Optimism Abounds as Baselworld 2011 Kicks Off

An air of optimism marked the opening of this year’s
Baselworld fair in Basel, Switzerland, on March 23.

Sylvie Ritter, managing director of Baselworld, told
attendees at the opening ribbon cutting ceremony that while last year “the
industry had been revitalized and there were fewer clouds in sight,” this year
saw a “return to full health.”

“Let us assume,” she
continued, “that 2011 is going to run out to be just as positive and that the
entire industry will thus be able to continue to progress.”

Sylvie Ritter

The latter is also a
reference to technological and physical improvements taking place at the fair.
For example, attendees can utilize the fair’s first-ever Baselworld
(for show information accessible via mobile phones), and
live Baselworld updates are visible by way of Facebook and Twitter.

Additionally, fair organizers talked about the improvements
being made to the fair grounds, including updates to Building 3 and the
extension of Hall 1 towards the exhibition square. With some 430 million Swiss
francs invested in fairground improvements, organizers plan to unveil a
completely renovated complex by 2014.

Meanwhile, Jacques Duchene, chairman of the Exhibitor’s
Committee, acknowledged that while “radical changes” are taking place in Africa
and the Middle East, the watch and jewelry industry can look back on a “truly
remarkable year, and the indicators continue to remain excellent.”

Traffic on opening day may indeed serve as a good omen for
the entirety of the fair. By midafternoon, the booth of Jacob & Co. in
Hall 3.0 was packed with visitors craning their necks to see new collections of
high jewelry, including a 30.11 ct. t.w. fancy blue-gray cushion-cut diamond
for $15 million (in its front window). And Chopard in Hall 1.0 did its part to
combine business with philanthropic efforts by unveiling nine new watches,
among others, featuring hand-painted resin and gold-accented dials from a
Japanese artist; each model is priced at 20,000 Swiss Francs, with $1,000 of the
sum earmarked for relief efforts in Japan.

Some 1,892 exhibitors—a drop of a little over 3 percent from last year—from the international watch and jewelry sector are present at
the fair, representing 45 countries, the same number as last year. Included in
the total exhibitors are 736 jewelry firms, 627 watchmakers, and 529
representatives of related sectors. During the show, about 100,000 visiting
professionals and 3,000 media professionals from 100 countries are expected to

Baselworld 2011 runs from March 24 to March 31.

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