One only has to blink for a year in the watch industry and Baselworld 2018 is upon us. Last year around this time, I was anticipating a reversion to more classical designs and diameters to be a prevalent trend at Baselworld 2017. True enough, that transpired, and what followed was a tentatively positive year for the watch industry in general.
Upward Trend in the Watch Market
In fairness, ‘tentative’ is perhaps a little generous. In reality, the reaction to the export figures generated in 2017 is positive only when viewed in relation to the disastrous collapse of 2016. But growth, however incremental and fragile it may be, is growth nonetheless, and even in 2017 did nothing but stem the bleeding.
Which is just as well given the proliferation of white chinos that are about to stampede their way through a normally sleepy city in Northern Switzerland for Baselworld 2018.
Classics Are Back
It follows that a reversion to classicism would bring with it the desires to revisit the classics themselves. Watchmaking, like all design-driven industries, is embarrassingly cyclical at times. First we design through art, then technology; technology takes over and collectors start to pine for art; art remerges but created by the technology that seemed once to sound its death knell…
So this year expect to see the classics reborn in new materials, with better lume, more accurate or suddenly in-house movements, and futuristic or fashionable materials. We can see from certain pre-releases that Oris, Hublot, and TAG Heuer are definitely going to be making noise with their new pieces.
All Eyes on the East
Interestingly, the sudden ‘recovery’ of Swiss Watch exports last year was totally underpinned by an unexpected upswing in interest from Asia. For quite some time, the exports to the East had been dwindling, but in the backend of 2017 that changed and put an arguably misleading gloss on the statistics by year end.
The upshot of this is simple: Swiss Watch companies will start tracking Asian buying trends and pump whatever segment of the market that represents full of tailor-made wrist candy. Historically branding has been everything in the Asian markets, with China driven by label lust, and the Middle East interested more in super high-end exclusivity.
Promising Split in Offerings
This will be music to the ears of brands that excel at making limited editions our of space age components on the regular. Expect a weird schism in the Baselworld 2018 offerings: I anticipate one half of the fair will be doubling down on improving quality and value of their entry level wares, while the top-end (pricewise) will be doing everything in their power to blow the roof off.
Oddly, this might make for one of the most simultaneously inspiring and accessible fairs yet…
About the Author:
Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.