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Here’s what went down at Australia’s first prestige watch fair

The Financial Review’s About Time horological event offered vintage treats, new timepieces and a chance to mingle with other enthusiasts. From the upcoming November issue, out on October 27.

Bani McSpeddenWatch editor

After years of waiting, we’ve finally had a prestige watch fair worthy of the name, right here in Sydney. Over two days late last month, a common sight in the city precinct was the flash of the yellow lanyards sported by more than 600 Financial Review readers who’d signed up for the Financial Review About Time event, the first serious watch fair in this country. The participation of a spread of 14 elite brands sealed its success.

Here was Cartier ushering readers up the stairs to the sumptuous first floor of its stunning flagship, ditto Ralph Lauren welcoming guests for bagels and cocktails on its rooftop bar. Roger Dubuis invited attendees to try their hand at a racing simulator, Jaeger-LeCoultre to chance it at movement decoration.

At the Grand Seiko boutique. Michael Quelch

Piaget ran jewellery-making classes – and christened its hours-old boutique. As for watches, Chopard chose the occasion to preview an Alpine Eagle designed by Indigenous artist Shaun Daniel Allen (popularly known as Shal), while Vacheron had vintage treats from its Swiss museum, plus an artwork borrowed from the Louvre.

Mind you, there wasn’t only horological refreshment on offer: Hublot matched cocktails with models in its collection, IWC did the same with coffees, Breitling had drinks and Deus Ex Machina merch, Tag Heuer offered Carreras and canapes, Louis Vuitton entertained in its private client suites with champagne and the latest Tambour models announced just weeks ago.

At The Charles Grand Brasserie. Michael Quelch

Add the electricity of the About Time hub and meeting place The Charles Grand Brasserie and you had, if not Watches & Wonders (the famed annual Geneva watch fair), our very own version, a veritable watches and wow.

It was an opportunity for brands to strut their stuff, welcoming attendees who had signed up for the activation sessions, booking their slots as soon as the fair was announced. While this was gratifying, it was not a surprise; after all, we know our readers love their watches.

Bani McSpedden mingles with fellow watch enthusiasts. Michael Quelch

It’s also true our region has been a stand-out when it comes to demand for high-end timepieces, outpacing every other region so far this year in terms of growth. (Oceania was at 18.2 per cent, Africa 17.6 per cent, Asia 9.5 per cent, America 8.5 per cent and Europe 8.5 per cent, according to official Swiss watch export figures.)


For enthusiasts, a fair is more about sharing a passion than buying a piece. Marshall Grosby flew from Melbourne and particularly appreciated his time at Cartier. “I don’t know what made me talk my way into Cartier, but swept into their inner sanctum, it was a dollop of creme de magic,” he says. “Possibly the most memorable hour of my horological life.”

Grosby, who is on the wait list for the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, also enjoyed the Grand Seiko activation. “I liked learning something new and seeing something special – not to mention a lot of very pleasant meeting and eating experiences.”

At the IWC store. Michael Quelch

Paxton Wong, one of Australia’s most serious collectors and the founder of the enthusiast show Watchfest, describes About Time as “a great event”, while well-known horophile Peter Tinslay says he enjoyed meeting devotees he’d never come across.

“What the brands came up with was really interesting – Vacheron with some of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen, Tag Heuer with some vintage pieces. And at Panerai, I learnt how to make a negroni . . . It was terrific, a wonderful experience I simply could not have missed.” Cartier’s session, he adds, “changed my mind about the brand”.

It wasn’t just attendees who relished the experience. Roger Dubuis brand manager Nikki Demetriou says it was “exciting to see the local watch industry reach new heights”. Brands will now analyse the data, but the immediate response was delight at the number of new visitors to their boutiques, and the hope that the fair would only grow. On that note, we’ll leave the last word to interstate attendee Grosby: “I can’t wait to see what you come up with next year.”

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Bani McSpedden
Bani McSpeddenWatch editorBani McSpedden is watch editor of The Australian Financial Review. Connect with Bani on Twitter. Email Bani at

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