Any industry professional knows that BaselWorld is merely a subset of “Basel” and that numerous other brands are dotted around the city in apartments, hotel suites and even on boats. Some brands, however, took advantage of the restructuring to dispense with their presence at Basel altogether. A risky move, perhaps, given the concentration of the world’s biggest watch buyers at the same time in the same place, but one which was managed with some interesting “alternative Basels”.
“Raketa recruited Jean-Claude Quenet, the former director of the hairspring and escapement department at Rolex.”
Russian brand Raketa, whose off-beat presence and larger-than-life manager Count Jacques von Polier drew the attention of our own Malcolm Lakin at last year’s show, were not present in Basel this year. Instead, the company used the money it saved to throw a lavish party at Moscow’s most expensive (90 million US dollars) penthouse. The brand presented its 2013 collection there, which includes a watch for next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, and mentioned in passing that it had recruited Jean-Claude Quenet, the former director of the hairspring and escapement department at Rolex, as chief engineer at the Raketa factory. Yet another major coup by a minor brand.
- Count Jacques von Polier, Managing Director of Russian brand Raketa
- Count Jacques von Polier, Managing Director of Russian brand Raketa, enjoys the view from Moscow’s most expensive penthouse with guests at the brand’s BaselWorld party.
Britain’s Bremont threw a less extravagant party in the more familiar surroundings of the Bar Rouge, at the top of the Ramada Plaza Tower. The brand used the get-together to offer a teaser of its major launch for the year, which will take place on its home turf in June. The “Codebreaker” watch pays tribute to the significant efforts played by the staff at Bletchley Park in breaking the Luftwaffe’s Enigma ciphers during the second world war. It will incorporate original elements from Bletchley Park, including paper from the punch cards used and parts of the original Enigma machine—the ancestor of the modern-day computer.
I left Basel feeling that all was not as new as I had expected. The exhibition centre does indeed look spectacular from the outside, almost to the point of looking down on the surrounding quarter of Basel with a certain smugness; yet inside one faced the same narrow entrance with its temperamental turnstiles and the same poor and overpriced catering selection.
- The Enigma machine, parts of which will be featured in Bremont’s “Codebreaker” watch
The refreshing newness, for me at least, was provided by the creativity and huge investment ploughed into new stands by the exhibiting brands. But what about the brands who were notable by their absence? The reduction in the overall number of exhibitors may offer the remaining ones a better quality presence at the show, but the absence of such important and innovative brands as Bremont and DeWitt dilutes the industry’s offer in Basel. If other brands believe that they, too, will not suffer because of their absence in Basel the image and appeal of the show itself could start to suffer. With so many companies hanging around on the outskirts hoping to be ushered into the hallowed halls, it may be some time before this happens. But might these not be the early-warning signs?
Source: Europa Star June - July 2013 Magazine Issue