It’s a wrap! Baselworld’s debut presentation to a physical audience at Geneva Watch Days has reached a happy conclusion.
During an Espresso Talk hosted by Baselworld MD Michel Loris-Melikoff, Geneva Watch Days founding member and Bulgari Group CEO Jean-Christophe Babin said that in its second edition, “the spirit remains the same. A convivial, friendly, relaxed atmosphere… brands working together in the collective spirit to grow the Swiss watch industry and, by doing that, to grow themselves”.
The Baselworld popup also featured 10 watch brands – Claude Meylan, IceWatch, AHCI represented by Ludovic Ballouard and David Candaux, BA111OD Watch Concept, Bomberg, Furlan Marri, Ikepod, Riskers and Sinn Spezialuhren – taking advantage of “everybody being together in Geneva” to showcase their novelties.
“The reason we came to Geneva was to present our new hybrid concept, incorporating a digital platform. What has changed? Forget all the pictures of the old Baselworld. It’s a new concept, with new booths, new topics, a new approach,” said Loris-Melikoff. “We are putting our clientele, the collectors, the buyers, and the journalists at the centre of our attention. If we don’t have the right people coming to the show, we don’t have the exhibitors.”
And because Baselworld is anticipating that people may choose to travel less in the future, or in a more efficient way, they plan to take the show on the road. “Our intention is to present Baselworld in Basel from March 31 to April 4, then we’ll go to Asia, and from 2023 onwards we’ll be in the United States as well,” he said.
The Baselworld presence at Geneva Watch Days provided a platform for panel discussions, covering subjects such as the role of women in watchmaking, and watches for women. Who can wear what sparks lengthy debate. Vanessa Chicha, founder/MD of Iconeek, said, “It really is a man’s world… The mentality is that watches are made for men and watches that are collectibles are men’s watches. Women’s watches that are collectible are very rare, and women collectors are those collecting watches in general.”
Suzanne Wong, editor in chief of WorldTempus and cofounder of watchfam, weighed in. “You can have feminine or masculine pieces (rather than men’s or ladies’ watches), but don’t dictate who should wear them. We wear watches as an expression of our personality not of our anatomy.”
Another talk moderated by Sophie Furley saw internationally renowned watch specialists Geoffroy Ader and Fabien Chicha highlight the increasing significance of the certified pre-owned (CPO) category in the watch industry. “CPO means a second-hand watch, fully checked in its aesthetic and technical aspect for originality and presented to the public in a condition very close to that of a new watch,” said Chicha.
Today, the secondary market is as big, if not bigger than the primary market. Ader said he was thrilled to open this discussion with Baselworld because “if we look at the history of Baselworld, all the watches that have become bestsellers in the CPO world were launched at Basel. It started with the Reference 1518 by Patek Philippe in the 40s, and went on with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner… all these icons. In the watch business, and in CPO, you have star brands and star models and it all started at Baselworld.”
Why is it growing? Because of demand, lack of availability of new models, price and passion. A CPO watch can be half the price of a new model. “It’s all about passion. People love watches,” said Ader.
Impressions of this summer show at Geneva Watch Days? After several more espressos instead of his usual green tea (“because it’s part of the whole fair thing”), Studer said, “It’s good to be in touch with people again, quite literally to have that exchange, to feel people – here you really get a feeling of how things are. The exchange with press, retailers, and consumers is energizing.”
Loris-Melikoff said, “For us it’s exactly the same. It was also enough of Zoom, and Teams meetings. I had to meet people again… and share the passion around the products.”
On the final day of the show, Loris-Melikoff also hosted Aurel Bacs, co-founder and senior consultant of Phillips in Association with Bacs and Russo aka “Mr Auction in the Watch Industry”.
How important is it for him as a representative of the CPO market to be part of a show that presents new products? “The purpose of what we do is not to help broker a very well-established reference by Rolex, Patek or an independent with the typical trading margins of a few handful percents. We rather feel we are connectors… matchmakers. We want to find the perfect ‘bride’ for a collector and the new home for the watch, but not your average watch – there is history, there is research, there is scholarship involved. For the first time in my life, probably thanks to the new CPO wave, I don’t feel like a competitor or an enemy (at trade shows). Now we feel we are embraced and considered partners to the industry and it’s been wonderful.”
Loris-Melikoff smiles in agreement. “As you know, we, as Baselworld, are considering giving CPOs and auctions a platform in the future as we are convinced this is what really interests the market. But we’re not going to unveil the content of our discussions now…”
Look out for more surprises at next year’s show! #baselworldisback