[dropcap size=small]A[/dropcap]t the start of the year, watch journalists were frequently asking among themselves: “Will you be going to Baselworld?” The world’s biggest watch and jewellery fair has been shrinking steadily for a few years now, which means that it has been making less financial sense for exhibitors, journalists and general visitors to make the annual trek to Switzerland. The fair suffered its largest blow last year, when the Swatch Group announced that all its 18 brands – including Omega, Breguet and Blancpain – would be exiting the event.
Though the new management team has introduced several changes, including digital initiatives such as an app with augmented-reality features, a bigger press area, and a catwalk for daily fashion shows, there’s still a large question mark looming over the future of the 102-year-old fair. Breitling, for instance, recently confirmed that it would not be back next year. Vitally, however, key Baselworld brands Rolex and Patek Philippe have publicly pledged their support for the fair.
One solution that the organisers are looking at is to synchronise Baselworld with the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), which currently takes place in January. Next year, Baselworld will occur in early May, after the SIHH fair at the end of April. This, in theory, might help to boost attendance, by requiring only one trip to Switzerland to cover the world’s two largest fine-watch fairs. Will this strategy improve Basel’s health? Time will tell. Meanwhile, it’s still the best venue to keep tabs on watch-world happenings. Here’s a round-up of our favourite releases this year.