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Was the Baselworld 2019 the last one and is the future of it a sad story?

9 min read June 18, 2020

Baselworld 2019 - end in a sad story?

As you may already know, Baselworld 2020 is canceled and dearly missed by many watch lovers, as that means missing live exhibitions of many famous watch brands innovations. The list of brands featured in past editions goes as far as you can imagine – talk Patek Philippe, TAG Heuer, Zenith, Chanel, Chopard, Bell & Ross and many more. As we’re waiting for the announced update about the future of Baselworld during the summer, we cannot help but wonder – does this mean Baselworld show will be ended as a sad story?

It may be hard to imagine it, as the history of Baselworld goes far back. Not just in the past, but also in number of brands that grew during its course, as well as numerous, extraordinary watch releases presented during the Baselworld rich history. The excitement only grew with each next show, as the stakes were higher with each following year. Remember just Seiko Baselworld showcase in 2019? A total of 61 Seiko watches were announced and it was almost too hard to grasp it all at once. Here’s a quick overview as a reminder.

 

Baselworld 2019 - Seiko Group Recalls

Grand Seiko at Baselworld 2019

Twelve Grand Seiko watches, Spring Drive updated with hand winding for its 20th anniversary along with two new calibers were only a warm up. Caliber 9R02, which is basically 9R01 with 8-day power reserve, came in watches SBGZ001J – limited to 30 pieces only - and model SBGZ003J. The other caliber was 9R31 along with the watches SBGY002G and SBGY003G – another limited edition of 300 pieces.

Baselworld 2019 Seiko and Grand Seiko exhibition boothsSeiko and Grand Seiko exhibition stands at Baselworld 2019

Other Grand Seiko Baselword 2019 announcements were also celebrating 20th anniversary of Spring Drive, like those limited editions in Grand Seiko Sport line: SBGC230G (100 pieces) and SBGC231G (500 pieces), both with 9R96 GMT chronograph inside, as well as SBGA403G (500 pieces), with 9R15 GMT chronograph movement. 

Then there were ladies’ models, all based on the new caliber 9S27: STGK007G and STGK009G wonderfully packed into stainless steel cases, as well as STGK003J fitted into a case made of 18K white gold, 10K yellow gold case wrapped model STGK004J and 18K rose gold kissed STGK006J.

Baselworld 2019 - New Grand Seiko Watch ModelsGrand Seiko watches released at Baselworld 2019

Seiko Prospex at Baselworld 2019

Naturally, Prospex brought the richest showcase at Baselworld 2019 – and set the bar real high for other diver watches with its 21-model show. First, Seiko continued to recreate its classic diver models – in this case 61MC 022 (6105-8110), so called Captain Willard (also nicknamed ‘Uemura’ in Japan) and released 49 years ago, which now came in shape of limited edition model marked SLA033J1 with caliber 8L35 inside. The original model became especially famous with the movie Apocalypse now, where Martin Sheen is wearing it while playing Captain Benjamin L. Willard, as well with the Japanese adventurer Naomi Uemura, who wore it on its 12,000 km (57-day) journey from Greenland to Alaska.

Next, Seiko introduced the new Prospex LX series, with six models categorized into three categories inspired by the air, the land and the sea. The models were SNR025J1, SNR027J1, SNR033J1 and SNR035J1 with 5R66 GMT Spring Drive, as well as SNR029J1 and SNR031J1 with 5R65 Spring Drive. Quite enough to blow your mind, but the party didn’t stop there.

New Sumo & Save the Ocean Great White Shark models: SPB101J1 (Black) and SPB103J1 (Green), plus models marked as SRPD21K1, SRPD23K1 and SSC741P1 had the breath-taking charm.

As if that wasn’t enough from Prospex, the new Ana-Digi models, SNJ025P1 (Black) and SNJ027P1 (Pepsi), also brought the reminiscence of a classic nicknamed ‘Arnie’ because Arnold Schwarzenegger made it famous in the 80s, by wearing it in his movies “Commando” and “Predator”.

But just when we thought that the new Monster models, SRPD25K1 (Blue dial) and SRPD27K1 (Black dial), and two divers with a plastic shroud, SNE541P1 (Black Dial) and SNE543P1 (Brown Dial) were the icing on a cake, three new automatic field watches - SRPD31K1 (Brown), SRPD33K1 (Green) and SRPD33K1 (Black) – introduced the future of the classic Fieldmaster series.

Baselworld -2019-New-Seiko-Prospex-Watch-Models New Seiko Prospex watches released at Baselworld 2019

Seiko Presage at Baselworld 2019

Presage is surely one of the series carefully watched by many fans of traditional Japanese watchmaking craft and its makers almost never disappoint. Models introduced at Baselworld 2019 brought even more mystery with its impeccable Arita porcelain dials in models SPB093 and SPB095. Presage also introduced enamel dial models: SPB091J1 and Laurel inspired SJE075J1 (White) and SJE077J1 (Blue); Seiko Presage Cocktails: SSA392J1, SSA393J1, SRPD36J1 and SRPD37J1; and
Presage Zen Garden models: SSA395J1, SSA397J1, SRPD41J1 and SRPD42J1.

For those who don’t recall it well, aside from these fantastic watches, Seiko Astron at Baselworld 2019 marked 50th Anniversary of the first quartz watch with 10 new models: SSH023 (limited edition of 1500 pieces), then models SSH019, SSH021 and SSH024, then limited editions for Japanese market: SBXC035 (200 pieces) and SBXC036 (30 pieces), plus Revolution models: SBXC029, SBXC031, SBXC033 and SBXC034.

Credor and Premier also introduced 6 new models (GXBE998, SNP159P1, SNP161P1, SNP161P1, SRX015P1, SRX015P1, SRX017P1, SRX017P1, SSA399J1 and SSA399J1).

And that was just Seiko!

For those who never visited Baselworld, you can then only imagine the importance of this event for watchmaking industry and everyone connected with it. But how and when the Baselworld story exactly began and how it grew to become so big?


 

History of Baselworld

Even if the name Baselworld exists only from 2003, its roots go as deep as over 100 years back in time. In 1917, the Basel Mustermeese (Basel model fair or Swiss sample fair, in rough translation) was established, to showcase innovations in Swiss watch and jewelry industries. It was held throughout the town of Basel, as a part of Basel Muba (Basel fair), in Switzerland, and it was an important event for the Swiss economy since its beginnings. The first edition of the fair had 29 exhibitors and this number grew with each following year. In 1931, the fair, with its 70 exhibitors, got its own location, a pavilion, and a new name: Swiss Watch fair. The year 1973 saw the introduction of European exhibitors, after which the show got an international name: “European Watch and Jewellery Fair” (EUSM). At that time, the fair had more than 60,000 visitors.

Aerial shot of the Basel fair in 1954Aerial shot of the Basel fair in 1954, image source : quillandpad.com

Aerial photo of the Baselworld in nowaday 2020Multi-blocks of Baselworld in 2020, the rise in demand made the changes, image source : Google earth

In 1984, the show was named simply BASEL, with the addition of a year mark, hence the yearly editions that followed were named BASEL 84, BASEL 86 and so on. Basel 84 had over 1550 exhibitors (only around 500 from Switzerland) and around 10,000 visitors from other continents. Hence, BASEL 86 was made the first truly international show and the numbers only grew in the following years. In 1995, the name of the fair was changed again, so it became: BASEL – “World Watch and Jewellery Show”, which, again, became “Baselworld - The Watch and Jewellery Show” in 2003. In 2007, Baselworld was visited by more than 100,000 visitors from more than 100 countries, making it to over 150,000 international visitors in 2013. The 100th edition of Baselworld was held from March 23-30 in 2017.

Until 2019, Baselworld served as a place of gathering and a hub for communication and marketing, renowned for setting innovations and trends in place in watch and jewelry industry. The importance of it may be shown with many numbers that vary each year, but are never small, such as the number of its exhibitors (over 2100 at its peak and over 500 in 2019), its visitors (150,000 in 2013 and more than 82,000 in 2019), its journalists (over 3,500 in 2019)… or the countless models introduced by all these brands at each single show. Imagine just the lives they’ve touched and you’ll begin to see their impact.

After more than a century of its life, Baselworld stood as a separate brand that represented the week long experience of the bright side of human condition and its need to explore ideas and make them come to reality with devotion that knows no boundaries. No wonder its partners included names such are Swiss airlines, FedEx and BBC. For so long, it was the largest event in a year, that all watch connoisseurs were looking forward to, it was what watch brands were working for – it was a motivation, a festival, an ode to the devotion, labor and exquisite craftsmanship. But…

Baselworld 2018Baselworld 2018, image source : hautetime.com

In 2018, Baselworld were reducing two days, shortened to six days only and the number of its exhibitors was significantly smaller than in previous years, especially because of the withdrawal of the Swatch Group and its brands. In 2019, the MCH Group announced the re-vamp of the concept for the future. As they implied it in their press release, it is now maybe a time to focus on other options and new platforms more focused on customers. The question was – will it work that way? The 2020 show was to be turned into a whole new experience, which still didn’t saw the light of a day. The announcement of Chanel, Chopard, Patek Philippe, Rolex and Tudor in April 2020, about their separation from Baselworld and hosting of their own fair in 2021 didn’t help in keeping the hopes high either.

    Is the Baselworld destined to a sad end at 2019?
    Or the Baselworld will just end in the form as we know it?

    Similar questions arose among all of us in these turbulent times and in the course of recent pandemic events. Isn’t it true that the world itself isn’t the same as it once was? And it can’t be, if we’re meant to survive. As one old saying states: “You adapt, or you die”.

    We hope the same can relate to the Baselworld.

    We’re pretty sure their 100+ years of history holds a lot of wisdom on adaptation through some quite turbulent times and keep fingers crossed they’ll succeed in fitting their new concept to this new world. In another words, we hope they’ll find a way to give their story a happy and long life, instead of end as a sad story.

    Maybe, we shall and will all do the same. We recently learned not only that we can still be close even if we can’t be together, but also that we can be better, stronger, more innovative and even more creative than we could earlier imagine. We have the tools to share so many ideas without ever seeing each other in person, so why wouldn’t it be possible for a giant such is the Baselworld?  

    The lessons we taught during our recent history aren’t small ones. Just imagine what can be learned during a course of a century! Our best bet is that Baselworld is just taking its time to re-organize, adapt and grow, so it can come only better and richer in a way, as we all do after troubled times. Not each lesson is a nice one, but you can never doubt their worth.  

    We know all good things come to an end, but it may not always be a sad ending, it would be maybe end means just taking another shape - or another beginning.

     

    Baselworld Timeline

    • 1917: The Swiss Design Fair Basel is established
    • 1925: Schweizer Mustermesse Basel (MUBA) invited several watch manufacturers
    • 1931: The Schweizer Uhrenmesse (Swiss Watch Show) was first held in a dedicated pavilion.
    • 1973: The first “Europäische Uhren- und Schmuck-messe” (EUSM) (European Watch and Jewellery Show) was held within the MUBA.
    • 1983: The show changed its name to BASEL, with two following numbers denoting the exhibition year, e.g., BASEL 83.
    • 1986: Companies from outside Europe were included for the first time, reflecting the increased number of visitors from outside Europe.
    • 1995: The show was renamed to BASEL 95 - The World Watch, Clock and Jewellery Show.
    • 1999: Hall 1, with 36,000 square meters of exhibition space, was added.
    • 2003: The show was renamed again to BaselWorld, The Watch and Jewellery Show.
    • 2004: With the introduction of a new hall complex, the exhibition area increased to 160,000 square meters.
    • 2013: The renovation and modernization project, designed by Basel architects Herzog & de Meuron, has resulted in a gross exhibition surface of 141,000 square meters.
    • Since BASELWORLD 2012, the old halls have been demolished and a total of 3500 tons of steel girders, 45,000 cubic meters of concrete, and 5,200 tons of reinforcing steel have gone into the new complex. At times, up to eight fixed construction cranes and a further eight mobile cranes have been deployed on the construction site.
    • 2014: Break Record - Baselworld records highest-ever attendance, raise prices
    • 2016: Exhibitor exit - Tools and equipment exhibitors exit Baselworld
    • 2017: Exhibitor exit - Movado Group leaves, the mass of exhibitors numbers fall to less than 700. The next show will also be shortened to six days instead of eight, with a statement explaining, "The watch and jewelry market is undergoing a period of profound change."
    • 2018: Exhibitor exit - Swatch Group withdraws from Baselworld
    • 2019: Exhibitor exit - Baselworld management confirms further exhibitor contraction, Baselworld decreases by 20 per-cent; Swarovski is among the brands who decide not to exhibit at the show. Seiko also pulls out of Baselworld in 2020 and the rise of competition - SIHH renamed Watches & Wonders Geneva.
    • 2020: the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 Baselworld has been "postponed" to 28 January 2021.
    • 2020: High-profile brands such as RX, Patek Philippe, Chanel, Chopard, LVMH group and key supporters  withdrawing their participation
    • 2020: Baselworld 2021 canceled

    Information sources : Europastar.com and Jewellermagazine.com

     

    Written by M.H. , Photo sources as noted

     

    External References:


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