At the Turning Point
After Baselworld 2018, the fair faces its biggest challenge yet
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.
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.
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