For much of life as we have known it, the BaselWorld fair has been a constant, the most important worldwide show in the watch industry. It wasn’t always like this, however.
When BaselWorld first opened, back in 1917, it wasn’t even called BaselWorld, it was called the Schweizer Mustermesse Basel (MUBA), a selection of Swiss products that included some watch and jewellery brands. In 1931, watches and jewellery were given their own pavilion, showing the increased importance of this sector to the Swiss economy.
For almost five decades, only Swiss products were exhibited, then in 1973 European companies were allowed to exhibit. It wasn’t until 1986 that companies outside Europe were invited to participate.
Now, BaselWorld is poised to open its doors to one of the most sweeping renovations and expansions in its illustrious history. When the show begins on April 25, many of us won’t be able to recognise it, or find the booths we have become accustomed to seeing. A new Hall 1 will be waiting for us, and each and every one of us will need a map to find our way around. At least on the first day.
Sylvie Ritter, the head of the BaselWorld show, explains what the goal of the renovation was. “We wanted to make it a better experience for everyone and to create the right environment for these kinds of products,” she says. “You will see during BaselWorld 2013, once you enter the show, you will never have to leave the show to go from one building to another. We have one space dedicated to the famous brands, where they can build two to three floor booths, and people can truly experience the brands.
“In our buildings, previously, we had a lot of square footage behind the staircases and in other hidden spaces,” she continues. “The real, usable exhibition space has actually increased. It’s important to understand that with the new Hall, we will lose space in terms of figures, but we will gain in quality, where you can really show your brand. Also, there will be more brands exhibiting this year than last year.”
Work began last year
Last year, right after the show closed, demolition work began. I visited Basel at the end of 2012, and the show buildings were unrecognisable. Looking a bit like a war zone, with buildings and walls demolished, the condition raised questions about whether the show would be ready in time. In fact, rumours that BaselWorld was behind schedule recently circulated throughout the industry. Luckily, BaselWorld opens very late this year, and Ritter pledges that the show will be ready in time.
“We are on time and on schedule, everything is perfect,” she confirms, confidently. Though wholesale changes have been made and many brands have been relocated from Hall 1, Ritter hopes that the experience will be an improved one.
“I hope you will not be confused at all,” she says. “I think people will be amazed by the booths and the way brands are presenting themselves. It’s really hard for us to imagine how the show could develop with this new building, and we worked with the brands to give the show a new face. For example, 99 per cent of the booths in Hall 1 will be brand new.”
A new map of the show is available at www.baselworld.com.
Will this be the end of changes for BaselWorld, at least for the time being? “Every year, we think we have the best show ever and it will remain that way for many years,” Ritter says. “This is the dream of all show organisers the world over, but it really depends on the market. BaselWorld reflects the market and we will adapt and change to fit the market and its needs.”
Facts and Figures:
The Basel show dates back to 1917, with the opening of the first Schweizer Mustermesse Basel (MUBA).
- 1925: MUBA invited several watch manufacturers
- 1931: The Schweizer Uhrenmesse (Swiss Watch Show) was first held in a dedicated pavilion.
- 1973: The first “Europäische Uhren- und Schmuck-messe” (EUSM) (European Watch and Jewellery Show) was held within the MUBA.
- 1983: The show changed its name to BASEL, with two following numbers denoting the exhibition year, e.g., BASEL 83.
- 1986: Companies from outside Europe were included for the first time, reflecting the increased number of visitors from outside Europe.
- 1995: The show was renamed to BASEL 95 - The World Watch, Clock and Jewellery Show.
- 1999: Hall 1, with 36,000 square metres exhibition space, was added.
- 2003: The show was renamed again to BaselWorld, The Watch and Jewellery Show.
- 2004: With the introduction of a new hall complex, the exhibition area increased to 160,000 square metres.
- 2013: The renovation and modernisation project, designed by Basel architects Herzog & de Meuron, has resulted in a gross exhibition surface of 141,000 square metres.
Since BASELWORLD 2012, the old halls have been demolished and a total of 3500 tons of steel girders, 45,000 cubic metres of concrete and 5,200 tons of reinforcing steel have gone into the new complex. At times, up to eight fixed construction cranes and a further eight mobile cranes have been deployed on the construction site.
Europa Star this year celebrates its 75th year of uninterrupted presence at BaselWorld. We invite you to visit us in Hall 1.1, Stand A60.
Source: Europa Star February - March 2013 Magazine Issue