Jacques Duchêne welcomed a global audience on the opening day of BaselWorld 2013
I should like to welcome you most cordially to this, the world’s most important, watch and jewellery show – an event which brings us all together year in year out.
On behalf of all the exhibitors participating in this year’s show, I can assure you that we are particularly proud to welcome you to the 2013 edition of BaselWorld, which is bound to remain a vivid memory for a long time to come.
This pride extends to all those who have played their part in this adventure from near or afar. Let me begin my thanks with all the exhibitors who have invested appreciable sums in new stands. And I should like to add that this is all the more remarkable, since at no time were we urged to create new stands. Every exhibitor would have been completely free to use the same stand as in previous years if they had wanted to.
You will be able to see this for yourselves later on. They have spared no expense, effort or commitment in adorning this show with stands, many of which are breathtaking in their elegance and beauty.
However, this gigantic and impressive construction project would never have been realised without a number of visionary spirits. So I should like also to express my thanks to the management of MCH Group and the chairman of its Board, Dr Ulrich Vischer, and the Basel architects Herzog and de Meuron, who have masterminded this project brilliantly within very tight time constraints.
I should also like to emphasise the unflagging support from the cantonal authorities of Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land as well as the people living there, who voted in favour of this project.
In the same way, I should also like to thank the BaselWorld management and everyone working for the show for the huge volume of work they have done and the support they have given throughout the whole year, making it possible for us now to open the new BaselWorld 2013. In this regard, I am thinking in particular of René Kamm, the CEO, of Sylvie Ritter, the show director, and Martin Fergusson, the sales director.
Thanks to their dedication, they have succeeded in making the apparently impossible possible, namely seeing a construction project on this scale through to its conclusion in such a short period of time. And, while doing so, they have at all times remained receptive for the wishes voiced by their exhibitors and partners.
I also extend my thanks to the numerous tradespeople who have contributed to this success and who have displayed enormous commitment on the construction site and later on inside the exhibition halls. And, for part of the time, they have done that in difficult conditions, in order to ensure that this gigantic job would be ready on schedule.
It goes without saying that I am also thinking of the media representatives, who month for month have reported on the progress of the work and who have focused particularly closely on all the innovations at the show. Let me thank you very much indeed for your loyal and steadfast support.
Let’s think back together. Hall 1 was inaugurated in 1999. We had already taken big steps towards rationalising this show. I am forced to confess today that the undertaking that is now behind us, to set up the new concept 2013, has completely changed the overall situation. The attempt to accommodate as far as possible all the wishes expressed is at times a tough job, but it is above all a fascinating one.
The fact is that everything has changed since 1999!
Mentalities, expectations and products. Moreover, the nature of communication has continued to develop at an exponential rate.
In the course of the past 15 years, the watch and jewellery industry has been through a consolidation process on a scale never witnessed before, and this has also had its effects on the challenges faced by production and marketing, which have changed radically. Now it is a good thing to take note of changes and to adjust to them, but it is even better still to anticipate needs and to be in a position to satisfy them without delay when they arise.
And that is precisely what BaselWorld has done. With the new buildings and the infrastructure that we are inaugurating today, we are clearly looking to the future in order to be able to cope equally effectively with the needs of both exhibitors and visitors.
For a number of years, we have been critically reviewing our own approach. We should like to give precedence to quality over quantity, and it is our intention to continue to pursue that course.
In our eyes, that approach is the only possible one if we are to ensure that, in the future too, BaselWorld retains its position as the leading event amongst all the watch and jewellery shows in terms of its concept and vision.
Of course we are benefiting from an industry that is at the pinnacle of its growth. Since 1999, the Swiss watch industry has doubled its export figures and has, incidentally, broken all its previous records in 2012. Today, it is thanks to this excellent state of health of the industry that we are able to present the show to you in its attractive new look.
Despite all this, we remain realistic in considering the future of our industry. In a worldwide business environment, in which there is often no tranquillity, solidity or continuity, we are forced to be frank in admitting that the watch industry constitutes an exception.
Nonetheless, even in the face of all the economic imponderables, we remain optimistic for the current year. Our view is that exports are going to stay on a positive course in 2013, that the watch industry is going to continue to grow and that BaselWorld is going to be part of this future.
Before drawing to a conclusion, let me touch on another subject that is particularly close to my heart. I am sure that you will already have guessed that I am talking about combating counterfeits. We have been fighting against this scourge for a long time and we have chalked up several successes, but we must not allow any easing up in our efforts. It is a never-ending battle. Every confiscation is a step forward, a bit of territory reconquered. Let us stay on our guard, not only as manufacturers, but as consumers too.
In this context I should like to stress the excellent work done by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry and the BaselWorld Panel, our internal arbitration board.
Finally, I should like to express my sincerest thanks to you, Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, and invite you to spend eight days letting yourselves be captivated by the BaselWorld rhythm.
I now wish all of you a stimulating week packed full of surprises.