WRITER: Karim Mounib & Nadine Khalil PHOTOGRAPHY: Baselworld
Baselworld is a hectic thing. The giant fair lasted eight days this year, attracting over 150,000 industry insiders, collectors, journalists and fans coming to see the latest products from 1,400 of the world’s top watchmakers and jewellers exhibiting in a Herzog & de Meuron-remodelled space that’s roughly the size of 20 football pitches.
It may be a far cry from its modest origins in 1917 but the show has become the most important of its kind. Indeed, it’s hard not to be shell-shocked by the grandeur of it all. The brands, especially the ones in the prestigious Hall One, create multi-storey enclosures that can often be more impressive than any store in New York, London or Paris.
Something was different this year though. First of all, it appears that Apple has rattled the watchmaking industry’s gilded cage because wearable technology was being touted for the very first time. From TAG Heuer to Breitling, Frederique Constant, Bulgari, Swatch, Gucci and so on, many brands seem to be jumping on the smartwatch bandwagon.
Apart from that, the other most evident phenomenon this year was the general unease concerning the Swiss Franc after the central bank’s unexpected announcement in January that it was abandoning its three-year-old policy of capping the national currency against the Euro. The currency may have stabilised somewhat since then but most brands have been forced to raise their non-domestic prices by 5 to 10 per cent. This will of course affect sales and growth, but by how much we don’t yet know.