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Baselworld in touch with reality

In the wake of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, Baselworld proved to be a week of measured enthusiasm, boosted by a record year for watchmaking in 2011 but with exports forecast to slow down.
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By : Christophe Roulet
Published in : HH Magazine
04.11.2012

"Which of the new models really stand out?" "What's caught your eye so far?" Interview any representative of a brand exhibiting at Baselworld, one of the biggest dates in the watchmaking calendar, this year held March 9th to 15th, and inevitably these are the first words you will hear. Understandably so, considering that the busy professional, caught up in the whirlwind of an event that drew 104,300 visitors (+1%) and 1,815 exhibitors (-4%), rarely has time to browse the stands, and so instead plies visitors who have trolled the aisles for information on the year's novelties.

Holding down prices

The difficulty lies in how to answer this perfectly natural question. Increasingly, companies propose the entire spectrum of products from a classic timepiece to grandes complications, through sport watches, ladies' models and vintage styles, making it harder to pinpoint any real trend. Conveying such profusion in a few words is a task akin to condensing an encyclopaedia into a 140-character tweet.

There are, however, signs as to which way the wind is blowing, beginning with prices. Many companies, such as Zenith which intends offering the best price/quality ratio in the EUR 3,000 to EUR 8,000 (USD 3,900 to 10,500 / CHF 3,600 to 9,600) range, aim to win over customers with "affordable" entry-level models, and this despite the strong Swiss franc and rising commodities prices. The uncertain economic climate is a factor no one can disregard, particularly as it is expected to lead to lower growth in watch exports for 2012. Industry figures confirm that prices are shrinking: the average cost of a mechanical watch has dipped from an all-time high of CHF 2,612 (USD 2,848 / EUR 2,171) in 2008 to CHF 2,146 (USD 2,340 / EUR 1,784) last year, an almost 18% drop. Already back in January, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie sent out a clear signal that watchmakers are playing it low-key. Even with exports climbing to a record CHF 19.3 billion (USD 21.05 bilion / EUR 16.04 bilion) (+19.2%) in 2011, watchmakers are now more inclined to use a rosy period to invest in production resources rather than to open the creative floodgates.

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Published in : News, HH Magazine
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