Watches and Wonders 2024: what to do, where to go and who to see in Geneva this weekend

As the Geneva fine watch salon opens its doors to the general public for three days this weekend, and satellite shows take over the city, here's our whistle-stop guide

e Mans clock photograph by Luc Debraine for his book Les Gardes-Temp
(Image credit: Courtesy, Black White publishing. Copyright Luc Debraine)

The smartphone once signalled the end of the wristwatch but, as Watches and Wonders 2024 proves, the seriously smart wristwatch has entered an era of its own. So much so that this once-exclusive salon will open its doors to the general public for the first time over three days this weekend (from April 13 to 15). Aficionados, curious tech bros and girls, and unsuspecting types who didn’t even know how much they could love a watch design so much will delight at the chance to see new designs up close from Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tag Heuer and scores of other leading luxury watch houses. Here’s where to get tickets, and our guide to what to see and do:

The Architecture

Patek Philippe watch fair pavilion, designed in 2014 and remodelled for Watches and Wonders

A translucent showcase designed by Ottavio di Blasi & Partners for Patek Philippe

(Image credit: Courtesy, architects)

If you’re a spatial designer of any sort, it’s worth making the trip to Geneva just to see the full Watches and Wonders 2024 exhibition streetscape. It’s literally a luxury village, the pathways lined not with houses or shops but with futuristic architectural capsules. For here, the pavilion designs by Rolex, Chanel, Cartier et all are not simply shopfronts. Rather, they are brand mission statements in architectural form.

The Expert Tour

Watches and Wonders exhibition and library area

(Image credit: Courtesy, Watches and Wonders)

The Watches and Wonders exhibition is vast, and it’s hard to know what you are looking for, or at, unless you understand a little of how to navigate it. Guided tours of around 10-15 people, hosted by watchmaking industry experts are on offer on a ticketed basis. Escorted tours may not be sound appealing, but here you’ll be glad you signed up as you become quickly acquainted with the labyrinthine layout. That allows dedicated time to get a first look at new designs from brands you know (which don't usually appear in boutiques until September) and some names that you've never even heard but will start to wonder about, quite a lot, later.


The Lab area at Watches and Wonders 2024

(Image credit: Courtesy, Watches and Wonders)

What will the watchmakers of tomorrow create? Will we even be using smartphones or tech linked to them? Will AI have turned us all into robots? It’s no joke - the history of watchmaking includes seriously spooky automatons that could write letters and play instruments. So, if you’re worried about this kind of thing, the LAB area serves to allay your fears, illuminating new thinking around centuries-old micro-technology.

The ECAL school – the École cantonale d'art de Lausanne – famed for its supremo designer-engineers, hosts a show of 15 students' works, some of who will be on site to chat you through their ideas.

There’s also an area dedicated to watch bracelet design, which is a brilliant topic to dive into, whether you’re a jeweller, engineer or watch collector. A start-ups and brands area includes 12 new horological ideas to ponder, while the ‘Agora’ section hosts casual discussions. Swiss chef Dany Khezaar is also on hand to rustle up Swiss-cheese treats and more. Yes, chef!

The Science Bit

Auditorium panel talk at Watches and Wonders 2024

(Image credit: Courtesy, Watches and Wonders)

Designed to host an up-to-the minute programme in a style that befits a luxury subject, the newly created auditorium offers a roster of panel talks with leading brands, speakers and watch geeks on specific subjects. This year, they include: What does AI mean for the watchmaking industry? How to start a watch collection? Craftsmanship and the human value in watchmaking To be honest, the programme needs a shake-up. Let's hope they get a few more style-savvy subjects in next year beyond a focus on just 'trends'. Where are the social media names who are doing so much to stir up interest in watch design and style? Why did Bad Bunny kickstart an appetite for vintage jewelled watches? Why is Chanel creating a crazy Victorian-curio style clock with dressmakers' dummies inside? Watches and Wonders can still feel a bit too biz-focused and academic but its new look is ever evolving. And, for those who want to see exquisite craftsmanship up close, this is the place to be.

The Must-see Photography Exhibition

A black and white photograph of a modernist city centre clock

Luc Debraine's photograph of a modernist municipal clock

(Image credit: Courtesy, Black White publishing. Copyright Luc Debraine)

By choosing to approach his subject as objects ‘frozen in time’ Luc Debraine has created an intriguing photographic essay of everyday architecture we’d otherwise likely ignore. This Watches and Wonders 2024 exhibition opens the pages of his book Les Garde-Temps. Through photography and text, Luc Debraine composes a fresco of these silent witnesses of history. These timepieces are clocks that keep ‘the time of memory, stopped dead in their tracks by natural or human disasters, from the Titanic to Hiroshima, from Buchenwald to the World Trade Center towers. They still display fateful moments. Some were stopped voluntarily to mark a revolution, a liberation, a singular event.’ The fact that Debraine is a former director of the Swiss Camera Museum in Vevey brings a compelling point of view to what might otherwise have been a highly niche subject.

Beyond the walls of the fair, Geneva is a full-on watch fest, with a city-wide programme of watch-focused cultural and educational activities. From Watches and Wonders' new Watchmaking Village on the Pont de la Machine to brand boutiques staging their own in-store exhibitions, there’s plenty to see downtown. Here are our highlights:

The Satellite Events

HEAD Geneva hosts the 'Time to Watches' exhibition

The HEAD art school in Geneva is a modernist gem

(Image credit: HEAD, Geneva)

Time To Watches, now in its 3rd year, is the biggest draw outside the main event. Located in Geneva’s HEAD art and design school, Time to Watches is halfway from the airport to the lakeside hotels, and hosts a selection of niche brands, from Antoine Preziuso to Sinn and British Bristol-based Fears watches, debuting on the international watch scene.

The early modernist designs of the school buildings make it an architectural destination worth the visit alone. The main building was built in the industrial Les Charmilles area in the 1910s and reworked in 1944 by architect Jean Erb. It once housed the Tavaro factory assembly line for Elna sewing machines, and was renovated in 2006.

Louis Vuitton prize Watchmaker Raúl Pagès

See Raùl Pagès watch designs at the Masters of Horology exhibition. Pagès is winner of this year's inaugural Louis Vuitton Watch Prize for Independent Creatives.

(Image credit: Courtesy, Raúl Pagès)

Masters of Horology, organised by the AHCI (Académie Horlogers des Créateurs Indépendants) is showing at Ice Bergues, just off the lakefront. Here you'll find a stellar list of makers that includes Philippe Dufour, Svend Andersen, Vianney Halter and Louis Vuitton prize winner, Raúl Pagès. Other small-scale exhibitions include Swiss Pavillion and Watchmakers United, while a number of brand showrooms are mounting exhibitions, including FP Journe, Jacob & Co, MB&F and Urwerk.

Don’t forget that the not-to-be-missed Patek Philippe museum near the Pleinpalais is open as usual – it’s worth a trip to Geneva in itself but offers a welcome respite from too much ‘novelty’ at the main fair.

Patek Philippe Museum twin heart-shaped museum pocket watches

A matching pair (left and right) of heart-shaped, pearl-set pocket watches at the Patek Philippe Museum

(Image credit: Courtesy, Patek Philippe Museum)

Tickets for Watches and Wonders 2024 Public Days (13-15 April) are on sale now

Caragh McKay has been a contributing editor at Wallpaper* since 2014. She was previously watches & jewellery director and is currently our resident lifestyle & shopping editor. Caragh has produced exhibitions and created and edited titles for publishers including the Daily Telegraph. She regularly chairs talks for luxury houses, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier among them. Caragh’s current remit is cross-cultural and her recent stories include the curious tale of how Muhammad Ali met his poetic match in Robert Burns and how a Martin Scorsese film revived a forgotten Osage art.