CORDER’S COLUMN: My verdict on Baselworld 2018

Rob Corder, managing editor, WatchPro and managing director of Promedia. (Photo by Ausra Osipaviciute/ITP Images)

I’m just back from my annual pilgrimage to Baselworld and I have had time to reflect on the importance of this year’s show compared to the many I have previously been to over the past decade.

In most years Baselworld is a reflection of the wider Swiss watch industry. For example, key collections launched in the era when BRIC economies were on fire were over-the-top and over-priced.

A return to sanity in recent years has benefited European retailers who want value for money, quality, tradition, heritage and wearability to be the guiding principles of watchmakers.

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2018 was a year when the health of the Swiss watch industry was not reflected in the size of Baselworld.

Swiss watch exports have been growing every month for more than a year. February’s year-on-year growth was the fastest in years, but the number of exhibitors at Baselworld was down by more than 50% compared to a few years ago.

While the shrunken physical size of Baselworld was at odds with the broader health of the industry, the positive mood within the halls was much more in tune with this year’s improving business outlook.

My verdict is that this was the most upbeat Baselworld I have been to in the past three years, and the 60 watchmakers I met were reporting strong sales to distributors and retailers around the world.

So, while much of the world’s media has been focusing on the brands that were missing from this year’s Baselworld, I think it is more helpful to describe the mood of the brands that were there.

I am well aware that it is every executive’s job to be positive to journalists, but I am also sufficiently experienced (and cynical) to see when they are spinning and when they are telling the truth.

Baselworld 2018 was a success, and I hope will quash talk of the show’s imminent demise.

I doubt it will ever grow again to the 1400 exhibitors that were there in 2014, but businesses accounting for 80% of the CHF 20 billion Swiss watch industry were exhibiting. So were all the biggest Japanese watchmakers including Citizen, Casio and Seiko.

 

Even the Wednesday press day before Baselworld officially opened was busy this year. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

 

The organiser has reported that the show had 8% more visitors in its first two days (Thursday and Friday) than at the same time last year. I can tell you that Saturday was dramatically more busy, making my job of dashing between 20 meetings in a day a considerable physical challenge.

The show being shorter and smaller has also made it more concentrated, which is a positive development.

The exhibition was not perfect, and this year’s success should not lead Baselworld’s organiser into the sort of complacency and intransigence that has frustrated exhibitors and visitors for years.

Everything is changing in the world of media, marketing, communication, sales and distribution and Baselworld must listen and learn so that it remains relevant in a digital age.

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5 Comments

  1. Kim Nielsen said:

    This is not my impression of the fair. Of those companys I visited none of them where satisfied with the number of visitors. The 8% more visitors can be explained by the fact that the fair organizers had reduced the 2018 edition by two days and the major watch companys still had to serve all there worldwide customers in 2 days less than last year, this might have given a wrong picture of what really has happened at the 2018 Baselworld. The fact that we did not had any problems getting a table, on two different occasions, in the restaurants between hall 1 and 2 on a friday, supports my opinion. In all the last nine years I have had the luck to visit Baselworld before, I have never seen anything like this.

  2. Ceelo Green said:

    Let’s face it for thd fact, people, in and beyond Swiss Made thinking Baselworld:
    * Baselworld has become a dinosaur in the world’s horology fairs,
    * The Swiss Watch Industry is back in the 80’s again;
    soon to be defunct, this time forgood, Asia’s @bat now.

    • Ceelo Green said:

      Correction in this former stated text of mine, ‘thd’ must be ‘the’.
      Sorry, I read over it, so to speak.

    • Jimbo said:

      We will be looking at your comment in a few years and seeing how ridiculous it is. Yes the fair was quieter, more so than the organisers would admit, but to say the Swiss Watch industry is defunct is to know nothing of the Watch industry. Fairs will come and go but the luxury market will always have a demand and one could even say that even in a tough financial market it still remains strong. Like any industry brands will reduce in size but it will pave the way for new exciting Watch brands. The industry has been there for hundreds of years, it won’t fold because one over priced show is slowing down.

  3. Pingback: Editor’s View: Baselworld has not lost its sparkle yet - Professional Jeweller

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