Last week’s largest and most important watch and jewelry exhibition, Baselworld 2018 (which ran from March 22 through March 27), ended on a high note for brands, retailers, and watch and jewelry lovers. Because the number of exhibitors was down by about 600 from the previous year, many industry pundits wondered if the foot traffic and the excitement about products would be down as well. It wasn’t. In fact, not only was the show well attended, but the new watch and jewelry unveilings were actually exhilarating. Here is an insider’s look at what attending the crazy, wild, and wonderful Baselworld show is really all about.
Despite (or maybe because of) all of the hoopla and hurrah that defines Baselworld, the fair can be an exhausting experience for journalists who work tirelessly to find all the right products and stories to report on. Having attended the show for decades, I hold myself to a higher standard. I set goals to always meet at least two to three new brands and to seek out the most intriguing and interesting interviews to bring to the forefront.
Like retailers, bloggers, and other journalists, my schedule is rather grueling, with more than a dozen appointments packed into each day. There are also scheduled cocktails, dinners, and even breakfast meetings (there is never any time for lunch). The standard wake-up alarm is 6:30 am, and most nights don’t really end until the wee hours of the next morning. The schedule continues for six straight days: breakneck speeds and exhilarating experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Behind the Scenes at Baselworld
Even though I have been a wordsmith for several decades, crafting an article on working Baselworld is no easy feat. The truth is that this exhibition is like a journey through Epcot or Disney World – with individual buildings, cities, countries and their innovations on display.
For a watch or jewelry lover, being at the show is like being a kid in a candy store – delightfully tantalizing treats lure you in with each glance. Turn away from the colorful jelly beans you see and you find yourself staring at chocolate or even ice cream. Everywhere you look, you are mesmerized by shimmering diamonds, colored gemstones, and bold three-dimensional timepieces that often are “out of this world” when it comes to design and technology. It is here that brands unveil pieces that have been years in the design, research and development stages.
Most visitors arrive at the “Messeplatz”—the exhibition space that houses Baselworld—by tram. One step off the highly efficient Swiss green and yellow trams and the excitement begins. On one side of the Messeplatz is the not-so-innovatively-named building that is Hall 1, a multi-floored master structure that houses hundreds of watch brands. It is attached via a series of skywalks to other buildings (not-so-innovatively-named Halls 2, 3 and 4), wherein hundreds of jewelry brands showcase their wares.
Hall 1 may be the biggest candy store on the property, and as such, the world’s finest watch brands—from Rolex to Omega, Breitling, TAG Heuer, Bulgari, Chanel and more—build elaborate structures to display their watches in full glory. Rolex, for instance, has a two-story tall building that connects with sister-brand Tudor’s two-story exhibit space. Interiors, for those who can get inside, boast lavish flower arrangements, leather-couched seating areas and more. Patek Philippe, for instance, has a three-story-tall glass and wood structure that allows for viewing from any outside angle. The brand even has a two-floor video screen where it shows product videos on continuous loop.
Some brands bring in automobiles for display, while others have moon rovers, spaceships and even planes that underscore their affiliations with sports, aeronautics, and other fields. Adding to the theme-park atmosphere are live performances and after-hour cocktail parties where celebrities and sports stars from all over the world mingle with visitors. This year alone, we witnessed world-class soccer teams playing a real match at a Hublot event, music legend Nile Rodgers leading a performance at the Bulova booth, and actor Colin Firth speaking with Chopard about sustainable mining and materials.
Daily Doses of Glitz, Glamour, and Greatness
Because this is the biggest international luxury watch and jewelry show, many brands use it as the perfect platform for grand announcements. This year, Chopard announced that it would be moving 100 percent to sustainable and ethical jewelry, sourcing Ethical Gold and Fairmined Gold for its watches and jewels. This is a huge and difficult path for a luxury brand to pursue, but, in today’s world, we applaud the brand for not taking the easy way to luxury and, instead, being conscientious.
Other brands looking to remain relevant in today’s world announced their desire to blend digital technology with traditional Swiss watchmaking and unveiled new-generation smartwatches. Frederique Constant and Hublot both made significant strides in this realm, and we will bring you those stories soon, as well.
In addition to the experiences and the relationships we all share and forge at Baselworld, this is the proving ground for innovation, technology and trendsetting. The daily doses of watches and jewelry, of glitz and glamour that we experience are intoxicating. We see a dizzying array of everything from the sublime to the superb and from the basic to the brilliant. I look forward to bringing you the best trends of Baselworld in the coming weeks: wild, wonderful and crazy trends that will make their way to wrists, necks, fingers and more later this year.