The message from executives who spoke at the Baselworld opening press conference on Wednesday was clear: We know the situation is bad, and we don’t really want to talk about it. The annual watch and jewelry trade show kicks off in Switzerland amid a backdrop of lagging watch sales and geopolitical and economic uncertainties.
Swiss watch exports dropped 10 percent in value terms last year following a 3 percent decline in 2015. So far this year, they’re down 8 percent, according to figures from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
Baselworld has seen attendance slide for the past three years, and the number of exhibitors at this year’s show is down 13 percent year-over-year, from 1,500 to 1,300.
Bremont and Shinola are among the notable watch companies absent from this year’s fair, as are Kering Group brands Girard-Perregaux and Ulysee Nardin, both of which exhibited at SIHH earlier this year.
But rather than focusing on the struggles the industry is facing, show organizers opted to put a positive spin on the opening of Baselworld 2017 and the changes that have been made to the show.
“There is no need to dwell at length on the past 12 months,” Baselworld Managing Director Sylvie Ritter said at Wednesday’s pre-show press conference.
She said fair organizers are instead looking to the future and recognize that Baselworld “needs to be transformed to reflect the world market.”