1) All the watch industry’s world leaders together in one place
Whether it’s the watch brands most prized by collectors – Patek Philippe and Rolex (the number one watch brand worldwide) – or groups, including the leading luxury group, LVMH (whose brands Bulgari, Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith face off at the entrance to Hall 1), and the top watch group, Swatch Group (whose brands are gathered together at the centre of Hall 1), they certainly draw visitors’ attention. Their presence also ensures that the fair remains attractive for all the brands on the periphery.
2) 650 brands, 6 days
Thousands of watches, for every taste and every pocket (from a few dozen francs to a few million, for the high jewellery watches), fill the showcases of the hundreds of exhibitors in Baselworld’s three halls. And then there’s “off Baselworld”; some watchmakers prefer to display their wares in hotels outside the fair, often for budget reasons, but sometimes just because it’s more personal. The choice is mind-blowing, and Baselworld’s reduced footprint of six days is barely enough for the professionals. But if all you’re after is some window-shopping and a tour of the main exhibits, particularly if you focus on just your favourite brands, you can do it in a day.
Patek Philippe booth at Baselworld © Baselworld
3) Stunning architecture
Both inside and out, the impressive architecture is a feast for the senses. The venue was completely renovated in 2013 by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron (who also designed the new Tate Modern), and is a monumental work of art in its own right (141,000 m2). The immense faceted light well over the foyer looks like something from a science fiction film, and keeps shutters clicking day and night. Inside Hall 1, watch companies invest millions of francs in their booths, to ensure they are a faithful reflection of the brand values and image. The result is frequently breathtaking, and ensures an extraordinarily diverse spectacle. The booths of Breitling, Bulgari, Chanel and Patek Philippe Watches – Nautilus Mens Stainless Steel often deserve a special mention.
Chanel booth at Baselworld © Baselworld
4) World firsts
While the setting certainly makes a statement, content is still king. The watch brands also compete to demonstrate their technical know-how. After all, what could be better than a world première, unveiled at Baselworld, to show the world that your watches are some of the most high-performance timepieces in existence? But innovation is not the sole preserve of world leaders, and creativity comes in all sizes. Carl F. Bucherer and Jacob & Co. have also announced that they will be presenting new watches with cutting-edge features. If you can’t visit the fair in person you can always read about them on WorldTempus.
5) Discover the trends
Such a concentration of exhibitors and industry heavyweights obviously provides an unparalleled opportunity to observe the major trends in the sector. Some initial impressions from the SIHH (which brings together 35 brands in January) will no doubt be confirmed, while last year’s vogues will either be magnified or definitively laid to rest. At Baselworld 2018 we can expect to see a strengthening focus on classical styling, a reduction in the number of references offered by each brand, and at the same time, some extreme flagship models. And, if a particular watch collection is selling well, clients can now order it in a range of different materials, colours, case sizes, with a choice of straps and dials. TAG Heuer and Breguet both offer this possibility.
6) Make friends with the brands
With the majority of brands hosting events for their best clients and the media at their booths (usually invitation-only), the accessibility of the booths is often inversely proportional to the size of the company. On the other hand, exhibitors looking to raise their profile and keen to talk to visitors can be more inclined to open their doors and their display cases. A relatively relaxed atmosphere reigns in the Les Ateliers area on the first floor of Hall 1, where niche brands and artisans gather to share their enthusiasm, and the boss can often be found there in person. Hall 2, which features a more eclectic mix of exhibitors, can also be a friendly place to hang out. Some of the more established watchmakers can demonstrate a willingness to reach out to the public (and give fans more personal contact with the brands). Zenith’s booth, for instance, is very welcoming, and offers the general public an amazing interactive experience.
7) Draw up your Christmas list in advance
There are advantages to having a preview at Baselworld. Not only can you can be one of the first people to reserve a watch, you also have plenty of time to make the necessary financial adjustments for your purchase. The models presented in Basel are generally delivered in the summer or autumn, which means there’s time to try that beauty in the shop one last time before adding it to your Christmas list.
8) Chat to the watch community
Swarming around the 650 brands holed up in the hive of Baselworld for the week are all the actors involved in the watch world: designers, distributors, accessory makers, media representatives and event organisers. Every chance meeting could be decisive, and after-hours activities are at least as important as the formal scheduled meetings for making things happen. Every evening, the café terraces around the fair become speed-dating venues, and the seeds of many a promising project are sown over drinks at the iconic Hotel des Trois Rois, with its gastronomic Cheval Blanc restaurant (three Michelin stars and 19 Gault & Millau points).
Hôtel Les Trois Rois, Basel
The column wheel is hidden under an extremely polished cap as seen on the picture directly over. It’s an eccentric cap that permits the fine-tuning of the above clutch — as you can see, there is a somewhat beautifully curved arm that connects both meshing wheels together with the pillar wheel itself. When the chronograph’s beginning pusher is engaged, the pillar wheel below the cap rotates, hence falling this arm between the pillar wheel’s beams, therefore transferring the second of the two driving wheels slightly so that it starts to mesh together with the wheel at the center. The distance traveled by this arm needs painstaking fine-tuning, something this cap would be to aid with — though I would still prefer to find a well-working chronograph having an exposed column wheel. I think that’s enough column wheel talk for the day.The beauty of a hand-wound chronograph is you get to have the eye-candy. There is not a fiddly rotor constantly in the way. Power reserve of the CH 29-535 PS is at least 65 hours, permitting the Gyromax balance and Breguet-style hairspring to perform their 4Hz ballet for well over two days. Sixty-five hours is sufficient to produce the 5170P final from Friday evening until Monday morning — a feat every luxury watch wider than 36mm if provide.All the functionality aside, the 29-535 is so beautiful, I would go so far as to say it’s a must have in every collector’s career. Not necessarily a lifetime keeper, but a benchmark for each modern high-end chronograph. None should be a replica of this, don’t get me wrong, but any modifications done to this design and these proportions should be supported by solid reasons — enhanced functionality, greater performance, etc.. Few motions fuss with proportions, let alone proportions contrary to case size, but here things are just perfect. Even the massive balance wheel seen at Patek chronographs of old surely add a more customary flair, but if you would like contemporary frequency and balance wheel layout, you have to take a smaller balance as a sensible compromise.
9) Baselworld, not what it used to be?
Baselworld has evolved considerably since the first event was staged in 1917. Last year marked a major transition, with the number of exhibitors falling by 50%. Many suppliers have chosen to move to other premises; big names including Hermès, Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux have opted for the SIHH; and others focus on their own travelling exhibitions. With the digital tsunami and changes in customer behaviour, some brands have chosen to reallocate their marketing budgets, and are staying away from fairs altogether. Many exhibitor contracts expire this year, so it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ll be back in 2019. Baselworld CEO Sylvie Ritter is confident. She has introduced an innovative chatbot, Baselworld Live News, to convey the brands’ messages to clients. Whatever the case, a visit to Baselworld 2018 will guarantee that you experience what will no doubt be a decisive moment in watch industry history.
10) Free copy of GMT for every visitor
As each year since 2000, GMT Magazine is bringing out a special Baselworld edition on the first day of the fair, which is available from newsagents and from the WorldTempus online shop. This year, Baselworld and GMT have come together to offer all visitors free access to the digital version of the magazine throughout the duration of the fair, from the social media hub of the Baselworld website. For everyone else, it is still available from all the usual outlets, and of course on gmtmag.com.
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