Basel Preview: Franc Talk Can’t Faze Optimistic Swiss

Exhibitors and buyers at this year’s Basel World Watch, Clock and Jewellery Show, which runs for seven days starting April 18, will once again face an overvalued Swiss franc and

increasingly competitive global manufacturing and consumer markets. These factors caused the slight drop in overall exports the Swiss watchmaking industry is expected to report for 1995 compared to the brisk pace set a year earlier.

Swiss watch exports to the U.S. rose last year. But global growth is somewhat stymied by greater consumer interest in watches made of silver, steel, aluminum and brass. (Swiss manufacturers traditionally prefer gold, platinum and stainless steel.)

Still, show organizers point to emerging markets for Swiss watches in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia and report a generally optimistic Swiss industry. A recent break in Indian trade restrictions should help the Swiss, whose watches already are highly valued there.

Continued investment by Swiss watch firms in new technologies- particularly at the lower end – also is buoying optimism. And the Swiss report lively growth in new watchmaking firms. Some exhibited at recent U.S. jewelry shows in efforts to include U.S. distribution early in their development.

This year’s Basel show will feature 595 watch exhibitors, about the same number as last year. Of these, 249 are Swiss, 147 are from Hong Kong, 68 from Germany, 48 from France, 22 from Taiwan, 20 from Italy, 14 from Great Britain and four from the U.S. Also exhibiting are 1,676 manufacturers of jewelry and related products, with 38 from the U.S. (up from 20 last year).

Shown here are some models to be introduced at this year’s fair by firms with current U.S. distribution. See June JCK for coverage of watch and jewelry trends seen at the Basel Show.