Baselworld is set to officially begin Thursday but Wednesday was the opening press conference for the world’s largest watch and jewellery show.
The show continues its transformation to a pure luxury event, which caused a number of exhibitors to drop out during the past two years because of a steep increase for exhibit space and demands that they spend even more for larger and more elaborate booth space. This resulted in the opening of two other trade fairs last year to accommodate these exhibitors. The largest of the two is Jewellery & Gem Fair – Europe, March 22 – 25 at Messe Freiburg, Germany, will have approximately 400 exhibitors representing all facets of the jewellery industry. The other is The Diamond Show, March 19 – 23 in Basel, which as the name suggests, is dedicated to diamond industry exhibitors.
As the show is set to begin the transformation at Baselworld continues. Two years ago the fair unveiled a new design for the massive exhibition space. Many watch exhibitors in Hall 1.0, the prime real estate at the fair, were booted upstairs to Hall 1.1 to make way for brands owned by luxury conglomerates (Swatch Group, LVMH and Kering) and the few large independent brands able to afford to exhibit there (such as Patek Philippe, Rolex and Chopard). This year many jewellery exhibitors who were exhibiting at Hall 1.1 have moved to Hall 2 in the adjacent building.
The move to pure luxury seems to have worked for the show. There may have been fewer exhibitors last year but visitor numbers continue to grow. And there are still plenty of exhibitors. In fact, the show even attracted a few luxury brands who haven’t exhibited in the past like Graff Diamonds who exhibited for the first time last year.
It also appears to be working for the new trade fairs as well. For example, JGF – Europe has expanded its exhibition space to accommodate 440 exhibitors from 27 countries and regions. According to Celine Lau, director of Jewellery Fairs, UBM Asia, many exhibitors that attended the event last year have larger booths.
“Buyers can expect to view and source a wide range of mid-priced finished jewelry and loose materials. The fair is open on Sunday, which enables retailers to restock on inventory conveniently.”
Basel World 2015 Press Conference | Photo credit: Anthoyn DeMarco
The US was one of the few countries that bucked the downward global trend for the quarter and year, according to the report as global gold jewellery demand fell 10 percent year-over-year in 2014 to nearly 2,153 tons.
François Thiébaud, president of the Baselworld Swiss Exhibitors Committee, said that Swiss watch exports in 2014 increased 1.9% year-over-year to nearly $22.2 billion.
Sylvie Ritter, Baselworld managing director, described the past year as “a very busy time where we’ve seen some fundamental changes” for the Swiss watch industry, which included the unpegging of the Swiss franc to the euro, the crisis in Russia and Ukraine, the decline of growth in China, and Smart watches.
Smart watches was a major focus of the Baselworld press conference where two of the three speakers said they view the new timepieces as something that can co-exist with the traditional Swiss watch industry. No one viewed it as a threat.
“Smart watches have been around for years,” Ritter said. “Lots have already been written about them but it will have no effect on traditional watchmaking.”
A comparison to the introduction of the quartz movements in the 1970s and ’80s, which was a major crises at the time to the watch industry were brushed aside by the speakers.
“The watch crises of the 1980s was totally different,” said François Thiébaud, president of the Baselworld Swiss Exhibitors Committee.
The speakers said that they view smart watches as different markets that have different appeal that can coexist.
“I am convinced it is a different world,” Ritter said. “These two worlds are complimentary rather than antagonistic.”
Another topic at the press conference was the sudden removal in January of the 1.20 Swiss franc currency cap to the Euro. The Swiss National bank placed the currency peg three years so stabilize prices of exports in Europe. The removal in January by the Swiss National Bank caused the Swiss currency to rise against the Euro and other world currencies, increasing Swiss exports.
Thiébaud, said the currency change so far hasn’t impacted the market. Since January, Swiss exports have increased by 3.7% to
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