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Brand Profiles

After $455M makeover, Baselworld to begin


Basel--Baselworld opens Thursday in its new $454.9 million home, with fewer exhibitors in a smaller space but a look that is, according to show organizers, more modern.

“Quality not quantity” was what Baselworld executives emphasized at the show’s opening press conference, held Wednesday morning at the Congress Center Basel, across the street from the exhibition space.

This year, a total of 1,460 companies are set to exhibit at the show, down 24 percent from 1,815 last year.

Notably absent among them is David Yurman. News surfaced in December that the popular U.S.-based jewelry brand had opted to withdraw from the show this year after a reportedly tense exchange with organizers.

In addition to the redesign, the show also gave its halls, which previously had names such as the “Hall of Dreams,” and the “Hall of Sensations,” more simplified monikers. Hall 1 is for global brands, or watch and jewelry brands with worldwide reach. Hall 2 is for international brands, or brands that sell in a number of countries but don’t have quite the global reach as those brands in Hall 1.

Hall 3 is for jewelry containing precious and semi-precious stones and pearls, while Hall 4 is for the machine and supply industry.

“The 2013 edition of the ... show... represents a further milestone in the history of Baselworld. We promised you a new era and here we are,” show Managing Director Sylvia said during the press conference.

Though the show includes both watches and jewelry, Baselworld is a timepiece-centric show--an executive from one luxury brand described it as “the new year of the watch industry”--that brands anticipate as a stage for their latest innovations.

Francois ThiÉbaud, who heads the committee of Swiss exhibitors at the show and is a member of the board of watch giant Swatch Group, said this year he expects watches with many complications as well as those with gold, diamonds and—interestingly--pearls, to dominate the trends.

He also said he anticipates watches to have a neo-classical look. Neo-classical references the resurgence in use of styles from Ancient Greek and Ancient Rome in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

The anticipation that brands will display more complicated watches and embrace the use of gold and precious stones makes sense for the Swiss watch industry, which has seen sales of higher-price watches grow at a faster pace than watches with a lower price point.

It also mirrors what a number of retailers noted in National Jeweler’s year-end survey; that it was the better watch brands, such as Rolex and Patek Philippe, that were their best-sellers over the holiday season.

Baselworld opens Thursday and continues through May 2 in Switzerland.