The EPHJ is an essential exhibition for watchmakers and service centres from across the world, especially experts that need to update their skills in the latest technical innovations and future trends. With just two weeks to go until the exhibition opens on June 20, WatchPro spoke to its chef de project Alexandre Catton about the exciting developments at this year’s event.
WatchPro: How long has EPHJ exhibition been going for?
Alexandre Catton: The first EPHJ Show occurred in 2002. The focus was then on the actors of the watchmaking industry. In its first edition it gathered 92 exhibitors and 1,700 professional visitors. The show built itself with patience and reason in order to keep the “spirit of the fair”, a place where business is done in a very good atmosphere. The founders added the microtechnology sector to the show (EPMT) in 2007 and the Swiss Medtech part (SMT) in 2011. The synergies of these three activity areas are now obvious as a third of the exhibitors are working in the field of medical technology as well as in watchmaking, jewellery or microtechnology. The show celebrated its 15th birthday last year with more than 880 exhibitors from 14 countries and more than 20,000 professional visitors coming from five continents. This year the Show will hold its 16th edition from 20 – 23 June.
WP: What type of businesses primarily exhibit at the show?
AC: The Show is a B2B Show. You will find no finished good at the fair such as a watch. The companies that exhibit at EPHJ-EPMT-SMT Show are all the actors discreetly operating in the wings of the watchmaking, microtechnology and medical technology industries, the ones that are subcontractors or suppliers.
Among others you will find: design, CAD, raw materials, gems, machinery, tooling, control devices, components, packaging, displays, training, robotics, R&D, implants, surface treatment, cleaning, processing etc.
WP: What type of businesses primarily visit the show?
AC: The visitors of the show are professionals from the watch brands, industrials in the microtechnology or in the medical technology field of activity: either CEO or managers and specialists from R&D, creation, manufacturing, marketing managers, negotiators, creators, designers.
WP: Why is the exhibition so important to the watch industry?
AC: The show is the biggest professional fair in Switzerland. It is a unique opportunity for watch industry professionals to meet and exchange in one place with more than 800 companies supplying everything necessary in the conception and the highlighting of a watch: dial, watch case, watch strap, springs, coating and surface treatment specialists, raw materials, machine and software suppliers dedicated to this industry, packaging etc. It is also a unique opportunity to discover, every year, most of the innovations and technologies that will make the difference with the next watch collection. Moreover our show is the only one of its kind, gathering so many exhibitors in the watchmaking and jewellery sectors.
WP: What changes have you noticed (if any) in the watch industry over the last couple of years? How have these changes affected the EPHJ exhibition?
AC: The watch industry has gone through a difficult period. The last statistics may let us think that the market has to find a new balance. Nevertheless, it may take time before the turbulences generated finally fade. Companies disappear, others take advantage of this situation to grow either internally or by acquisition, other companies find a way out in diversification (their know-how is compatible with the medtech industry for instance). In this changing environment EPHJ-EPMT-SMT Show is “the place to be”. Compared to last year we have the same surface booked. We do not want to expand more in order to keep the atmosphere of the fair. This fair is a great opportunity to gain visibility and make business. It is expected by the exhibitors and the professional visitors.
WP: What can visitors expect to see from this year’s show?
AC: Visitors can expect to discover latest innovations, business opportunities and paths to imagine the future of the industry. With the roundtables and conferences organised throughout the Show, they will assist expert discussions concerning the evolution of the watch industry’s economic model, the recent researches on 4D printing, the use of laser and the cross opportunities existing for the companies participating in the Health Valley.