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Business at the week-long, invitation-only watch fair Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, a precursor to the bigger Basel Watch Fair, was anything but dismal. “It has been unbelievable,” said Richard Mille, a niche watchmaker. “After the first day many models were already sold out.”

Known to push the horological envelope, Mille pulled out all the stops with a model sporting a case made of sapphire – the chf1.6m (€1.3m) price-tag didn’t deter collectors from shelling out for five. Meanwhile, Swiss luxury group Richemont, which fielded 12 of…

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