to understand the industry, network with industry professionals, and showcase watches to a global audience. By participating in trade shows and auctions, individuals can stay informed about the latest trends, connect with like-minded individuals, and potentially find the perfect watch for their collection.