Each year, BaselWorld, the world’s premier watch fair, begins with a press conference in which industry representatives review the past year. In recent years, these presentations have not made for pleasant reading. After the highs—in more ways than one—of the pre-Lehman era, revenues and shipments have dropped.
But on the basis of figures revealed at BaselWorld 2011, the Swiss watch industry is clawing back. While overall revenues were just a shade below the highs of 2008, the number of watches shipped in 2010—26.1 million—were the same.
Has the luxury watches business bounced back? Hardly any chief executive or marketing manager Mint spoke to was ready to put his neck on the line and say it outright. But there was no missing the rising optimism. Last year, Kapil Kapoor of the Timex Group told Mint he was cautiously optimistic. This year, he said the business is looking good but it’s still too early to abandon caution. (The earthquake in Japan and the Arabian Spring being reasons for him to worry more than the global economy.)
In many ways, it was as if 2009 never happened. It was as if the industry is back in 2008. Once again, brands were investing in concept launches, brand extensions and launching new collections. The Asian market, which never really slowed down all that much, continues to be the driving force behind the revival.
In terms of timepieces, BaselWorld 2011 looked like an organic development from some of the trends seen last year. Watches continued to be slim, small with classic designs. Brands responded to the demand for sober watches by reaching into their archives. Others tapped into retro designs. Two-tone metal was everywhere, no doubt with an eye on Asian tastes. It was also a good fair for women’s watches and value-conscious buyers. Price-range extensions by brands were very competitive.
This year, Mint presents an even larger BaselWorld report, with more interviews, data and trends. But most of all, it is packed with dozens of exquisite timepieces. We hope it is worth your time.