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Baselworld and Watches & Wonders -  What to expect at the two fairs

Baselworld and Watches & Wonders What to expect at the two fairs

One hopes to become an “experiential platform”, the other a “stage for expression”. Baselworld and the watch fair formerly known as the SIHH (now Watches & Wonders), coming together on the calendar with less than 12 hours separating them, are going all out to differentiate themselves.

Baselworld upgrades to V2

The Basel fair is undergoing a complete transformation. After several years of declining participation – in terms of both watch brands and visitors – Michel Loris-Melikoff has embarked upon a four-year reconstruction plan (due to complete in 2024). The aim is to make the fair more digital and more affordable, to bring the brands back and to connect the different members of the watch and jewellery industry. “We want to attract both professional players and the general public,” he explains. “We have developed a central concierge service which gives all exhibitors and visitors access to a single office to handle all their flight, accommodation and transport needs.”

 What to expect at Baselworld and 
Watches & Wonders

Michel Loris-Melikoff, CEO of Baselworld © Baselworld

In the famous Hall 1.0, a central village – left vacant by the withdrawal of the Swatch Group – will accommodate “islands” hosting from one to three brands. These pre-built, customisable booths will give medium-sized businesses the opportunity to showcase their wares just a few metres from Rolex, Patek Philippe, TAG Heuer, Bulgari and Chopard, the formidable institutions that are the main draw for the great majority of the 80,000 visitors that attend each year. These visitors may not enjoy the same level of attention from the part of Basel’s hoteliers and restaurateurs.

Despite the best efforts of Michel Loris-Melikoff, very few have signed up to his “fair price charter”, which is intended to rein in the price hikes that have become an inevitable accompaniment to the fair. While Baselworld will offer lower entrance fees than ever (CHF 45 per day, or CHF 110 for the whole thing), external distractions could put the portfolio at risk once again. “I was perhaps a little too optimistic on this point,” Michel Loris-Melikoff admits. “But I am hopeful that, with the success of our centralised concierge service, we’ll get most people on board. Even before 1st January, 1200 rooms had already been reserved through our system.”

 What to expect at the two fairs

Les Ateliers © Baselword

Geneva, a trio of transformations

We can no longer call it the SIHH: the fair celebrating its 30th anniversary this year is henceforth known as Watches & Wonders. That’s the first and most visible change. The new name creates a more obvious alignment between the Geneva fair and the Miami event in February.

 What to expect at Baselworld and 
Watches & Wonders

SIHH 2019 © Watches & Wonders

Second: the event will be expanding outside of the walls of Palexpo. The “In the city” programme will extend into Geneva, showcasing the city’s watchmaking heritage through conferences, workshop visits, presentations, exhibitions, etc. “Our aim is no longer to be just a trade fair; we want to open up to end customers and the general public,” explains Fabienne Lupo, chair of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, which organises the fair.  “It’s what the brands have clearly requested, and this programme supports that.”

 What to expect at Baselworld and 
Watches & Wonders

SIHH 2019 © Watches & Wonders

And finally, Watches & Wonders will offer a number of new features inside its traditional venue. It will now be open to the general public every day (the entrance fee of CHF 300 grants access to all the services available at the fair). Some brands previously found in the Carré des Horlogers have relocated to the central aisles (H. Moser & Cie, MB&F). Other brands will be exhibiting for the first time: Arnold & Son, Cecil Purnell, Fabergé, Rebellion, Rudis Sylva. A total of 31 brands will be present at Watches & Wonders. And finally the Lab, dedicated to watch innovation and startups, will feature an even wider range of innovative companies selected in partnership with the EPFL.

 What to expect at Baselworld and 
Watches & Wonders

SIHH 2019 © Watches & Wonders

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