Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Optimism Prevails at Baselworld

Every year the watchmakers and jewelers converge on Basel, Switzerland in the spring for Baselworld show. It is the place where exhibitors display some of the most dazzling luxury goods in the world.But the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis may prove to be an unwelcome guest that watchmakers fear could be a hindrance for business in the year ahead.It would be too soon to say what the outcome of Baselworld will be for diamantaires.Some are hailing the show as a great success (with plans for a bigger and better-located booth next year), while others are resigned to the fact that Basel is slow and just another necessary stop on the seemingly endless trade show merry-go-round.

Jacques Duchene, president of the BaselWorld Exhibitors Committee said the Swiss watch exports reached about 15.75 billion in U.S. dollars (16 billion Swiss francs) last year, a 16 percent increase over the previous year, and a rise of more than 50 percent over the previous four years, in a press conference,the day before the show opens.But despite the good news, economic troubles of recent months are worrisome, and companies should be prepared, Duchene said. He noted, however, that the Swiss watch industry is optimistic for 2008 since new markets in other parts of the world are developing, with Swiss watch exports to Russia up 57.4 percent and exports to China up 43 percent, for instance.

Vimal Lakhani, managing director of Kiran Gems, said the quantity of the people isn’t worrying him – he is interested in the quality, and this Sightholder, which specializes in white goods under 25 points, is seeing all the people it needs.“We are exhibiting for the first time for three reasons,” he says. “It’s a brand building exercise, we want to continue our relationship with our existing customers and we are looking to find new clients.”

According to Avi Paz of the Israel-based Avi Paz Group ,58 percent of exports goes to the U.S.therefore it would impact his trade but he also said there is a positive side to the decrease in the value of the dollar that people should not forget. “The interest rate of the dollar, which forms a lot of our expenses, has dropped. Fewer expenses will give us some oxygen, which is very important for our industry.”However being optimistic he said the U.S. will not affect him too badly,because of his philosophy of not concentrating on only one market and “We should not forget about the U.S., though,” he said. “We have to take care of it, even if it is going down.”

As for 2008 watch models, the Swiss will roll out original large chronographs for many of its new 2008 models, including ladies' chronographs that offer some innovative mechanical functions, said Francois Thiebaud, president of the BaselWorld Swiss Exhibitors Committee.Big cases, pink gold and jewelry-style watches for men are also on tap at this year's show.

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