The Sunrise Kempinski Hotel Beijing rises like a surreal installation, a gleaming alien artefact in an otherwise empty landscape. So strange and quiet is its setting that the scene recalls a dystopian movie, as though a pod had been abandoned by its extra-terrestrial occupants and humanity either shunned the area or did not survive. Yet, the spherical structure itself seems to shimmer with life as the 10,000 glass panels that sheathe its exterior reflect, from top to bottom, the sky, the nearby Yanshan Mountain and Yanqi Lake, upon whose banks it sits.
The glasslike lake carries the silence of the distant mountains and brings the sky down to earth. On a drizzly spring day, all was wet and grey. The still body of water and sky were indistinguishable from each other and mist smeared the outlines of a pagoda next to the incongruously modern buildings across the lake, rendering them fuzzy and distorted. It was only the hotel that maintained its integrity, its form steadfast even against the creeping vapour.
Shanghai Huadu Architect Design Co designed it as a 21-storey sun coming up over the horizon. Its allegories are manifold in a culture that places great value on symbolism. When viewed from the side, its plump contours recall a scallop, which represents fortune, while the front view — that of the rising sun — denotes the fast-growing economy of China. The entrance is shaped like the mouth of a fish to evoke and invite prosperity. And when darkness settles around it at night, the hotel transforms into a glittery ornament, like a bead on a bracelet, illuminated in its entirety by hydroelectric-powered LED lights.
The elements at play — architecture, angles, light and symbolism — were mirrored across the 2019 novelties presented by Corum at this very venue. The Swiss watchmaker announced late last year that it was pulling out of Baselworld 2019, one of many stalwart brands to withdraw from the annual watch and jewellery show. Instead, it announced it would be changing its focus to the real ambassadors of the brand, namely retailers, final customers and journalists, and would change its approach and invest accordingly.
To that end, its 2019 and 2020 strategy is to organise more intimate and well-targeted events across three continents.
Asia is naturally one of its key markets and where better than China to gather stakeholders from around the region? Over 200 “real ambassadors” were invited to the Sunrise Kempinski Hotel for an immersive brand experience, spanning life-sized setups at the entrance that contextualised its Golden Bridge and Admiral collections to the ballroom that hosted bilingual presentations during the day and a gala evening with a surprise guest of honour. Global brand ambassador, Chinese model, actor and singer Hu Bing made an appearance at the Mandarin press session and joined guests from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia for a 10-course dinner.
The entertainment for the night kicked off with a two-man act that combined a booming drum show and acrobatic agility, synchronised with a sequence that captured Corum’s bold spirit and refined timepieces on an LED wall. Its star product for the year, the Admiral AC-ONE 45 Openworked Tourbillon, was unveiled with much fanfare as a giant key — the brand’s emblem — was inserted into a glass installation and turned to release the first-ever look at the timepiece as it rose on the LED wall. Finally, as the main course of the dinner was being enjoyed, a catwalk show was staged with models winding a path through the tables to offer guests a close look at the new releases.
As an investment, the effort outstripped the typical presentations put on at Baselworld. Instead of being confined to a booth, the brand curated an entire environment and programme around its philosophies while providing the time and space for journalists and retailers to leisurely connect with representatives from their respective markets, as well as the products. An appreciated feature of Baselworld as an under-one-roof gathering of industry stakeholders is access to brand decision-makers and spokes-people such as top management and ambassadors. Corum recreated that here with the presence of product development director Nicolas Vuillemin; global sales and marketing director Soon Boon Chong; friend of the brand, model Anastasiia Markelova; and Hu Bing. If lasting impressions, greater relationships with the brand and a clear understanding of products were part of the desired outcome, the returns on this investment already seem high.
The article first appeared on Apr 29, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.