BASEL, Switzerland — Reflecting uncertainty in the Swiss watch industry, tensions bubbled under the surface of this year’s subdued edition of the Baselworld fair. Generations mingled, with a number of labels offering fresh takes on classic models while a new crop of managers pushed tentatively into the future, roping in technology to build instruments for sport — handy on the wrist, tied to the smartphone.
Organizers, who are laying the groundwork for a different strategy and have moved the dates next year to coincide with the end of Geneva-based Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie — in a coordinated effort with the rival show — had flagged it as a transitional year.
But transitions tend to be awkward, and ongoing speculation about who will take part in the future cast a cloud over the event, even if this show was anchored by a roster of industry heavyweights — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton labels Bulgari, Hublot, Zenith and Tag Heuer, along with the sector’s leading brand Rolex, Patek Philippe and Chanel.
Baselworld’s central plaza
Crowds were thinner, with visitor numbers down 22 percent to 81,200 and a similar drop in exhibitors to 520, felt by the extra space left by the departure of Swatch Group labels,