At the Turn­ing Point

Af­ter Basel­world 2018, the fair faces its big­gest chal­lenge yet

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You can’t re­ally talk about Basel­world 2018 with­out tak­ing into ac­count all the changes that hap­pened in the se­cond half of the year. And by changes we ob­vi­ously mean the an­nounce­ments by ma­jor brands that they won’t be part of 2019’s event. So, this time around, let’s talk first about how Basel­world will (prob­a­bly) look like the next time it comes along be­fore we roll things back to ear­lier this year and see the high­lights that have con­vinced many to re­main con­fi­dent for 2019.

Ex­o­dus

There were sev­eral no­table things miss­ing from Basel­world 2018. The ladies in sil­ver at­tire hand­ing out daily newsletters by the en­trance, for one. Bre­itling’s aquar­ium, al­ways an in­trigu­ing sight that seems to in­vite fair-go­ers to re­lax and un­wind for a bit, was also gone. Less sub­tle was the short­ened du­ra­tion of the fair as well as the ab­sence of quite a few ma­jor ex­hibitors, such as Her­mès, whose iconic booth at the top of Messe Basel’s Hall 1 has al­ways been an iconic sight.

All that be­ing said, Basel­world 2018 a suc­cess. De­spite fewer ex­hibitors and a shorter du­ra­tion, the over­all num­ber of vis­i­tors re­mained sta­ble and feed­back from ex­hibit­ing brands was no­tably pos­i­tive. “Basel­world re­mains one of the most im­por­tant net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for our group. It rep­re­sents a unique win­dow to meet our in­ter­na­tional busi­ness and me­dia part­ners in a very con­densed time frame,” said Chopard’s co-pres­i­dent Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. “We felt the over­all mood was very pos­i­tive and the level of busi­ness con­ducted highly satisfactory.” This sen­ti­ment was echoed by Jean-Frédéric Du­four, CEO of Rolex who feels that the event “re­mains a was ‘must’ for the Swiss watch in­dus­try” along with many other ma­jor fig­ures of the in­dus­try.

But then Sep­tem­ber rolled along and word came out that Swatch Group would leave Basel­world. This rep­re­sents the loss of a huge chunk of booths at the fair, as the group in­cludes brands such as Omega, Blanc­pain, Longines and many more. They were then fol­lowed by Co­rum, Mau­rice Lacroix and Ray­mond Weil.

There are many ex­pla­na­tions, ar­gu­ments and coun­ter­ar­gu­ments re­volv­ing around these de­par­tures. And, for sure, Basel­world has al­ways pre­sented a unique set of chal­lenges for ex­hibit­ing brands and the press as well. In the end, how­ever, per­haps it’s just that the tra­di­tional trade fair for­mat is no longer as rel­e­vant to­day as it was back in the day. The planned de­par­ture of sev­eral ma­jor play­ers from the neigh­bor­ing SIHH event seems to point in the same gen­eral di­rec­tion.

All that be­ing said, it’s not all doom and gloom for Basel­world, how­ever, as both or­ga­niz­ers and ex­hibitors seem con­fi­dent for next year’s edi­tion. For the time be­ing, though, as we wait what fur­ther de­vel­op­ments might arise for Basel­world 2019, let’s take a long look back at some of the best high­lights from this year’s event.

All ThAT GliT­TErs

To start our re­count­ing of Basel­world 2018 on a pos­i­tive note, per­haps we could start with a pos­i­tive change an­nounced within the first days of the fair. Es­sen­tially, in 2018, Chopard has taken the un­prece­dented step of mak­ing a com­mit­ment to only use eth­i­cal gold. This new pol­icy, which came into ef­fect as of July 2018, was un­veiled at a press con­fer­ence at­tended by friends of the

brand in­clud­ing Colin and Livia Firth, Ju­lianne Moore, model and new brand am­bas­sador Ari­zona Muse, fel­low model and phi­lan­thropist Noëlla Cour­saris Musunka and Chi­nese singer Roy Wang.

A bit more fes­tive was the way Hublot kicked things off—quite lit­er­ally, that is—with a friendly mini soc­cer match. Of course, even a “friendly” match can have quite a few in­tense mo­ments when it pits leg­endary play­ers like Roberto Car­los and Rob­bie Keane split into two groups led by Diego Maradona and José Mour­inho. In­ter­est­ingly, the for­mer side also in­cluded cur­rent FIFA pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino while the lat­ter had French artist Richard Or­lin­ski (who cre­ated the de­sign for Hublot’s Clas­sic Fu­sion Aero­fu­sion Chrono­graph Or­lin­ski) and re­tired Ja­maican sprinter Usain Bolt (one of the brand’s lat­est brand am­bas­sadors). De­spite the star power present on the small field, the real high­light of the evening was strapped to the wrist of in­ter­na­tional ref­eree Ni­cola Riz­zoli who presided over the match: The Big Bang Ref­eree 2018 FIFA World Cup Rus­sia. It was cer­tainly a great way to hype up a new watch.

rEcords And FlA­vors

One of the first booths a vis­i­tor to Basel­world 2018 en­coun­ters would be Bvl­gari’s. The main high­light from the Ital­ian house for this year is, with­out doubt, the Octo Finis­simo Tourbillon Au­to­matic. There are two in­ter­est­ing facts about this watch. First, it holds not one, but two world records. The Octo Finis­simo Tourbillon Au­to­matic is the world’s thinnest tourbillon watch and the world’s thinnest au­to­matic watch. Se­cond, Bvl­gari ac­tu­ally won the ti­tle for hav­ing the thinnest au­to­matic watch back in March of 2017. Then, in De­cem­ber that year that ti­tle went to Pi­aget. Fast for­ward to March 2018 and at Basel­world, Bvl­gari re­claimed the record.

Speak­ing of records, if there was an un­of­fi­cial one for “the watch that the me­dia and ex­hibitors get asked about the most even be­fore the fair opened” it would un­doubt­edly be the Rolex GMT-Master II. While the so-called “Pepsi” bezel in red and blue was a def­i­nite crowd pleaser, two new Everose vari­ants were in­tro­duced as con­tenders for most talked-about piece of Basel­world 2018. The first of these two comes en­tirely in 18K Everose gold (the brand’s pro­pri­etary rose gold al­loy) while the se­cond is known as the Everose Role­sor ver­sion, which com­bines Oys­ter­steel (the brand’s pro­pri­etary steel al­loy) and Everose gold. These two GMT-Master IIs fea­ture a new black-and-brown Cer­achrom insert that quickly earned it the af­fec­tion­ate nick­name “Root Beer.”

In­ter­est­ingly, this year also saw Tu­dor em­brac­ing its shared her­itage with Rolex by launch­ing the Black Bay GMT, with a sim­i­lar two-tone bezel. But here you can start to see some dis­tinc­tive Tu­dor touches, such as the use of bur­gundy and in­digo (two col­ors that have pre­vi­ously ap­peared in the Black Bay fam­ily). The watch also promi­nently runs on Tu­dor’s in-house move­ment, the Cal­iber MT5652.

To ThE Moon And BAck

Ear­lier we men­tioned how Omega, as part of Swatch Group, would be leav­ing the fair. One thing that fu­ture Basel­world vis­i­tors will def­i­nitely miss would be the

“If there was an un­of­fi­cial one for “the watch that the me­dia and ex­hibitors get asked about the most even be­fore the fair opened” it would un­doubt­edly be the Rolex GMT-Master II”

brand’s usual of­fer­ings of story-laden time­pieces. For 2018, Omega paid tribute to the Apollo 8 lu­nar mis­sion—the first to view the far side of the moon, or what is pop­u­larly called the dark side of the moon—with the Dark Side of the Moon time­piece with a spe­cially dec­o­rated ver­sion of the famed Moon­watch move­ment.

In­ter­est­ingly, the front of the watch shows us the side of the moon that is vis­i­ble from earth, while the back of the watch gives us a glimpse of the dark side. To achieve the per­fect dark shade, the watch is made en­tirely out of black zir­co­nium ox­ide ce­ramic. As a nod to Speed­mas­ter mod­els from 1968 and to con­trast the dark tone of the watch, Omega has used yel­low colour cod­ing for the sec­onds and chrono­graph hands. The yel­low-against-black theme ex­tends to the strap, where mi­cro per­fo­ra­tions on the black leather re­veal the yel­low rub­ber layer in­side it.

That be­ing said, Omega had plenty of other im­pres­sive nov­el­ties, like the Sea­mas­ter 1948 Lim­ited Edi­tion and the Sea­mas­ter Diver 300M Ti­ta­nium Tan­talum Lim­ited Edi­tion, to name just a few.

Still from the afore­men­tioned Swatch Group but fly­ing a bit un­der the radar is Mido’s Baron­celli Tril­ogy. This trio of lim­ited edi­tion watches rep­re­sent the brand’s past, present and fu­ture as it cel­e­brates its 100th an­niver­sary. There is Baron­celli 1918 with a small-sec­onds sub-dial, the 2018 model in pol­ished stain­less steel and the fu­tur­is­ti­clook­ing, PVD-treated 2118 model.

ABOUT TIME

Now, if we could share one fi­nal story from Basel this year, it would be from Patek Philippe. There’s the Ref. 5740/1G-001 which will def­i­nitely at­tract col­lec­tors with an eye for grand com­pli­ca­tions, the Ref. 5524R Cala­trava Pi­lot Travel Time and its fem­i­nine coun­ter­part, the Ref. 7234R-001, which work in­cred­i­bly well as pair watches and quite a few oth­ers. But the big­gest buzz sur­round­ing the brand at the time was about orange. As in, the color. See, the new­est en­try in the Aqua­naut col­lec­tion, the Ref. 5968A-001, also comes with an op­tional orange strap—which works quite well to en­hance this Aqua­naut’s mod­ern and sporty vibe. More to the point, how­ever, this par­tic­u­lar vibe felt es­pe­cially new com­ing from a sto­ried brand like Patek Philippe.

The same can also be said about Patek Philippe’s de­but on In­sta­gram that co­in­cided with Basel­world 2018. Yes, that was one of the hottest top­ics mak­ing its rounds among mem­bers of the press and watch en­thu­si­asts at­tend­ing this year’s Basel­world. It might sound un­der­whelm­ing, but it was cer­tainly a big step for the usu­ally so­cial me­dia-shy brand. And who­ever was in charge of the brand’s first foray into In­sta­gram fully ap­pre­ci­ated this fact and came up with the per­fect tonguein-cheek note. The top post of Patek Philippe’s first batch of 12 posts boldly pro­claimed: “About time.” And per­haps it is about time that Basel­world it­self changes.

Group photo fol­low­ing Chopard’s press con­fer­ence on sus­tain­abil­ity Op­po­site page The front en­trance of Basel­world 2018; Hublot’s booth

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