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Watchmakers and jewellers flaunt their wares in Basel

Basel's watch fair is expected to attract more visitors than ever

Opulence and ostentation are the order of the day in Basel as the city hosts its annual watch and jewellery show. The event has the "Who's Who" of the industries showing off their latest glittering products and innovations.

"Basel 2001" is the world top watch and jewellery show, offering a stunning display of the latest trends from watch and jewellery manufacturers, as well as the best offerings of diamonds, gemstones, pearls, and watch parts and components.

The stage is set for an excellent show, according to general manager René Kamm. "Sales of both watches and jewellery reached record levels in the year 2000," he said.

"This, coupled with excellent results especially in the sale of luxury watches and jewellery over the festive season, means that stocks worldwide are currently low, but confidence and figures are high."

The Swiss watch industry had an exceptional year in 2000, with exports breaking through the "magic" SFr10 billion ($5.92 billion) mark, a 14.4 per cent increase over the previous year.

While Swiss watch manufacturers could hardly have imagined a better start to the third millennium, they expect 2001 to be a year of consolidation.

The president of the exhibitors' committee, Jacques Duchêne, says Basel is far more than just a trade show. "It's an authentic national institution, an important feature of the Swiss landscape," he said.

"It is an international meeting place which generates a considerable volume of business. We must nevertheless remain vigilant, because it is a fact of life that economic change is very rapid."

The pace of growth in watch and jewellery businesses is evidenced by the acute shortage of space for the show and its exhibitors and visitors. Some are lodging overnight in cruise ships moored on the River Rhine.

"Space is a word that sends a shudder down the collective spine of the show management," said Duchêne.

To solve the problem, the management has decided that from 2003, the Related Industries sector will be transferred to Zurich.

Although Duchêne says this might cause "some problems", he believes the show has no choice. "Without a clear vision of the way the events should be run in the future, there is a danger that the show will lose its effectiveness and vitality," he said.

There has never before been such demand for space at the show. Jewellery producers in particular have expanded their exhibits in order to show off their brands, as the industry has become increasingly aware of the value of branding.

The 80,000 visitors from more than 100 countries will probably forget the space problem as they view the best that the industry has to offer from March 22-29. There is no shortage of products to see because Basel has 2,301 exhibitors from more than 40 countries.

General manager, Kamm, says Basel 2001 is definitely the place to show off one's wares. "Our main concern as show organisers is to give our exhibitors the best possible showcase to develop their image within the trade and not to forget to do excellent business with all major international markets," he said.

by Robert Brookes


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