Watchmakers cash in at Basel fair

The right time, but what about the price? Keystone

The organisers of Baselworld, Switzerland’s leading annual watch and jewellery fair, say they are "extremely satisfied" with business at this year’s event.

This content was published on April 7, 2005

Visitor numbers were up on last year at the fair which attracted more than 2,000 exhibitors from 45 countries.

The president of the Swiss exhibitors’ committee, François Thiébaud, said business was booming, particularly in the luxury sector.

"Last year was a very good year for the watch industry as we exported more than SFr11 billion ($9.17 billion), and we can see that this year the trend keeps going up. Certainly this fair has been the best since 2000," he told swissinfo on Thursday.

The organisers fell only a few hundred short of their target of 90,000 visitors this year.

"It’s impressive to see that every year we have an increase in both the number of visitors and journalists," Thiébaud commented.

Bumper crop

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry has forecast that it expects 2005 to yield a bumper crop, with exports up by between six and seven per cent over last year.

But now that the world showcase for watches and jewellery is over, Thiébaud says he would not be surprised if growth is closer to ten per cent this year.

What seems to have been dominating the fair has been interest in the prestige segment, which means mechanical watches featuring complications.

"Only Switzerland is producing at the prestige level, above SFr10,000. There is nobody else, and there are more and more collectors, more and more consumers who are looking for this type of product."

"I must say that all the prestigious brands are increasing their market share," Thiébaud said.

Wonderful business

Thiébaud added that in the upper segment of the Swatch Group, the Breguet, Blancpain, Jacquet Droz and Glashütte brands had all done "wonderful business".

As head of Tissot in the mid-range of the Swatch Group, Thiébaud commented that his own brand was also "very, very satisfied" with business.

"Apart from Swatch, with two million pieces we are by far the number one in terms of volume around the globe."

"The sales that we generated after the fourth day were already ahead of last year," he said.

While Baselworld has closed its doors, another show for watch buyers is continuing in Geneva.

The exhibition by the Richemont group and its allies, featuring such luxury brand names as Cartier, Piaget, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Vacheron Constantin, ends on Sunday.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The 33rd World Watch and Jewellery Show, Baselworld, took place between March 31 and April 7.
More than 2,000 companies from 45 countries exhibited at the show.
Attendance was up 0.4% to 89,700 visitors this year.

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