Travel to Baselworld

Baselworld is very much like another planet, rather than the biggest watch, jewelry and gem trade show in the world.  I consider myself very much an “everyman.” Despite interviewing the occasional CEO, or having access to industries or decision-makers, I am and likely always will be firmly in the middle-class.  “Middle class” at Baselworld probably amounts to being able to afford a watch worth chf 20,000.  (Read: not me)
In the first minutes of my first excursion to Baselworld I held a wrist watch backed in Titanium worth chf 87,000 before tax.  I was nervous to hold it, until a salesman ran toward me with his newest gimmick–an analog watch with intricate mechanics to allow blackjack and roulette.  The price?  “About chf 160,000,” he said coolly. Not my middle class, I thought.

To be fair I am not the target consumer at something like Baselworld, I am just passing through hoping not to be stepped on.  This trade show features 1900 dealers of luxury goods hoping to find new collectors, retailers or markets to enrich with opulence.  And if watches or jewelry aren’t enough to bring you through the arches of a million-dollar exhibition space for a closer look, then perhaps gimmicks will.

Seiko constructed a classy walk through time, showing watches old and new.


Cafés, cocktail parties, aquariums, gift bags–Baselworld had a taste of everything to entice the varied types of watch buyers or fans.  As a journalist I tried mostly to understand what I was viewing, and I am still not certain.  This show is for the types of people who can and do afford the priciest toys and treasures.  I am the kind of person who looks at such things through the shop windows on Bahnhofstraße in Zurich.

In presentations and printed word the show recognized the tragedy experienced by Japan with a cautious optimism.  Japan is one of the largest markets in the world for luxury goods, hitting the chf 160,000 casino watch industry where it hurts.

For my part I was at a loss for words at the Seiko exhibition, or that of Citizen Watch Co.–two Japanese watch companies.  Seiko had no comment, when I asked about attending the trade show during a national crisis.  But Citizen was more forthcoming.  The company made buttons which thanked people for their support during the crises.  I clumsily offered my apologies and hope that the nation will bounce back with a spring left in its step.  The watch sellers thanked me graciously…what was there to say?

I suppose their reaction was like many Americans’ abroad following the September 11 attacks.  Peoples from other nations offered sympathy to Americans in an attempt to console the pain of national tragedy, even if the person had never visited New York, or had no direct roots there. On a human level we sometimes want to just say “I’m so sorry” when something terrible and jarring afflicts our fellow man.  Saying something is better than feeling helpless, or trying not to bridge that social and emotional divide.

“Thank you for your support,” the Citizen Watch manager said. “We will do our best.”  She said it with a genuineness on her face, and in her voice.  I nodded, and walked away slowly.

My awe at the opulence of this palace of luxury had left me–and that was fine by me.

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