JCK + COUTURE
May 29–June 1, 2015
By Aaron Recksiek, CW21
Jewelers’ Circular Keystone is the leading trade publication and authority for the independent jewelry retailer. They host the largest gathering of jewelry-industry professionals every year around the beginning of June at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center in Las Vegas. For most watch brands, this is the first opportunity to debut their new product to an audience that didn’t travel to Baselworld in Switzerland. In years past, show management donated space for AWCI to educate the industry with our large repository of knowledge specific to our profession. However, this year there was little hope for AWCI to be represented at the annual Jewelry conclave because show space was deemed at a premium, as there were quite a few new exhibitors trying to break into the American market. So the show organizers decided to go a different direction with their educational offerings. Gérard Meulensteen and Vladimir Zennaro from Bergeon SA were gracious enough to offer AWCI and Bergeon US distributors the opportunity to share some booth space and help out in each other’s areas of expertise.
Bergeon brought the tools and a bench, and Tom Schomaker was on hand to demonstrate the proper usage of the tools and answer any technical questions. Jordan Ficklin and I were there to promote AWCI’s numerous educational programs, including the new retail jeweler battery replacement courses. Distributors of Bergeon products—Gary and Jenna Borel and Kyle Woolworth from Jules Borel and a representative from Esslinger—were taking orders from retailers for tools and supplies.
Although the Bergeon booth was tucked neatly in the corner of the Technology section of the main show floor, many attendees saw the Bergeon name in the show guide and sought the booth out. There was heavy foot traffic most of the day, and many people were being introduced to Bergeon and AWCI for the first time.
Everyone, from retailers to manufacturers, was eager to meet a professional organization representing watchmakers and clockmakers. Many need watch repair services or are having trouble with the service they are currently getting from their watchmaker or watch service center. AWCI can offer them services such as the “find a professional” directory or the continuing education courses that can help them educate themselves and/or their watchmakers. We handed out stacks of promotional material and generated hundreds of leads for AWCI.
The overall theme this year at JCK was technology and innovation—whether it was the futuristic bench that Bergeon brought from Switzerland with electronic hydraulic lift and LED lamp, or the new complete torque screwdriver set. Booths selling 3D printers were prevalent. Ring Cam, a ring box that captures HD video of a marriage proposal, won the show’s annual Shark Tank competition. The segment that has the largest opportunity for growth over the near future is wearables. Not only were there several new jewelry brands making fashionable bracelets that integrated wearable tech, but there were some new smartwatch brands that have come onto the scene in just the last few months, this show being their big market debut. One of those new brands is the iFit line, manufactured by the world’s largest fitness-product company, ICON Health and Fitness.
There were some more rumblings of a push to increase American-based manufacturing, as there has been for the last few years. A more notable push was that by the German government to increase their domestic exports; they subsidized a number of booths that all carried uniform booth-entrance displays complete with the brand’s name and a “made in Germany” logo.
Happening at the same time in Las Vegas was the COUTURE show, which targets a specific clientele, as registration for the show is limited to retailers of fine jewelry only. Whereas JCK registration is open to anyone involved in any facet of the jewelry industry. This crosstown rival of the JCK show has been stealing more and more brands every year to exhibit at the Wynn Las Vegas, where the look and environment could not be more different than JCK’s venue. The Wynn convention space consists of large ballrooms constructed with extremely detailed high-end materials from floor to ceiling. Brands can also upgrade to private villas, enterable from long, grandiose hallways, or private meeting rooms in a hotel tower by appointment only.
The look and feel of the show is entirely different than that of JCK. The brands depend a lot less on constructing huge displays of marketing to lure people into their booths. There is a great deal of consistency between displays and materials used. Show organizers set up coffee and pastry stations that are included free with show registration, eliminating commercialized food and beverage sales carts.
Jordan Ficklin and I represented AWCI in discussions with several of the watch brands present at COUTURE. We met with a representative of Shinola to discuss what AWCI can do to help them in furthering their pursuit of American manufacturing. We also talked with Waltham SA and their ties to the Waltham brand of old. The most interesting conversation we had was with the president of Ernst Benz about the market of fine Swiss timepieces and the continued integration and future of the smartwatch. While we did notice a trend of defiance toward the onslaught of the smartwatch among luxury watch manufacturers and dealers, most of them were extremely pleased to receive a copy of the June Horological Times with an Apple Watch on the cover and plenty of content inside about smartwatches. Curiosity eventually overcomes disregard.
Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.