Baselworld business: if your name means anything, this is ‘the’ place to be seen
By Michael Balfour
If you are seriously in the business of designing, manufacturing, buying, selling or promoting watches or jewellery, then you will be in the ancient city of Basel between March 18 and 25. You will be attending Baselworld 2010: The Watch and Jewellery Show.
Inside the six giant halls, exhibitors’ staff will already be installed, prepared for long days of sales talk, negotiations and general trade conversations, as old and new colleagues meet to discuss mutual interests.
Almost 2,000 booths from 45 countries are spread over an exhibition area of 160,000 sq m. About 600 of them are watch stands, 750 jewellers and 560 related products.
Baselworld is not a new event. Emperor Frederick III (1415-1493) granted Basel the right to hold two annual fairs, one to be before Whitsunday. From this evolved the first Schweizer Mustermesse in Basel in 1917, which literally means a Swiss fair of samples, setting out what domestic goods the neutral country had to offer during those war-torn years.
It had a section devoted exclusively to watches and jewellery, and was exclusively for Swiss exhibitors until 1973, when it became the Europäische Uhren und Schmuckmesse
(European Watch and Jewellery Show). Non-European exhibitors were first welcomed in 1986. It acquired its present title in 2003.
Today, Baselworld is a joint enterprise between the City of Basel – 93,900 members of the general public paid to visit it last year – and MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd, controlled by a group of private investors. MCH organises more than 30 annual exhibitions and fairs, including Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach. Its chief executive is René Kamm, an ex-TAG Heuer man.
The president of the exhibitors’ committee is the long-serving Jacques Duchêne, who had a distinguished career with Rolex. He was due to address the trade press conference last Wednesday, as were his panel of seven international experts. Together they also watch over the sorry business of counterfeits at the show, of which there were 25 serious incidents in 2009.
The six main halls are inconsequentially numbered and bear unlikely names. Furthest from the Exhibition Square, where trams and taxis come and go, is Hall 6 (the Hall of Universe), containing the national pavilions.
Hall 5 is at the rear of the main Hall 1, which fronts the square, and Hall 4 is over the road (together they feature watch brands in the Halls of Desires, Dreams, Emotions, and Inspirations). In the Hall of Dreams reside grand marques such as Chopard, Patek Philippe, Rolex, TAG Heuer, and the mighty Swatch Pavilion, boasting its famed brands and continuous presentations.
The position of your stand depends on a first-come-first-served basis established when the fair began. Newcomers join a queue, waiting for old-stagers to move on. Some brands spend years trying to work their way forward from the back of Hall 5. Peter Stas and his wife Aletta are gradually succeeding with their fast-expanding Frédérique Constant company. On the other hand, Movado, a fine old brand not seen much in the UK, has a prime spot at the entrance.
The grand Hèrmes brand is content to be between escalators above Hall 1 in the Hall of Desires, with Harry Winston and the elaborate de Grisogono stand not far away. So being slightly above it all is obviously OK.
Hall 2, behind the Exhibition Tower, houses jewellery and more watch brands (Halls of Fascinations, Feelings, and Visions). Hall 3 offers more jewellery and “related brands” (Halls of Elements, Impressions, and Innovations).
Again this year there is an additional hall – a huge tent, simply named Palace, that promises to entice all classes of visitor to the small range of brands inside. Together in one area of its own, you will find four brands operating at the haute end of horlogerie: Christopher Claret, MB & F, Speake-Marin, and Urwerk.
The Watch Gallery there houses 16 small independent brands, some of which exhibited at the Geneva Time Exhibition in January, including Alain Silberstein, Badollet, Linde Werdelin, and Quinting. Some were also at Salon QP 09 in London last November. Ambitious independents are on the rise. Opposite them, however, huge Casio has a large walk-about stand.
One big change lies ahead. After Baselworld 2011 is over, a new building is to be constructed over Exhibition Square, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, both born in Basel. After the following show, Hall 3 will be demolished and rebuilt, together with the front section of Hall 1.
A much-used legacy of the show is the huge catalogue. The 850-page tome weighs more than 5kg. The catalogue, together with the entire organisation of every single aspect of Baselworld 2010, is the work of 15 permanent staff, a testament to Swiss efficiency.
Future Baselworld dates: 2011: March 24-31; 2012: March 8–15 March; 2013: April 25l–May 2.
Source - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f1a7eb54-3155-11df-9741-00144feabdc0.html