By Michelle Graff
Brands under the Movado group umbrella are among the 1,500 exhibitors at the 2014 edition of Baselworld, which opens Thursday in Switzerland.
Basel--The trees are in early bloom, the white asparagus is coming in and the small Swiss town of Basel is buzzing once again for the annual Baselworld trade show, which has some company this year.

Baselworld is considered one of the world’s preeminent shows for watch brands, particularly Swiss- made brands, to display their new collections and latest movement innovations.

In an interview with National Jeweler following a pre-show press conference held Wednesday, Baselworld Managing Director Sylvia Ritter said Baselworld has approximately 1,400 exhibitors displaying a total of 1,500 brands this year, “about the same” as it had in 2013.

Last year, the Swiss trade show underwent a $454.9 million makeover that left it with a smaller but more modern space and 24 percent fewer exhibitors as compared with 2012.  Show organizers said they were emphasizing “quality over quantity,” and reiterated the same as the 2014 show opened. 

“We really tried to stabilize the number of exhibitors,” Ritter said Wednesday.

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While it is still a major event in the industry, particularly as a showcase for the latest Swiss-made mechanical watches, Baselworld is not the only show in town this year.

The Rapaport Group is hosting its first trade show in the Swiss city, the Diamond Show, which is taking place Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday at the Markthalle building, located near Basel’s SBB train station not far from Baselworld. (The show is closed Saturday for religious observances.)

The Diamond Show is open to the jewelry trade, private investors and collectors, and includes polished stones from 60 manufacturers and dealers as well as a special salon for fancy color diamonds.

RELATED CONENT: Rapaport to host diamond trade show in Basel

In nearby Freiburg, Germany, there is another first: UBM Asia is hosting its inaugural European show, the European Jewellery & Gem Fair. Freiburg is 30 minutes from Basel, and show organizers are providing shuttle bus service between the two cities throughout the fair, which starts Monday and runs for four days.

As Baselworld prepared to open Wednesday, show organizers shared 2013 export data for the Swiss watch industry as a whole, which has seen demand flatline following the massive year-over-year gains posted in 2011 and 2012, as the industry recovered from the global recession.

In 2013, Swiss watch exports increased 2 percent year-over-year in value terms, from CHF 21.4 billion ($24.17 billion) in 2012 to CHF 21.8 billion ($24.62 billion) in 2013, but fell 4 percent in volume terms.

Demand dropped in both Hong Kong and China--markets, show organizers emphasized during Wednesday’s press conference, that will play a major role in the future of the Swiss watch industry--but was up slightly in the United States, rising 2 percent year-over-year.

Asia is the Swiss watch industry’s largest market by far, gobbling up 52 percent of exports in 2013, compared with 31 percent by Europe and 14 percent in the Americas.

The week-long Baselworld show begins Thursday in Switzerland.  

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