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Baselworld 2017 Baselworld is the world's biggest exhibition dedicated to watches and jewellery. It is held annually at the exhibition centre in the Swiss city of Basel, which borders directly with France and Germany.

Baselworld 2017 1/2 - The empire (of watches and jewellery) strikes back

Baselworld 2017 1/2 The empire (of watches and jewellery) strikes back

Times are changing, and Baselworld is too! The watch industry’s Disney World celebrates its centenary, and proves it’s still got what it takes.

Baselworld holds the world record for the highest ratio of product size (just a few square centimetres) to booth size (up to 1,500 m2, over three or four levels). These incredibly elaborate constructions are worth a visit in themselves. No other industry invests so much in designing and creating such sumptuous booths: a giant aquarium built above the reception area; a Formula 1 racing car mounted on a wall; a river of diamonds covering the partitions; a complete zen garden around the outside of a booth. And then there’s the gaggle of Hollywood stars, recording artists, top athletes and fashion icons holding court in the brand “embassies”, discreetly cordoned off behind security barriers. With around 150,000 visitors expected to attend between 23 and 30 March 2017, security is a major issue. All the more so when you bear in mind that the most expensive item on display last year was worth 55 million francs. When the fair opens its doors to the public, on the Thursday after press day, a member of the Swiss Federal Council will cut the ribbon – this year the Vice-President of the Federal Council, Alain Berset. Mr Berset knows his watches, and he endeared himself to the watchmaking community at the award ceremony of the 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.

What happens in Basel...

All this is the reason some exhibitors (with or without the aid of good food, good wine and good company) like to say that, “What happens in Baselworld stays in Baselworld.” The number of exhibitors tends to remain around 1500, come hell or high water, spread around various different halls covering a total of 140,000 m2 of exhibition space. The entire industry is present, both upstream and downstream of the watch and jewellery producers themselves. It’s a gold mine for René Weber, senior analyst of Vontobel Bank and author of the famous annual Vontobel Watch Report, who spends three days there, talking to company executives and major retailers. While there are other watch and jewellery fairs, in the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and even in Switzerland, the overwhelming domination of Baselworld is unique. As organiser MCH Swiss Exhibitions quite rightly points out: “The strength of Baselworld lies in its ability to bring together a world industry in a single place. The fair is delighted to be able to offer this concentration, and is proud of its ability to adapt to the needs of the industry.” But to listen to the brands that go there, it’s the industry that adapts to Baselworld, in the sense that the fair has become crucial to all players in the watch industry. Not only do retailers from every continent come to place their orders, the fair also brings in the media (4,000 of them!). WorldTempus is proud to be one of just three websites authorised to broadcast the opening press conference live, at 11 o’clock on Wednesday 22 March.

Follow Baselworld 2017 on http://en.worldtempus.com/feature/baselworld-2017-32