BaselWorld Announces $287 Million Expansion

BASEL, Switzerland—The world’s largest watch and jewelry show is going to get even bigger.

A $287 million expansion project of the BaselWorld Fair, in, was announced Wednesday, by Rene Kamm, chief executive officer of MCH Swiss Exhibition, the Fair’s parent firm. Kamm presented the project to several hundred journalists from around the world at the annual press conference preceding the opening of the Basel fair the next day.

One big reason for the expansion, which will occur between 2011 and 2012, is “an increasing convergence of watch and jewelry brands,” said Kamm, a situation which the MCH management expects will be “even more marked in the future.”

For a number years the show’s management has had a strategy of dividing it into clearly defined segments (i.e., watch halls, jewelry halls, equipment) and putting exhibitors in the halls based on their market.

But now, said Kamm, “as show organizers, we shall no longer be able to make a clear distinction between these two product categories, by accommodating them in different buildings.” That means, he said, “our infrastructure will have to be adapted accordingly.”

Plans already prepared by the internationally known Swiss architectural firm of Herzog & de Meuron call for a three-storey complex, in which Hall 1 (the watch exhibitors’ building) will be extended, and a third level added; Hall 3 (across the plaza from Hall 1), will be rebuilt as a three-story building, and the new hall complexes will be linked by a roof over which is now open-air Exhibition Square.

When completed, the new complex will have double the amount of floor space for the show’s multi-storey stands, most of them in the watch halls (Building 1). Currently, the show allows stands up to 30 feet high within an area of 45,000 square meters. Starting in 2012, the Fair will be able to offer the same height capacity in an area of more than 90,000 square meters.

The site will be more compact, with connected exhibition halls, “giving us greater flexibility to structure BaselWorld,” said Kamm, and visitors’ ease should also be “significantly improved because all the halls of the Fair [including Hall 2, site of most jewelry exhibitors, and Hall 4, featuring many prestigious watch brands] will be linked together under one roof,” that will include connecting passageways.

The enlarged infrastructure may also enable BaselWorld (which has over 2,000 exhibitors) to let in some more exhibitors from a long waiting list.

The costs for the project will amount to about $287 million, of which Swiss Exhibition will pay 200 million and Basel city and the surrounding Basel canton will provide investment grants totaling 150 million Swiss francs.

This is will be the second major restructuring of BaselWorld’s infrastructure since 1999, when a multi-year renovation and restructuring of the Fair’s building and exhibition grounds began, that only now has recently been completed.