In the coming days, you’ll be reading quite a bit about Baselworld. What is Baselworld, exactly? Why is it so important? What happens there? Can I go? For the answers to these and more questions, read on. We’ve put together a list of 10 watch-centric FAQs, complete with images taken inside and outside the main hall, so you’ll have all the basic facts about the huge show that gets under way this week.
1. What is Baselworld?
Baselworld, sometimes called the Basel Fair, is the world’s largest watch-and-jewelry trade show. For 2018, the show runs March 22 to March 27, and as you might guess, it’s in Basel, Switzerland.
2. How big is the show?
In previous years, the show occupied about 1.5 million square feet in several buildings, though it is smaller (and shorter in duration) in 2018. Traditionally, more than 7,000 truckloads of material and goods weighing tens of thousands of tons are delivered from all over the world, with upwards of 20,000 workers taking six weeks to set everything up. This year, about 600 – 700 companies will exhibit at the show — down half from around 1,400 in 2015. In the past, as many as 120,000 guests and 3,600 journalists have attended.
3. Why is Baselworld important? Baselworld is where many of the world’s top watch and jewelry manufacturers launch their new collections. It’s like the Detroit Auto Show or Paris Fashion Week of the watch and jewelry world. Leading fashion magazines send their editors to spot the trends for the coming year, and the watch and jewelry specialty press offer around-the-clock coverage.
4. Which brands are at the show? Leading luxury watch brands exhibiting at Baselworld include Rolex, Omega, TAG Heuer, Breitling, Patek Philippe, and Breguet. Top jewelry and fashion houses with a strong presence in the world of watches such as Chopard, Harry Winston, Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Dior also show their latest creations. Companies that supply manufacturers also exhibit. If you’re wondering why brands like Cartier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Panerai are not attending, they, and several others, have their own show in Geneva called the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH.
5. What happens at Baselworld? The show is first and foremost where buyers for leading retailers meet with brands to see the new collections and place orders for new products. The show also generates tremendous publicity as brands and their PR firms hold press conferences, issue press releases, and meet with editors and journalists. Leading media outlets the world over report on the latest product launches and trends.
6. Is Baselworld open to the public? Yes. You can purchase tickets at the show and in advance online. The cost for the 2018 show is 60 Swiss francs for a one-day ticket, and SF150 for a pass good for the full show. Check the official site for complete details. Note that the SIHH show mentioned above is only open to the public on one day.
7. What will I see at the show? More wristwatches and jewelry that you’ve ever seen in your life, in all price ranges. Established brands exhibit in building-size, multi-story booths, while smaller brands and newcomers are housed in more modest surroundings.
8. Can I buy a watch at the show? Generally speaking, the answer is no. The show is not for retail sales. Watches and jewelry are displayed in glass cases for the public to view, however the staff is not able to remove pieces from cases for you to look at. Members of the trade and press, with pre-arranged appointments, view individual pieces and collections in closed rooms behind tight security.
9. How should I plan my trip? The key is to begin early. The large number of attendees means that nearby hotel accommodations are booked well in advance. Visitors stay as far away as Zurich – about an hour away on the fastest express trains. Because of Basel’s location, many visitors stay in Germany and France, where small towns offer hotels at (relatively) moderate rates. Train service to Basel is very good, though if you like to party, keep in mind that the trains do not run all night.
10. How can I find my way around at the show? The Baselworld organizers offer an excellent free app for Apple, Android and Blackberry devices. It includes exhibitor lists, detailed, zoomable 3D maps, and other valuable information. You can download it for free at the official Baselworld site, and at the app stores.
All images courtesy Baselworld.