ZURICH: The world’s biggest watch fair opened this week in Basel, offering an industry showcase for the world’s most extravagant, rare and complex time pieces. The 42nd edition of Baselworld, which takes place in the northern Swiss city, is expected to draw some 100,000 visitors. Nearly 1,500 exhibitors, including Swatch and other leading watch brands like Rolex, Breguet and Omega, will be there, offering up all different styles for all different budgets and setting the trends for contemporary watches.
There is everything from affordable plastic sports watches to intricately detailed mechanic time pieces that can be priced well above the $1 million mark.
Hublot, a brand belonging to French luxury group LVMH, told AFP it would unveil a watch with a face made of osmium crystal, a new material. Like other prestige brands, Hublot is in a race to offer collectors exclusive models not dangling from every wrist.
Hublot has teamed up with a Swiss scientific team to develop a new way to work with osminum – a rare metal in the platinum family that when crystallized has a rare shine to it, the brand said.
And marketplace observers descend on the fair for guidance on the hottest trends for the coming year.
Jerome Bloch, head of men’s fashion at Parisian trend agency NellyRodi, for instance, expects to see a resurgence of 1970s looks.
Until recently, the retro side of watch fashion was mainly inspired by the 1950s, but Bloch said the inspiration was moving forward a few decades as those born in the 1970s hit their 40s.
“They want their father’s watch, but with some upgrades to make it a bit more modern,” he told AFP.
Financial analysts too follow the hustle and bustle at Baselworld closely as they attempt to decipher the health of the global luxury market.
Swiss watchmakers, especially in the high-end segment, have been hard-hit by a drop in demand in China, their biggest market which has driven breathtaking growth in the industry for several years.
But the bonanza came to a screeching halt last year as Beijing attempted to rein in corruption, including bans on extravagant gifts in business settings.
The new, more austere reality for the luxury brands should leave its mark not only on corporate finance but also on watch designs.
“I would very be surprised to see a resurgence of the bling-bling era,” Cox said.
The analyst nonetheless expects to see industry growth of around 8 percent this year, as exports to Swiss watchmakers’ biggest market Hong Kong appeared set to stabilize.
At Baselworld – also devoted to jewelry – exhibitors also indulge in cut-throat competition on the marketing front to grab attention for their new offerings amid the multitude of sparkling gems and flashing lights.
With the Easter holidays fast approaching, Geneva jeweler Shawish is set to present its own version of hollowed-out chocolate egg surprises popular among children, with a very adult twist:
Inside the fine, Swiss milk chocolate shell is not a plastic toy, but one of Shawish’s latest jewel creations.
Less than three months from the start of the World Cup in Brazil, Baselworld will also be showcasing its share of football related themes.
Swiss watchmaker Jeanrichard, which recently partnered with British club Arsenal FC, will bring in French football great Robert Pires to unveil the limited editions it has created for the club.
Baselworld is the most important event of the year for the global watch industry, with retailers making the lion share of their annual orders there.