February 07, 2019
“Far more than a place to see new watches”
Mr Oster, how long have you been attending Baselworld and how important is the show for your business?
Jeremy Oster: I have attended Baselworld consistently since the mid 1990’s. Since that time, I have only missed one year! My feeling has always been that the show is far more than just a place to see new watches. The importance of the show for our business is likely different from most, as I am also there shopping for a handful of special clients. It is an opportunity to see the newest pieces and to also secure pieces from extremely small series. We often give ourselves a competitive advantage by buying rare pieces. As a small luxury boutique, the nature of our business is a little different than most in that we do not sell mass-market pieces. Attending Baselworld also allows us to spot new emerging brands, which can hold a strong appeal for our particular clientele. Beyond the product, the most compelling reason to attend is for the networking, discussions with important peers surrounding the state of the industry, learning the trends and refocusing one’s own efforts and priorities for the coming year. For me, personally, it is the opportunity to meet with and discuss watches with the actual creators that adds the most value and invaluable knowledge. Baselworld is also a unique opportunity to assess the personalities behind the brands. If there just isn’t a connection with the people, the product is not likely to sell for us – no matter how great it may be.
During the past weeks, Baselworld announced many new concepts and measures for the 2019 edition. What are your expectations of the show?
Jeremy Oster: I am expecting this year that Baselworld is going to be a transitional show, as some big brands have left. It remains to be seen if there is enough of a draw with the current line-up of exhibitors. The jewellery halls were quite quiet last year, which is worrying as jewellery is an important part of our business, and Baselworld is usually the only place that we can see the full collections of many European jewellery designers. The plan for the show to align in dates with SIHH to stay competitive and retain appeal amongst higher-end retailers is a great move.
What challenges do you foresee for the industry in the next 5 to 10 years?
Jeremy Oster: Today sees the emergence of new luxury markets and the scrambling of the various brands to control their own online presence and e-commerce. Just because e-commerce is the new frontier, it doesn’t mean that the retail relationships should be forgotten. A more balanced approach would be beneficial to all, including a way to use the immense power of online marketing to complement the efforts of the retail channel instead of competing against the very channels that should be supported. The correct business model should be to tightly control production and focus on what the consumer actually wants in terms of products, a shopping experience and improved after-sales service. The biggest challenge is creating relevance in the eyes of younger consumers and ensuring that a luxury watch remains a desirable product as the next generation matures into peak earning years.
How do you reach the attention of new target groups and younger customers?
Jeremy Oster: Most retailers today are struggling with the answer to this question. Clearly, social media is highly influential. We try, today, to educate our clients through various channels including our own ‘Keeping Time’ podcast, as well as involvement in various social groups ranging from ‘Red Bar’ to our ‘Meetup’ group and of course Facebook and Instagram. It’s all about engaging the community and hoping that key influencers appreciate what we do and will recommend us to other like-minded enthusiasts in addition to our own efforts to meet as many people as we can on a personal basis. Certain brands hold more appeal to younger customers and for us this is an important factor in decision making when considering the addition of a new brand for our store.