OPINION: Common sense comes to Basel

After seven days, more than 80 appointments and 90km trudged around the halls of the MCH Congress centre and the streets of Basel, I can safely say Baselworld 2016 was not the show I was expecting, but it might well be the show that the industry needed.

Now I can’t speak from a retailer’s perspective – I’ll be asking for your help on that later – but the product that Team WatchPro was shown throughout the week bore all the hallmarks of good old-fashioned, level-headed common sense.

While some mid-priced brands seemed keen to reposition themselves entirely, others shuffled softly down the pricing scale, offering great value to the end consumer. The intention is clear, watches designed to sell through. While it was reassuring to see, you must wonder why the brands don’t think that way all of the time, instead of encouraging the market conditions that have lead to a booming grey market.

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While it might not seem the ideal time to speculate a handful of brands pressed the reset button and relaunched themselves entirely. Zeon wowed with its confident and meticulously researched heritage relaunch. Everything from the product to the brand and their stand in Hall 2 was impressive.

Fossil Group has also given some much needed love to Zodiac, a brand it has owned for some 20 years and done very little with. Now it’s more assured than ever before with a slick collection of watches inspired by its mid-20th Century back catalogue, very much celebrating its past, while keeping one eye on the future. It’s a genuinely cool brand rather than a corporate pretender.

There were no great surprises, no huge developments and the press might struggle to pick out headline-grabbing pieces. But there were some interesting new models, certainly enough to pique the interest of the watch buying public such as Bulova’s CURV curved chronograph, Movado’s Edge, Nixon’s The Mission smart watch along with the rise of bronze watches from Oris, Tudor and Zodiac et al.

In fact trends were easier to read than in previous years. Bronze is the case material of choice. Blue has gone beyond a trend and is now a necessity for any collection with a sunburst dial. We also saw enough green to suggest it will be a future trend if it sells this year. Many brands were pushing ultra-slim, including the anniversary Citizen Eco Drive One and Rado’s True Thinline, both under 5mm in depth.

Interchangeable straps are also here to stay. On a personal level, I’ve been banging my head against a wall since Burberry announced its Runway collection last year with a number of catwalk-inspired straps. I was incredulous when informed the straps weren’t available separately. Now all brands from fast fashion at Folli Follie to the hallowed halls of Vacheron Constantin have introduced interchangeable straps.

At the lower price points it encourages footfall to stores and return purchases, whilst at the upper end it offers added value and flexibility to an expensive purchase. Good news all round.

Attendance is pretty difficult to gauge without access to Basel’s army of scan-happy hall monitors but I don’t think it would be controversial to suggest Thursday and Friday were busier last year, with Hall 2 suffering more than most, including the disguised empty stands upstairs. But there seemed to be a renewed surge of visitors through and after the weekend.

But that’s my take on it, yours may differ wildly depending on your role in the industry. Whatever your thoughts on doing business at Baselworld 2016 let me know, either through the comments section below or email here.

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