So, here we are, the final build-up to what is, or quite possibly, was, the biggest watch and jewellery show on the planet. Tracing its roots back to 1917, Baselworld has for a long time dominated the scene for watchmakers, with an average of over two thousand exhibitors cramming themselves into the show spaces at Messe Basel, in the city of Basel, Switzerland. However, things there are not as they once were. Although attendance remained quite buoyant, with just 650 exhibitors at the Baselworld show in 2018, some nervous organisers are running around and trying desperately to force a smile.
Last year the Swatch Group announced that it was leaving Baselworld altogether, taking with it 17 exhibiting brands and some of the most prominent and most influential makes including but not limited to Omega, Blancpain, Breguet, Harry Winston and Longines. The watch world’s version of Brexit. Although we are still unaware of Swatch’s intentions with its new strategy it is possible it will include its own shows, digital media, or perhaps something entirely new.
However, despite this loss, Baselworld still goes on. And while the Swatch Group was the largest exhibitor there, the other big four players (Rolex, Chopard, Patek Philippe and LVMH) have all announced that they have no plans of setting sail and going it alone, for now.
With an undoubtedly high loss of exhibitors, the managing firm of Baselworld MCH will have to pull its finger out to get people back in love with the annual show. The current onslaught of confidence-building emails and press reports can only go so far, with punters wondering why they should still make the yearly travel from across the globe to Basel. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. While the bigger brands fuss it out over details and differences of opinion with the show’s management, the newer companies still use the show as a fantastic springboard into business. It seems then that having a stand there still counts.
So, what exactly can we expect to see this year? Undoubtedly, Rolex being the largest maker of both hype and luxury watches, will kick up a storm with some new models. If you haven’t seen their website, the front page is already hard at work showing us as little as possible. Whatever it is, it’s some kind of sports watch, and whether that’s a rework of the Submariner which I don’t feel we need or the ever elusive Coke GMT Master 2 which we do need a lot (hint hint), we’ll need to wait and see.
Just like Rolex, Patek Philippe has been notably quiet about its watches this year. We have almost no idea what the renowned watchmaker has in store, hopefully, though it won’t have a mile long waitlist, though it most likely will. Perhaps a new complication for the Aquanaut line or the return of their Advanced Research watches, which are often regarded as some of the finest examples of horology today assuming that most Pateks aren’t held in that regard.
We’ve already shown you a couple of highlights from LVMH’s brands, the chief among which being Zenith’s Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Silver watch which I’ve written about here. Don’t forget, as well, that Zenith still has its new oscillator based watch which was previously a limited edition with a continuously wobbling dial. We’re waiting to see whether that will appear anywhere, in my case I hope we see it on the back of the watch where it’s more calming.
Finally, Chopard, one of the biggest players there, has already shown us a few of the new watches it has in store. A particular favourite of mine is the new L.U.C Flying Tourbillon watch. Though, I also know there is a new
Race Edition of the Mille Miglia which we’ll be bringing you soon, and it’s pretty awesome if you ask me (I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t).
So, how long do we have to wait for Baselworld? Well, it starts this Thursday, that’s the 21st of March. Unusually, it runs over the weekend and finishes the following Tuesday. When it returns next year, it’ll do so in coordination with SIHH and will return in April time. What it will hold then, nobody is sure. Whether it will receive that shakeup that was needed, the lack of which prompted Swatch to leave in the first place, we don’t know. In some ways, I’m not sure anyone knows, even at MCH.