Postcard From Basel

The 2006 BaselWorld watch, clock, and jewelry fair took place March 30–April 6, drawing some 90,000 buyers from more than 100 countries. Exhibitors numbered 2,127 and represent 45 countries. Here are some highlights:

• In the jewelry building, the new First Avenue allowed multifloor stands for the first time. Extensive changes to the building provided the setting for fine- jewelry exhibitors to present both their jewelry creations and their watch collections. First Avenue also marked the end of a project, begun in 1999 and costing $500 million, to reorganize, restructure, and renovate the fairgrounds and buildings.

• A significant upgrading of the Hall of Elements underscored the increasing significance of the global trade of diamonds and precious stones to BaselWorld. Key exhibitors included more than 200 leading dealers in precious stones and diamonds and sightholders such as Dehres, Diarough, Eurostar, Gembel, and Rosy Blue, which welcomed buying groups from China, India, and Russia.

• Visitors to this year’s show benefited from two new programs: (1) free visas for those who need one for Switzerland and (2) the show’s own newspaper, the BaselWorld Daily News, which provided a daily summary of highlights, innovations, trends, and events at the show.

• The increasing importance of branding in the diamond industry was highlighted at the annual Israel Diamond Institute breakfast held March 31. In a move unusual for any industry, the Israeli diamond trade launched a brand identity for itself and a global marketing campaign to promote it. The tagline of the campaign is “The Israel Diamond Industry—All You Could Ask for in One.” For the first stage, IDI has placed a 20-page, full-color insert into major trade publications. An ad campaign will follow in the second half of 2006 in leading trade media around the world.

• The exhibition booth that attracted the most attention was Breitling’s 25-foot-long wall-size aquarium with more than 600 silver sea bass swimming in more than 16 tons of water. The aquarium was on the second level of the Breitling booth, high above the fair floor, and the fish seemed to be swimming in midair.

• The prize for most impressive party venue was a tie between Ulysse Nardin’s three-masted schooner, which had the company’s logo and “160”—for its 160th anniversary—emblazoned on the middle sail, and Breitling’s highway tunnel, still under construction, which the company borrowed, decorated, and used for invitation-only evening events throughout the show.