With Baselworld just a few weeks away, some critics believe this could be one of its final years. After 100 years, is Baselworld truly done?

If you’re left scratching your head wondering what the hell Baselworld is- it’s THE largest annual trade show featuring who’s who of the watch and jewelry industry. At it’s peak, an average of 100,000 attendees flocked to Basel, Switzerland where the show is held.

The photos are reminiscent of the Wall Street trading floor in NYC, only everyone is patiently waiting to catch a glimpse of the newest luxury watch releases in lieu of clamoring over stock sales.

History of Baselworld

The first Baselworld took place at a casino in Basel circa 1917. In early years, Baselworld was more of a trade show for general Swiss goods, but it proved to be a breakthrough for the wristwatch market. It was originally named Schweizer Mustermesse Basel (MUBA) at the time, and only featured 29 clock and jewelry exhibitors.

As the trade show grew, so did interest from powerhouse watch brands. The 1920’s and 1930s drew participation from Zenith, Patek Philippe, Heuer, and Rolex, and eventually led to a breakaway event for timepieces. This new event was deemed the Basel Fair.

Rolex launched its iconic Submariner from the Basel Fair in 1954, becoming one of the most successful launches in history. Only Swiss brands were allowed to participate, but the Basel Fair was opened to watchmakers from France, Germany, Britain and Italy in 1972.

Baselworld has always been open to the public- from retail buyers to brands, journalists, and consumers. This open event is what separated the trade show from other invite-only shows.

Baselworld attendance exceeded 100k in 2007, but has steadily declined since the 2008 recession.

Baselworld’s Decline

At its peak, Baselworld attracted over 2,000 exhibitors, but the number dropped to 650 in 2018. That was a 50% decrease from the year prior, which drew around 1,300 brands.

Several names dropped out of Baselworld to attend a more exclusive trade show in Geneva, the International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). Girard-Perregau and Hermes pulled out last year, with Swatch and Omega brands most recently departing.

Declining Factors

  • Competing Trade shows– Baselworld was once the Mecca for watch brands to release new product. More eyeballs and media coverage was almost a guaranteed ROI. The addition of other trade shows across Europe has caused a major decrease in attendance.
  • Declining Sales– Online shopping has impacted not only brick and mortar retail stores, but also in-person trade shows.
  • Cost– Many retailers and jewelry buyers are forfeiting Baselworld due to exorbitant flight, hotel, and restaurant fees.
  • Leadership– The communication between Baselworld’s leadership team and exhibitors have been lackluster over the years, and part of the reason many have pulled away. The long time CEO René Kamm resigned in 2018 after Swatch denounced their 2019 Baselworld attendance.

Moving Forward

There is still hope with a new leadership team and initiatives in place.

Salon Internationals de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) and Baselworld announced they will coordinate dates to coincide for the year 2020 and move both shows to the end of April and early May.

This move will hopefully draw more attendees to both shows, instead of being forced to choose between the two.

Baselworld 2019 will unveil updated, state-of-the-art showrooms. One hall will be dedicated to the art of watchmaking, known as Métiers des Horlogers, while another will showcase the best jewelry manufacturers with 240-degree catwalk and LED screens.

Final thoughts

The trade show may be shifting, but we don’t feel Baselworld is done.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on news coming out of the event, and of course will feature the new watches released at this year’s show! We can’t wait to see what innovations Rolex, Patek Philippe, TAG Heuer and Zenith bring to the table.

Related: The Best Watches of Baselworld 2018

Are you in the market for a luxury watch?

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Contact us here for more information, and be sure to follow us on Twitterlike our Facebook page, and see our watch posts on our personal Instagram accounts:

Sergio Nuncio

Jay FreedmanJ

Kiefer Nuncio

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