Watchonista’s Take On Baselworld

Watchonista’s Baselworld Picks And Opinion, Can We #SaveBaselworld?

The final numbers coming out of Baselworld are here, and they're not pretty. In fact, they closely reflect the feeling we all had on site. Attendance was down: 81,200 people (-22% from 2018), 3,300 media representatives (- 18%), 500 exhibitors (-12%). Disappointing to say the least. Still, there are some positives to note. Ben and Josh take a closer look.

By Josh Shanks
By Benjamin Teisseire

Overall feeling

Benjamin: Fewer exhibitors meant more space. It actually felt quite nice. It means, in particular, more time to see other people, new brands, spend more quality time with appointments. This was very good. The press lounge in the middle of Hall 1 was a good idea…but the execution was under par. Ok, we only walked a marathon and a half instead of two in 6 days. But did Baselworld expect to welcome only 500 journalists? There was clearly not enough space for everyone, to sit, to work, to charge batteries. At some point, it was like a supermarket parking lot on a Saturday afternoon with people scrambling everywhere. Baselworld can do better.

Josh: Going into Baselworld 2019, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect honestly. I was sure that the absence of Swatch Group would leave a void, I just wasn’t sure how big the chasm would be. Turns out, a lot! The newly relocated press center, in the same place where Blancpain once stood, was certainly convenient, but you almost felt guilty using such valuable real estate. Overall, the show didn’t feel as depressing as some predicted. The brands remaining still put out plenty of new product and the lack of Swatch Group gave more visibility to others (like Breitling and Oris) that were previously hidden behind Omega.

Good points and questions for the future

Benjamin: For me, the most positive was the feedback from the brands present. Overall largely positive. But once again, brands rarely shoot the ambulance they are riding in. Nonetheless, it seems business was good for most brands. A lot of the smaller ones benefited from the lower number of exhibitors. Food for thoughts. Most important was the consensus from everyone about the importance of the show. They all agreed a global platform was still relevant for the industry. Baselworld still plays the role of an amplifier for the watchmaking industry’s voice. Everyone welcomed the new administration plans for 2020 with more digital presence, events, and flexibility. The loss of arrogance was also good news! The biggest concern was the date chosen for 2020!  The end of April, beginning of May, which seems quite far into the year to introduce novelties. This will be a recurring theme in the months to come for sure…and the issue clearly needs to be addressed for the future.

Josh: In 2020, brands are going to have to make a choice, show at SIHH, Baselworld, or go it on their own. Many, including Breitling, Movado, and Swatch Group are embracing the summit concept, where they regroup retailers and press into a single or series of events culminating in the showcasing of novelties. However, the private summit concepts completely ignore the end consumer! Baselworld and SIHH do a nice job with their consumer days, but in the end, few brands presenting at these fairs actually present product to the public. Plus, with the upcoming date alignment, we’ll see brands being forced into decisions. Surely, many brands can’t afford the time and effort to exhibit at SIHH AND Baselworld? Being that they’re within a week of each other, that won’t make sense for anyone. In years past, we’ve seen brands exhibit at both, but I don’t foresee that being possible.

Top watches?

Benjamin’s picks: The three following timepieces provided me with the greatest emotions this year.

Carl F. Bucherer Heritage Chronograph Bicompax Annual steel and rose gold – Beautiful champagne dial. A great vintage touch. Solid watchmaking. A lot of watch for the price. Unbeatable!

Chopard L.U.C XPS Twist QF – Most elegant dress watch of the fair, thin, original, different, sustainable gold, limited series of 250 pieces. A homerun!

Schwarz Etienne Ode to the seventies – Psychedelic enamel grand feu dial. Haute horlogerie with the SE fun twist. Rare. Love it.

Josh’s picks:

Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT – Say what you will about Hublot, but damn did they do something cool this year! Jean-Claude Biver and Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe hosted a splashy Hublot x Ferrari themed press conference which saw a Ferrari drive on stage and a speech from the Scuderia’s new F1 chief Mattia Binotto. Plus the new Classic Fusion Ferrari GT features a case shape unlike anything Hublot has done before!

Breitling Airlines Editions – While it was “technically” released prior to Baselworld, Breitling’s new Navitimer Airlines Editions are retro-chic! From all of the color waves available, I would go with the Pan Am version.

Oris Clean Ocean Limited Edition – So many brands focus on conservation and environmental causes purely as a marketing ploy. Not Oris! Year after year, this humble brand put their money where their mouths are. This year was no different, with the introduction of the Clean Ocean Limited Edition series. A great watch for a great cause! With proceeds going to help clean up the scourge of plastic in our world’s oceans. Hell, even some of the casebacks have portions of recovered plastic. To top it off, Oris is shifting more and more of watch boxes to recyclable cardboard or algae-based plastic boxes.

Parting thoughts

We were all pretty anxious to see what this year’s edition would look like. We were happy to see that despite the apparent decline, the mother ship ethos that Baselworld represents, is still very much alive and kicking. In the coming months, a lot of big names are going to announce their 2020 participation or defections. It is a crucial time. We are confident the fair's relevancy has been confirmed, provided some much-needed adaptations are truly made…and we are not speaking of the sausages, hotel rates or menus prices either. Those are here to stay, it seems. #Savebaselworld

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell & Pierre Vogel)

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