Vicenzaoro’s watches return in September: Interview with Marco Carniello, Global Exhibition Director of IEG1 September 2023
Vicenzaoro is the largest B2B jewellery trade fair in Europe. It competes with the two largest trade fairs in the world: Hong Kong and Las Vegas. Vicenza historically stands out for its ability to anticipate and launch trends in the jewellery world, a positioning that sector operators acknowledge and appreciate, placing VO among the destinations that must not be missed.
With its two annual editions in January and September (the next on the calendar is from 8 to 12 September), for some editions now the ‘trend show’ has been sold out in terms of exhibition space, with numerous companies on the waiting list. It stands out in the world panorama of professional events dedicated to jewellery for its internationality, the broad diversity of the merchandise on display, and its ability to represent the entire supply chain – from fine jewellery to technologies, from semi-finished products to gems – and to create connections between all the various communities across the sector.
We asked our friend Marco Carniello, ‘Global Exhibition Director Jewellery & Fashion’ of IEG (Italian Exhibition Group, the company that owns VO), what is the state of the art in Vicenzaoro regarding our watchmaking passion?
‘In 2022, with the B2B TIME community, we have reintroduced contemporary watchmaking, which has historically had its own important business space in Vicenza, gathering interest from Italian and foreign brands and microbrands, startups and equipment dealers to meet buyers from over 130 countries over the five days of the event, to start up or expand their distribution network in Italy and abroad.
‘Italian Exhibition Group is investing heavily in watchmaking by successfully launching two B2C formats unmatched in Italy, entirely dedicated to watchmaking culture and open to collectors and enthusiasts, with free admission: VO Vintage for vintage watches and jewellery in January, and VO’Clock Privé in September for contemporary timepieces.’
What can you tell us about the next scheduled happening, the three-day event from 8 to 10 September?
‘In September, enthusiasts can directly touch products and interact with international watchmakers, top brands and independent master watchmakers. They can enjoy a unique sharing and learning experience through comparison and trade between amateurs, experts and professionals. The educational programme of meet-ups with the brands as well as workshops and in-depth technical discussions is rich and engaging; all the watchmaking excellences, from the most important Geneva institutions to the most appreciated houses, will participate. It is a full immersion in watchmaking culture that really has no equal in Italy.’
Let’s take a step back. How does one become Global Exhibition Director Jewellery & Fashion at IEG? And what’s your educational and professional background?
‘I am an engineer by training, although over time I have always paid more attention to the commercial and marketing aspects, particularly after my MBA abroad. I started with management consulting and, after some experience in marketing and sales in companies between London and Milan, I took up the challenge of the Italian Exhibition Group – which was then called Fiera di Vicenza and was not yet integrated with Rimini. My advancement in IEG was quick because the company grew fast, soon becoming international and listed on the stock exchange, and because we have exceptional colleagues.’
Today’s world is increasingly digital. What evolution do you foresee for the trade fair system that keeps focusing on people meeting physically at a given location?
‘An experience that is live, direct and physical is the greatest value of events such as a trade fairs, because it creates relationships whose perceived value – in terms of both personal and business value – remains very high for every attendee. We like technology because it can facilitate, enhance and multiply relationships. Not only that, it is an enabling factor for innovation and creativity, sustainability and production processes optimisation, distribution, marketing, customer relations, services, and so on. Among the trend topics at Vicenzaoro, in fact, we have the metaverse, NFT, blockchain, AI, just to give a few examples. Italian Exhibition Group pays great attention to digital trends, and is adopting many innovations to improve the opportunities offered to our community – such as The Jewellery Golden Cloud, the online platform that, from 2020, integrates business matching and the trade fair experience with content, customised agendas, event streaming, and so forth. There is also the “TJGC-VICENZAORO” App with our list of exhibitors, visitor services, and the pavilion navigation tool. All this, at the moment, is mainly focused on jewellery, but we will soon implement watchmaking as well because we’re willing to invest in it.’
Jewellery and watches. Isn’t this the perfect marriage between your historical core business and a dynamically evolving sector in recent years such as watchmaking?
‘A marriage that promises to last! The exhibition, which in 2024 will celebrate 70 years of history and is currently the longest-lived among such events, has been growing steadily for several editions, confirming IEG’s choices to expand the offer, improve services, and involve more and more international buyers (in January Vicenzaoro has hit a historic record edition, with visits up 11.5% from 136 countries compared to the previous 2020 record). We intercept the interest of visitors who come to Vicenza in search of novelties to complete the showcases of jewellers from all over the world, for whom watches are essential assets. There are in fact many synergies linking jewellery and watchmaking both with TIME, the watchmaking-integrated B2B space at Vicenzaoro, and with VO Vintage’s and VO’Clock Privé’s B2C events. With TIME in particular, we bring together the many professional buyers and the potential represented by the blossoming of new independent and micro brands wishing to develop a distribution network in Italy and abroad. It is a new business platform reserved for contemporary watch professionals and technical equipment for watch workshops and dealers, with a focus on the “Made in Italy” but also an international presence.’
Contemporary and vintage watchmaking. Isn’t this the absolute challenge? Can Vicenzaoro aspire to be an actor in both segments?
‘Absolutely, we have the ambition to become a reference for professionals and enthusiasts for both vintage and contemporary watchmaking! With VO Vintage, the event dedicated to vintage watchmaking that takes place in January, and VO’Clock Privé focused instead on great contemporary brands and independent master watchmakers in September, we are entering the B2C sphere within events accessible to the general public. These are initiatives that the Italian Exhibition Group has launched by listening to the communities of enthusiasts, collectors and watch enthusiasts, both experts and not. We started off on tiptoe, with unprecedented formats, building jointly two platforms capable of bringing together all this sector’s souls, accessible to anyone wanting to approach the world of hands. These are unmissable rendezvous for watch lovers, from which they will leave enriched with relationships and knowledge.
‘On the other hand, there is a lot of potential from the point of view of the offer: vintage is attracting a growing public, also establishing itself as an excellent investment, while the great contemporary watchmaking brands and master watchmakers need to meet their best customers in a reserved and exclusive context. The dialogue is open and there is room for both formats in Vicenza.’
We know that you are a fan of mechanical watches. What kind of watches do you buy? What is the watch you are wearing most often these days?
‘I always had a passion for watches and I must say that organising the Vicenza events is certainly a wonderful way to cultivate it even further, meeting experts and other enthusiasts like me. I don’t have any favourite brand or type of watch, I go from super sports watches to “dress watches” – the important thing is that they tell a story, not only the brand’s (in fact I also love microbrands), and it doesn’t matter whether they are from the luxury segment or not. They should certainly be mechanical though. And since we’ve been organising VO Vintage, I have also started looking at iconic models from the past. In summer, I prefer light watches, smaller if they are in steel and with bracelet, or large but with a rubber strap.’
What do you foresee for the future of high-end watchmaking? Is there a parallel to make with the world of jewellery?
‘The watchmaking world has evolved differently, or perhaps just faster than that of jewellery. Compared to jewellery, it is much more brand-driven and there is a big push towards direct communication to consumers. On our side this also entails some adjustments to the “trade fair model”, which requires new formats for the watch sector. Let’s say that with watchmaking we are exploring innovations that I believe will also serve us in jewellery in the future.
‘High-end watchmaking is experiencing an interesting evolution, and we are seeing it at VO’Clock. Not only the well-established brands are doing well, but now smaller brands are also growing with much less marketing budget but well supported by the movements technique, innovation in design, materials, the watchmakers behind them and a more social-network oriented, even informal, way of reaching out to the consumer. And that’s where VO’Clock Privé comes in! It’s a positive evolution in my opinion, because it goes straight to the heart of watchmaking value.’
What do you foresee for Vicenzaoro’s future?
‘We continue to have the ambition to be the platform of reference for jewellery and watches, a benchmark for innovation and information, education and networking. We don’t aim to be the biggest (see Hong Kong) but we want to consolidate the concept of “Boutique” where you find the latest trends, selections, and high quality.
‘VO Vintage and VO’Clock Privé are newborns compared to Vicenzaoro, which will turn 70 in 2023. We will make them grow as we have done so far: by listening to the market, you, the fans, to make them exactly in line with what you expect. That’s what we have done so far by listening to the experts. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank my dear friend Giorgione, one of the most recognised watchmaking experts in Italy as well as founder of Watchouse. And you at Watchinsanity!’
Thank you Marco. Our final question will enter the private sphere. We know that you were an athlete of a certain level in mountain biking and triathlon, and then in adulthood you also dedicated yourself to the famous Iron Man race, completing it in 10 hours. What does constant physical effort represent for you? And does it work also for you, as Pier Silvio Berlusconi recently stated: ‘I feed on strain, exercise is liberating for me’?
‘I grew up in Friuli near the mountains, so sport was a natural passion which grew on the context in which I lived. In general, I experience endurance sport as a kind of meditation. It is the only way for me to disconnect from work, put my thoughts on standby and recharge my mental batteries. I would like to quote the “Mens sana in corpore sano” saying (a healthy spirit in a healthy body), but preparing for an Ironman (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42km run without interruption) I honestly don’t think that can fit into the concept of “mens sana”!’
By Michele Mengoli