The organisers of Baselworld acknowledged the “difficult” times facing the global watch industry yesterday, but said they were sticking to their guns on their policy of only allowing quality watch brands to exhibit at the show.
As the 100th edition of the world-famous trade event officially opened to the world’s media yesterday, bosses revealed they had refused entry to some brands this year to uphold their focus on quality.
With slumping exports of luxury Swiss timepieces appearing to dash hopes of a market rebound, this year’s exhibition comes on the back of a turbulent year for the industry.
Sylvie Ritter, managing director of Baselworld, said it was important for the show to adapt to the new landscape in front of it.
“[These times] have been difficult and have compelled some players to leave the watch and jewellery industry. In light of this context, it is essential that the exhibition concept is adapted once again and Baselworld transformed to reflect the global market,” she said.
Ritter said organisers had stopped some companies from exhibiting in a bid to ensure it retains its value, saying it needed to “favour quality over quantity”.
“The result being that we chose to refuse some exhibitors for this year’s show and this is a choice – this is our choice,” she said, although she did not reveal how many brands had been turned away.
Changes to this year’s show include allowing independent watchmakers, previously in the Palace, the choice of a space in Hall 1.
This area, called ‘Les Ateliers’, has enabled it to meet “growing demand” from this sector, Ritter said.
Another novelty in Hall 1, called the ‘Design Lab’, is dedicated to designers, mainly in jewellery, featuring unique innovative pieces and avant-garde creations.”
Eric Bertrand, president of the exhibitors’ committee, said the current economic picture created an opportunity for those “who have done their job properly” in recent years to excel in the market.
He said that in the past he was surprised by the enthusiasm for watches by the brands that were foreign to the industry, adding that, “when unfavourable winds blow, then cold reality strikes”.
“It is therefore no wonder that “some of them have had to backtrack, whereas those brands that have stayed focused and relied on their know-how are still present,” he commented.
As a consequence, those brands that had invested in watchmaking without real legitimacy, and who are no longer here today, have freed-up space, he said.
“We can now host ‘Les Ateliers’ Hall 1, a location that perfectly matches the independent watchmakers who are an integral part of this industry. I am very proud that this new space was born under my presidency.”
The first Baselworld exhibition in 1917 saw 29 Swiss brands exhibit. This year, 220 Swiss brands are in attendance. However, figures given out at the press conference pointed to a 9.88% decline in Swiss watch exports during 2016.
Organisers said the last quarter of 2016 saw a “slight improvement” but noted that the global political and economic conditions remained difficult and sales had been penalised by the Swiss National Bank’s valuation of the Swiss franc two years ago.