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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Baselworld 2012: End of an Era; Baselworld 2013: A new era begins

Inside Hall 1, the Hall of Dreams, where all the major watch brands at Baselworld 2012 are located. There will be changes among the exhibitors.

A fractured arm kept me from attending Baselworld this year. Fortunately, I know some of the best writers and experts in the jewelry and watch industry. One of those folks is William George Shuster who has kindly agreed to take time from his busy schedule to write a few stories from the tradeshow. Below is his third report.

By William George Shuster
Special Correspondent

Baselworld 2012, the 40th annual edition of the world’s largest and most important watch and jewelry show, may be its most successful yet.

But it also marks the end of an era for the trade fair. Indeed, there was a sense of finality about Baselworld 2012 that had nothing to do with business.

The reason: An enormous and costly restructuring of trade fair buildings and a redesign and revamping of Exhibition Square, the outdoor center of the fair, so total that international visitors and exhibitors from next year onward will not recognize the long-time fair site.

Indeed, Sylvie Ritter, the show director, called Baselworld 2012, a “milestone in the history of our trade show” and “a decisive turning point” before the “start of a new era” in 2013.

This newest modernization in a long history of renovations and expansions of the Basel fairgrounds is scheduled to finished and ready for the 41st edition of Baselworld in April 2013.

Trade show facilities that have housed the annual Baselworld and earlier Swiss watch and jewelry fair for much of the 20th and early 21st centuries are being torn down and replaced with massive new, three-story structures, costing millions of dollars. Show officials promise this enormous undertaking, the most extensive modernization and expansion of the show facilities in its history, will benefit both visitors and exhibitors immensely.

“With investments of around 430 million Swiss francs ($460 million), we will be able to provide our exhibitors, our trade visitors and our journalists with a fantastic trade show infrastructure,” said René Kamm, CEO MCH Group.

The 95-year-old Hall 1, site of  major watch brand exhibitors and the fair ground’s oldest building, will be rebuilt, with its front dismantled, and extended into the exhibition square by a three strew building. Hall 3, across the street (site for gemstone and equipment exhibitors) is being torn down and replaced also with a new three story complex, with a multifunctional event hall (capable of holding up to 2,500 people) on the ground floor. Linking these two buildings will be linked by a two-story complex (starting the second floor level of Hall One, roofing over exhibition square. The exhibition square (pictured left) itself will become a large atrium, open to the public and the trams which will continue to regularly ride through it.

The new complex will have a total of 141,000 square meters and will “ensure a greater level of convenience for our visitors,” says a show report. The final outcome is going to do justice to the expectations of our exhibitors,” says Jacquares Diichene, trade show chairman.

Also changing will be the locations of many exhibitors, especially those watch vendors on the first floor in Hall 1. And members of the Hong Kong exhibitors pavilion, the show’s second largest, will be moving from Hall 6 to Hall 4.

William George Shuster is a multi-award winning writer—including three Jesse H. Neal Award, business journalism's highest honor. He has 40 years experience as a journalist, author and editor. He is considered one of the world’s top watch industry journalists, covering the world of timepieces for the past 30 years.