- Herve Dewintre |
Baselworld is, and remains the world's leading trade fair for watches and fine jewellery. This assessment was confirmed by its 2018 event, which recently closed its doors after seven intense days of activity. Luxury watchmaking has experienced somewhat of a crisis in recent years, with the fall in demand from China, a strong Swiss franc and terrorist attacks in Europe. This crisis has manifested itself through a necessary and life-saving refocusing on the historical players in the sector. This refocus is reflected by profound thoughts on the new collections and “essentials”, as well as the price of the models and their method of distribution. Some more recent and fragile players, such as Burberry, have thrown in the towel. But the established houses have held on and delivered a demonstration of excellence in line with their reputation, with fair offers at stable prices, in a climate of renewed confidence.
At the closing press conference, Sylvie Ritter, director of the show, praised “the success of the 2018 event”. The great majority of the exhibitors enjoyed excellent business. And despite the length of the exhibition being reduced by two days, the number of visitors stayed the same. There were certainly fewer exhibitors this year and some major players, like Hermès or Kering, chose to present their new annual releases in January in Geneva at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (International Fine Watchmaking Exhibition), an exhibition originally held for presentations from the luxury brands held by Richemont. Nevertheless, this new format – fewer exhibitors and reduced length – paradoxically made visits more fluid and pleasant. As a result, this new format received approval from everyone. This sentiment was perfectly reflected by René Kamm, CEO of MCH Group, who said, “The current format of the exhibition with 650 brands is optimum for me. We are riding high for 2019”.
Baselworld remains a relevant meeting point. The fact that the elite in the sector have already confirmed their presence at next year’s event proves this. Rolex, Swatch Group, Patek Philippe, LVMH, Chopard, Breitling and Chanel have all confirmed they will be present at the 2019 event. The famous exhibitors have expressed their great satisfaction at the progress of the exhibition, like Jean-Frédéric Dufour, Managing Director of Rolex, who said “We are very happy with this edition of Baselworld. Our products have been extremely well received both by our clients and by the press. This annual gathering remains essential for the Swiss watchmaking industry, its development and its dynamism, as shown by the number of visitors and the enthusiasm shown this year. We are really looking forward to the 2019 event!”
Positive feedback overall from both exhibitors and visitors
This enthusiasm was echoed by Thierry Stern, Chairman of Patek Philippe who said, “We are very satisfied with the reception given to our retailer partners and the press to our new releases for 2018. This year has been very positive and is marked by strong dynamism in all our markets”. Jean-Claude Biver, Chairman of the Watches Division of LVMH and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TAG Heuer sees the following advantages in the event, “The whole world comes to Basel, hence the name Baselworld. This exhibition brings together the whole of our branch of industry as well as journalists, VIPs and in particular our loyal partners in the markets. In all this, Baselword is the essential business platform”. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-Chairman of Chopard, emphasised, “Baselworld is and remains a major networking event for our group. It represents a unique opportunity to meet our business partners and the press in record time. The exhibition takes place in a very positive atmosphere and we are extremely satisfied with the progress of business”. François Thiébaud, Chairman of the Committee of Swiss Exhibitors, said, “Baselworld has been a good year and the Swiss exhibitors are well satisfied with the 2018 event.”
Lastly, it is important to add that satisfaction from watchmakers and jewellery makers is also of vital importance. Contrary to the SIHH, Baselworld is also a meeting place for jewellery makers. Valérie Messika, CEO of Messika, sees Baselworld’s international presence as its main advantage, saying, “We have a presence in 60 countries with 400 sales outlets and as a result, Baselworld represents our largest exhibition. For us, it is a unique opportunity to meet our clients and agents from around the world”. The same positive note came from the precious stones sector. Bernd Willi Ripp, the owner of Groh + Ripp, said, “We recorded a high level of visitors to our Hall 3.0 and met many exceptional clients. The 2019 event, which is to be held from 21 to 26 March 2019, should work on development. The management is going to work in close collaboration with the exhibitors to define new formats for the various sectors. These new formats will certainly offer medium size companies flexibility that is more in line with their needs.”
Photo credit: Baselworld, dr