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Swiss watch exports increased last year but are likely to take a hit in the coming year due to the deteriorating economic environment
Swiss watch exports increased last year but are likely to take a hit in the coming year due to the deteriorating economic environment

Tough times for Swiss watch industry

BaselWorld is in full swing, and despite the challenging economic environment, organisers remain positive about the show’s relevance and general strength of the watch and jewellery sector.

At a press conference held on Wednesday 18 March – one day before the main event – BaselWorld managing director Sylvie Ritter didn’t deny the industry was going through a tough period.

Admitting the situation was not ideal, Ritter outlined some of the challenges the industry had faced but also described the previous year as positive for the watch and jewellery sector.

Sylvie Ritter
Sylvie Ritter
Francois Thiébaud
Francois Thiébaud

Swiss Exhibitors’ Committee president Francois Thiébaud echoed Ritter’s sentiments, stating that although 2014 ended on a difficult note, it had been a “high-level consolidation year” for the Swiss watchmaking industry and that Swiss watch exports had continued to increase.

Exports rose 1.9 per cent compared to 2013, reaching a total value of CHF22.2 billion (AU$28.4 b). This was, coincidentally, the same percentage increase reported by Thiébaud during BaselWorld in 2014 – although that 1.9 per cent rise to CHF21.8 billion (AU$27.9 b) had been a significant drop from the previous year’s 10.9 per cent increase.

Thiébaud said the positive trend had continued into 2015, with January exports recording a year-on-year increase of 3.7 per cent. He did explain, however, that 2015 forecasts had been revised to reflect the deteriorating economic environment.

Johann Schneider-Ammann
Johann Schneider-Ammann
René Kamm
René Kamm

The official opening of BaselWorld was marked the following day with an address by Swiss federal councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann. Schneider-Ammann underlined the significant economic contribution that the Swiss watch and jewellery industry made to the country, highlighting that the sector comprised more than 500 companies that collectively employed more than 50,000 people.

René Kamm, CEO of show organiser MCH Group, also made an opening address. While he acknowledged the mood was not as optimistic as previous BaselWorld events that had taken place under more favourable conditions, he added, “Fortunately there were never occasions when we had the impression that the watch and jewellery industry was running out of innovative ideas.”

Smartwatches steal the spotlight
Tissot launched a smartwatch prototype
Tissot launched a smartwatch prototype

While a bevy of new products will be launched at the trade show, it’s the smartwatch-related releases that appear to have generated the most hype thus far.

Following much industry speculation – and just hours after the show’s official opening – Tag Heuer revealed it was developing a Swiss-made smartwatch in collaboration with Intel and Google. While no specific details about the device were given, it was confirmed that the timepiece would be presented at the end of this year and be powered by Intel technology and Android Wear.

In addition, Tissot unveiled a prototype for its version of a smartwatch, and Gucci Timepieces announced it would partner with musician Will.i.am to develop a standalone “smartband”.

BaselWorld is widely considered to be the world’s largest watch and jewellery show by visitor numbers – 150,000 people are expected to attend this year.

The eight-day event continues through to Thursday 26 March.

More reading
BaselWorld organisers remain positive
Traditional brands join smartwatch bandwagon











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