Suisse Watch: Baselworld 2011 Preview

Investment and a rebounding global economy could help boost business at Baselworld

Excitement is brewing for the Baselworld 2011 World Watch and Jewellery Show, held March 24–31 in Basel, Switzerland. Sales everywhere—from Russia to the United States—are climbing, and vendors and store owners alike are looking forward to restocking inventories.

Italian jeweler Antonini will bring selections from a new one-off colored-stone collection, Extraordinary Pieces: emerald and pink tourmaline drop earrings for $174,240; and pink or blue sapphire and diamond rings for roughly $45,000 each.

“The economy is moving in the right direction,” said co-owner Sergio Antonini, who has already booked appointments with buyers from Russia, Japan, and Azerbaijan. “The [good] mood is back, and buyers are looking for new colors.”

Sergio Antonini

Buyers are also looking for inspiration. As the luxury trade’s most important annual gathering, Baselworld is a venue to buy; it’s also a place to marvel at the beauty, ingenuity, and sheer opulence of what the world’s finest jewelers can do.

Those in the know make it a point to admire the windows of the P. Lançon S.A. booth tucked into a corner on the top floor of the branded jewelry hall (a.k.a. Hall 2, the Hall of Visions). A darkly lit, secretive space open only to the most rarefied clientele, hand selected by elusive Geneva-based manufacturer Georges Ruiz, the booth is a showcase for magnificent one-of-a-kind creations—think delicate orchid brooches in lavender shades of titanium, set with conch pearls and diamond pavé.

When the guards at Lançon shoo away passersby—as they invariably do for those without appointments—buyers on luxury recon missions continue to First Avenue, a platform for prestige brands from Mikimoto to Moscow’s Jewellery Theatre. Baselworld’s branded jewelry hall is also home to a host of Italian manufacturers, who, like Antonini, use the show to debut gem-studded lines designed to woo buyers from Asia, America, and the Middle East.

Exhibitors aren’t the only ones aiming to impress buyers. Organizers have invested in a considerable facility upgrade—to the tune of 430 million Swiss francs. Construction began last fall on two new halls linked via a two-story building above Exhibition Square, an expanded Hall 1, and an enlarged parking site; renovations will be finished for the 2013 fair. This year, the show expects 1,800 exhibitors, down 7 percent from 2010, and 100,000 visitors, about the same as last year.

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