Every year Baselworld reveals itself as one of the biggest professional watch fairs in the world. By celebrating Swiss watch making, Baselworld is a place for important business and also where all the watchmaking planet meet. As the microcosm of the watch and jewellery industry, Baselworld is the focal point of the industry, where all players of the industry showcase their creations and innovations. The show attracts everyone from designers and purchasers, to the global press and consumers who wish to feel the pulse of this fascinating world, be inspired and share in this amazing experience.
Baselworld, since 1917
The history of Baselworld takes us back to 1917 with the first “Schweizer Mustermesse Basel (muba)“. The Swiss fair had a special section devoted to watches and jewelry. It was only in 1925 that the fair organizers officially invited watch brands to display their creativity and new launches. In 1931, it was official! The Schweizer Uhrenmesse (Swiss Watch Show) was born and had its own dedicated pavillon. In 1983 the fair got renamed to BASEL and in 1986 brands outside of Switzerland were for the fist time invited. After another change of name, it was only in 2003 that the fair got its last name BASELWORLD. This new name is supposed to translate the prestige and the leading position of the fair. By getting very international year after year, decade after decade, the Baselworld fair is today a very importance reference in the world of watch-making. In 2004, the fair crosses the symbolic line of 100’000 visitors which was the reward of all the efforts placed in the internationalization of the fair. By projecting the fair into the future, 2013 was the right time to review the architecture and the organization of the fair. So by asking to the Basel architecture cabinet Herzog & de Meuron to rebuild the trade-show identity, this was bringing Baselworld to a next level. So for the 2013 edition, Baselworld revealed a new identity, some floor optimizations. Each exhibitor brand also took the opportunity to refresh their stands and it is a new Baselworld that opened its gates that year. So what is Baselworld today?
- More than 150’000 visitors in 5 days
- 4’000 journalists
- 1’500 brands
- 40 countries
- 141’000 m2 of exhibition surface
What should we expect from the Baselworld 2016 edition?
This year it will be interesting to see the impact of the Apple Watch in the industry. While some brands will not consider going in the path of smartwatches, others have already embrace it. We can definitely expect from Tag Heuer new updates from its Carrera 01 connected watch. It will be also interesting to see the positon of Swatch Group on the topic. The economic crisis and the strong Swiss Franc was a blast last year and now most of the Swiss manufacturers just cope with it. While 90% of all watches in the world are made in Hong-Kong, 90% of all watches above $1’000 are made in Switzerland. So Swiss rules in terms of high-end watches and at this level of execution, buyers will not be barging for 10 or even 20%. A Patek or an Omega will cost what ever it is meant to cost. Swiss watch-making has a price, the price of excellence.
After a big trend of big watches, 41mm and more, there is a counter-trend about small watches. So we can see more and more men’s watches with less than 39mm, often 36mm. This is also due to the predominance of the Chinese market, that prefers smaller watches. While smartwatches are booming the buzz charts, mechanical watches are still a very solid business. We might see one year more the big brands playing safety and capitalize on their strength without major revolutions. Other brands, more challengers, they will force the way to the top by presenting their amazing creations. In the last couple of years, there is also a bigger visibility from technology suppliers and this year, we will be able to see meet the people “in the shadows” that provide amazing technologies to the watch brands.
In terms of innovations, a lot is expected from the movements side. More precision, more compact and reliable are trends that leads watch-brands to shape the heart of the watch in order to adapt to the customers demands. Something that has been installing itself in our watch-makers tables is what we could call “Subtle-luxury”. The days of massive over the top pieces are over. People are focusing more on exclusivity and craftsmanship. It might sound strange but very often it is very difficult to make something simple. Watch-making has hundreds of amazing techniques that literally take your breath away. Some of them are rare, others almost disappeared and a few brands still keep them alive for the pleasure of collectors all over the world. In terms of metal, we can see a high-demand for white gold or Platinum. These materials for the pagan eyes can be taken as low profile items despite the high value. Subtle luxury brings a certain restrain that goes well with elegance and timeless chic.
Exploring the limits of technology is also a big trend. Accuracy is a milestone. Watches are more and more accurate with frequencies over-cross our imagination. Seeing technology from another angle can also bring a lot of good things when it comes to innovation. This gives a different thinking to the relationship between the watch and its owner. How do we perceive time and what is our connection with time? These questions brings a lot of anatomic and ergonomic thinking in watch-making. Probably we do realize that time flies and despite the fact a watch is a time-keeper, it cannot produce, stop, accelerate or alternate time. It is just a witness of every second that passes by. So you better get the best out if it. On a more ceremonial note, a tribute to the high-value of this show for Switzerland and the wider world, Baselworld is inaugurated every year by a member of the Swiss Federal Council. This year, Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, Head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, will grace the show with her presence and officially open Baselworld on Thursday March 17, 2016.
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