For one week a year, the center of the timepiece universe revolves around Basel, a quiet Swiss city that sits astride the borders of France and Germany. Whereas January’s Salon Internationle Haute Horlogerie is a more intimate, almost quaint affair with its handful of high-end brands, BaselWorld, the world’s largest watch show, is a raucous mosh pit of over a thousand brands, 100,000 visitors and a whole lot of schnitzel. This year, the show is earlier than usual, running from March 27th through April 3rd. And we’ll be there.
MORE WATCH TRAVEL: Best Watches of SIHH 2014 | Visiting A. Lange & Söhne | Visiting the Hamilton Watch Factory
BaselWorld isn’t just significant because of the sheer number of brands exhibiting there. Historically, it’s the place where horological milestones and iconic timepieces have made their debuts. Rolex introduced its Submariner there in 1954. The first self-winding chronographs made their entrance in Basel in 1969. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was a sensation in 1972. And Seiko turned the watch world upside down in 1970 with its first quartz watch, the Astron. Given this history, BaselWorld has become the place where brands grandly reveal what they’ve been working on for the past year in their ateliers, factories and workshops from the mountains of the Jura to the banks of the Thames to the Far East.
BaselWorld’s Website is slick, easy to navigate and chock full of good information.
Whereas many watch events, including SIHH, are invitation-only, BaselWorld is open to the public. You can buy your tickets online here.
If you plan to attend BaselWorld and haven’t booked a hotel room or rented an apartment for $700 a night, there are probably still a couple of rooms left in Zurich…or Munich.
If you didn’t plan ahead and aren’t staying in town, a Swiss Railway pass is recommended rather than renting a car and paying for gas and parking.
The organizers of BaselWorld have created a smartphone app for Android or iPhone. It features 3D maps of the exhibit halls, daily schedules, brand profiles and daily news update from the show.
Before you go, do your homework on the brands that will be exhibiting. The BaselWorld Brand Book is available for free as an e-paper that you can browse on that long plane or train ride to the show.
What will this year bring? Pre-Basel teasers and speculation keep web forums and blogs abuzz for months ahead of time. Will this be the year Rolex releases a Pepsi-bezeled GMT-Master II? How about the much-rumored Sea Dweller II or modern Paul Newman Daytona? OMEGA has been teasing with strategically shadowed photos of what many think will be a modern version of their very first Seamaster 300.
Then the doors open at the halls of BaselWorld and journalists run to the booth displays in their wingtips, ties aflutter, cameras at the ready. Sometimes we’re left disappointed when the real thing is revealed, but often there are pleasant surprises that no one saw coming. In the weeks and months that follow BaselWorld, the momentum and excitement are enough to sustain us for at least half the year; new references trickle into our hands for more extensive review. Then we’re left to reflect on what should have been and who the winners and losers were, and to immediately start speculating for the next year.
So yes, we’ll be right alongside those other parachute journalists with our camera and our comfortable shoes. We can’t wait. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for a glimpse into the elaborate brand booths, the new watches and the scene. Then, when it’s all over and we’ve slept off the hangover, we’ll put up our favorites from the show. Let the madness begin.