Basel’96: Watches Take Back The Spotlight

With the Swiss franc less threatening, designers return to classic looks while engineers take off with a full assault on the battery. During a full week of unabated sunshine, a rare phenomenon in April in Basel, Switzerland, the annual World Watch, Clock and Jewellery Show left no doubt that the world's watchmakers are not allowing economic uncertainties to stand in the way of technical innovation, artistic creativity and an upbeat vision of their industry. (The mood was more downbeat in the jewelry sector of the fair; see report starting on page 160.) That was welcome news for the industry. A strong Swiss franc contributed to a 3.6% drop in the value of watch exports from Switzerland last year - the first decline in a decade - but the franc now has stabilized in favor of U.S. buyers. As for business this year and beyond, retailers and watch exhibitors at the fair, held April 18-25,

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