10 Facts about Baselworld Watches
Basel watch fair, 1947
The Basel Jewelery and Watch Fair will celebrate its 101st anniversary this year. The starting point from which the countdown of its centuries-old history is introduced is April 15, 1917. It was on this day that the first national industrial exhibition Schweizer Mustermesse Basel (MUBA) opened in Switzerland.
To accommodate 831 representatives of the chemical, transport, shipping and banking industries on six thousand square meters, the city council chose a casino premises: a decision at that time quite extravagant, but nevertheless fully justified itself.
Basel watch fair, 1941
t is curious that only 29 companies (including such brands as Tissot, Longines, and Ulysse Nardin) represented the jewelry and watch segment. It is also worth noting that the exposition from the first days of its work was not closed, but public. Have you got your admission ticket? – Welcome!
- Permanent registration
Today, anyone can get to the Basel Expo Center even with their eyes closed – after all, it is located just a few tram stops from the central railway station.
Exhibition Center Roof: A little blue sky never hurts. Image: arrivalguides.com
The exposition, however, did not find its current address immediately, in 1917, but exactly six years later, when the first buildings began to be erected on Messeplatz, which were later transformed into Hall 1 in its current form.
- Innovation without presentation
Two significant innovative achievements of the mid-1920s – early 1930s at once by the authorship of one of the most popular manufactories in the world did not make a splash at this specialized exhibition.
The fact is that both in 1926 (the release of the first representatives of the family in a waterproof Oyster case) and in 1931 (the world’s first self-winding wristwatch), Rolex had not yet made a final decision on its participation in the fair, considering all the pros and cons are similar to a step up to 1939.
Rolex Oyster (1926), Automatic Rolex Oyster Perpetual (1931)
- International scope
The exhibition was exclusively national in nature until the early 1970s. In 1972, the organizers presented a pass to the ranks of the participants to manufacturers from France, Germany and Great Britain.
A year later, the event began to accept applications from other European brands. Companies from the rest of the world were admitted to the Basel chronometric Mecca only in 1986.
- The name changes, the name changes
The name of the city in relation to the exhibition came out only 66 years after its foundation, when the organizers first used the word “Basel”, adding to it the current year of the exhibition: 1983. The phrase “Baselworld The Watch and Jewelery Show” came into use only in 2003.
- Independent entrance allowed
The stands, which lovers of piece chronometric delights have been visiting with pleasure in recent years, appeared at the exhibition in 1987. This was facilitated by the unification of freedom-loving watchmakers Svend Andersen and Vincent Calabrese into a kind of craft “artel” two years earlier.
Today many people know this community (numbering about forty permanent members and five to seven permanent candidates for membership) under the acronym AHCI, which literally stands for “Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendents” (translated from French – “Academy of independent watchmakers”).
- The art of robbery
The theme of the fair, like no other, has always attracted hunters for easy money: items of watchmaking and jewelry art, in contrast to the same art canvases, due to their small dimensions, looked like easier prey.
On the sidelines to this day, there are stories about those cases when expensive products disappeared from the stands, which (again, according to rumors) were carried out by risky seekers of a better life right on their own wrists.
From official sources, however, you can glean information about much less cunning characters. For example, Internet news feeds can still easily find a story that happened in 2009: a man from among the visitors, grabbing $ 11 million worth of jewelry from a window in an armful of jewelry, tried to escape, probably relying on his mind-blowing speed.
But it was not she who let the runner down, but his own dexterity: while breaking through to the exit, he stumbled, fell and as a result was caught by the police. But in 2011, more inventive attackers made at least $ 8 million in wealth by pocketing several diamonds weighing about 30 carats each. A year later, the authorities announced that they had identified the main organizer of this daring raid. He is internationally wanted and on the run. Judging by the lull that followed, he is still there – and clearly does not live in poverty.
- Russian trace
In 2004, at last, the names of Russian watch manufacturers began to appear among the participants. Visitors to the exhibition had a chance to personally get acquainted with products from such brands as “Chaika”, “Flight” and “Vostok”.
But a real discovery for Baselworld was a resident of St. Petersburg (and, we emphasize, a one hundred percent self-taught!) Константин Чайкин, who, having received the right to be called a member of the AHCI Academy in 2001, came to his first Basel in 2009. Now his name has deservedly acquired worldwide fame.
Konstantin Chaykin Joker, Константин Чайкин Clown
Konstantin was the first compatriot whose work (the incredibly sensational Joker last year) was nominated for the Geneva Golden Arrow in January this year. And the jury of this annual ceremony, as you know, singles out only the brightest of the many talented masters.
- Everything flows, everything changes
The industry, which is conservative by its nature, stands on three pillars (tradition, heritage, perfectionism), nevertheless, it is forced to adapt to the changing needs of customers over time.
Therefore, hand-assembled and decorated mechanical calibers have coexisted for several years with smart technologies, which are being intensively mastered even by some venerable manufactories from the highest chronometric echelon.
If 20 years ago it was difficult to imagine that one of the world’s leading IT giants would appear at the exhibition, today it is not an assumption, but a fact: in March last year, Samsung holding the third generation of the Gear S3 smartwatch reached Switzerland.
- Less does not mean worse
Unfortunately, the economic crisis affected (and quite noticeably) both the scale of the fair and its duration. Judge for yourself: this year it will last five days instead of a full week. No one expects the Palace Pavilion to return to its rightful place.
Layout of Baselworld pavilions in 2018
And the fact that several large industry players decided to change their location and finally move under the roof of the Geneva “Palexpo” does not add optimism. All the more so against the background of the number of declared participants, which is twice less than last year: 650 instead of 1,300! But despite all the obstacles, the exposition is still a landmark event for the часовая промышленность.
We sincerely hope that it will remain so for the next hundred years. And we propose to jointly discuss the results of the exhibition after March 27. And let Baselworld 2018 begin!