Cautious optimism dominated the opening of Baselworld 2010, the world’s largest watch and jewelry show.
After two years of global recession, attendees hope the show is the "first moment in the recovery of a revitalized industry," said Sylvie Ritter, Baselworld’s managing director.
Industry officials warn, however, that the industry shouldn’t expect too much too soon.
"We shouldn’t be overconfident, because the global economic situation is still highly precarious," said Jacques J. Duchêne, a president of the show’s Exhibitors’ Committee.
Yet signs that business is slowly improving are evident, including a flood of new products, new marketing campaigns, and breakthrough technical developments such as Bulova’s Precisionist quartz technology, which Bulova says will provide the world’s most accurate quartz watch.
Also boosting attendees’ moods are high-profile social events such as a concert starring opera great Jose Carreras for Chopard’s 150th anniversary.
Industry officials acknowledged that 2009 was a difficult year for the upscale watch and jewelry business. Switzerland’s watch exports fell 22.3 percent, and Italy suffered a 32 percent falloff in jewelry exports to the United States in 2009’s first months.
Positive signs of upturn in 2010 include:
- Swiss watch exports rose 8.6 percent in value and 25 percent in volume in January and February, said Jean Pasche, president of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
- Patek Philippe has more scheduled appointments with its U.S. retailers than ever. "They’re filling every hour every day of the eight-day show." said Larry Pettinelli, president of Patek Philippe North America.
- Bulova Watch announced it’s increasing its marketing budget by 175 percent over 2009, with a new global campaign under the "Designed to be noticed" tag.
- Swatch Group reported good sales so far, and sport luxury brand Hublot said January was its "best in history."
- More than 100,000 people from more than 100 countries are expected to attend the show, which has 1,952 exhibitors from 45 nations including 592 watch vendors, 759 jewelry companies, and 564 in related products and services. More than 3,000 journalists are scrutinizing Baselworld-a reliable bellwether of the economic health of the worldwide watch and jewelry industries.