18 years of Basel World
Posted on 8th July 2019 at 15:47
With Basel world changing so much over the years, I wanted to give my thoughts on the changes.
I'm in a very privileged position to say I've been visiting Basel for the past 18 years. Its always been work-based visits, but I have seen a massive change over that time.
My very first visit, I was at the show for five days. My job was to pull together reports of the latest trends in the Swiss watch market. I also was to visit some Chinese suppliers that were exhibiting in a hall situated down the road. This was the year that the disease SARS hit China with a mass outbreak. The Chinese exhibitors were stopped from entering Switzerland, in case it spread into Europe, and the show purely focused around the Swiss exhibitors.
This was my first insight into the big difference between Switzerland and China, and the prestigious persona around how the Swiss felt superior to the Chinese.
Although the correct thing to do, the rumor was, that the swiss had wanted to stop the Chinese suppliers' exhibit for a long time and this was the perfect way to make it happen.
I always remember a very embarrassing situation when I was asked to leave a business area in the Basel show because I had some watches with me. These were my designs, and the samples came from China, I was only allowed in the business suite if the watches were swiss made. Had this been applied to the watches in the show, there would have been a lot of empty stands.
Over recent years, it seems to have become apparent to Swiss watch brands, what a vast and essential market China is. The potential growth for the Swiss brands in the Chinese market is enormous. It is great to see some of the collaborations and how views have changed.
I’ve learned that components of a lot of Swiss-made watches come from China and although not promoted, the collaboration is there for swiss made watches. However, I would also like to make the point, a lot of prestigious Swiss brands control the whole production, from start to finish, in-house in Switzerland.
My very first trip at the age of 26, was such an eye-opener...
Scantily clad women handing out Basel World newspapers were on the entrance to the show. Sweeping staircases lead the way to Rolex meeting rooms, enormous diamond set necklaces for Chopard, branded sports & vintage cars ready to give buyers a luxury ride. Basel World was the most extraordinary, prestigious, extravagant show I have ever visited!
Over the years, watch styles have changed significantly. From my first visit, when I had started designing watches and pushing boundaries, designer fashion brands were also beginning to do this.
I was taking new concepts and working with some fantastic buyers. Designing new and exciting watches to put into their range and pushing the boundaries.
There were brands such as Dior with woven straps, brands using different case shapes, and profiles it was an exciting time.
Fossil, who back in the day, were predominantly a digital watch compan and had eye-catching styles.
One of my main watch memories, from one of my first trips, was what I called 'The Matrix Watch.' Fossil used to do some fantastic digital watches that have gone into the filing cabinet, sadly probably never to be re-pulled out. I always remember walking up to the stand and dripping digital displays, which smacked of the matrix film and was very, very unique at the time.
Over the years, brands have come and gone, some leaving and then returning, and some were going never to return.
I would say though that 2019 was the saddest year yet.
Basel World is known for its opulence and a showcase of luxury.
This year, with notable brands pulling out from the show, the ripple effect of this, showed itself throughout the whole exhibition.
Usually, walking up to Basel World, the show is flooded with beauty.
Snowdrops and roses would be landscaped around the entrance, setting the stage of the entry into the show.
There were restaurants with people queueing out the door, alfresco dining, celebrities making guest appearances, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Leonardo Dicaprio.
There were many external ticket booths, to manage the tickets sales due to the demand to get into the show. At £60+ a ticket, there was always queues to get in.
However, this year felt very different......
Exhibitors such as Swatch had pulled out of the show, and for people who don't know Basel World, I will explain. The whole ground floor was the most sought-after area. The Swatch Group, who hold many brands, such as Omega, Hamilton, Calvin Klein watches, Rado watches, Longines, Harry Winston to name but a few, took the largest stands to exhibit their watches. With Swatch pulling out of the show, this area downstairs was now filled with seating areas and coffee shops.
With brands such as Swarovski also withdrawing from the show, additional seating/cafe areas were upstairs, there seemed to be a big void this year.
Brands have had their discrepancies with the show organizers over the years. Whether it's the stand prices, space allocation, or other issues, the result has left them choosing not to exhibit at Basel World show at all. With factors such as stands costing multi-millions of pounds, staff accommodation costs, inflated hotel prices for visitors, high entry ticket prices, and increased restaurant prices, all these things are leaving people hostile to exhibiting and even visiting the show.
Sadly this is causing damage to the watch industry overall.
The show, which was once very prestigious, tough to get a space, now had large areas that weren't filled.
Interestingly though, after speaking to some exhibitors, they'd had a great show. Buyers were still going there to buy, and with some of the larger brands not exhibiting, they were making their purchases from less well-known brands.
It's quite exciting as it's allowing smaller brands to make themselves known to global buyers.
It was also lovely to see the organizers MCH Group trying to step away from placing scantily clad women throughout the show. This year, both men and women were handing out the Basel World papers and looking after the information desks, the women had more clothes than skin showing for the first time in 18 years.
It's a positive step towards modern times.
I was also able to book a room, two weeks before the show at a reasonable price per night, only 10 minutes from the showitself, this has never happened before.
Where will the watch industry go over the next few years, and will Basel World continue?.
Time will tell (excuse the pun), but I think Basel World will certainly continue for the next few years. The reality, the MCH Group needs to pull the exhibitors pricing into perspective and give all brands an opportunity.
Hotels charging five times the regular price for a room isn't acceptable, and restaurants need to realize that people won't pay exorbitant prices anymore.
In a nutshell, with the Internet, people are aware of prices, which means people are no longer prepared to pay over the odds, and this is now the world we live in.
The world is changing, and retailers, brands, and even the prestigious Swiss watch brands need to move forward with it.
Of course this is my view but i'd love to hear yours too, let me know your comments and thoughts in a comment below !
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