Every year, two big watch fairs – or exhibitions – are held in Switzerland. One fair in Basel and the other one is in Geneva. These watch fairs are – by far – the biggest watch exhibitions in the world and draw thousands of journalists, retailers, clients, etc. to these two cities. Hotel prices are out of this world during these shows and local restaurants and bars rub their hands together weeks in advance.
Baselworld was the first watch show in Switzerland. Although at the time it was using a different name (Schweizer Mustermesse Basel), the first fair was held in 1917. Using different names throughout the decades, it was the place to be as a brand but also as an industry professional. An interesting detail is that it wasn’t until 1986 that non-Swiss exhibitors could join the fair. Today, brands from various countries are present at Baselworld and it is the opportunity for retailers and press to see all the novelties for the coming year. 2015, there were 1,500 exhibiting brands and over 150,000 visitors from 100 countries. The fair is held in March of each year. We created a page to highlight the most important watches that were introduced at Baselworld 2015.
The other important watch fair is the SIHH, the Salon Internationale de la Haute Horlogerie. This fair was started in 1991 by Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Piaget, Gerald Genta, and Daniel Roth. During the first years, there were some shifts in exhibiting brands, but in 2002 the SIHH was mainly a Richemont Group fair with a couple of independent brands (like Audemars Piguet). At the SIHH 2016, there were 24 brands in total. A number of independent brands (MB&F, Urwerk, H.Moser & Cie etc.) decided to join the fair in Geneva. 2015, SIHH drew 14,500 visitors from all over the world. The Salon is held in January of each year.
Not only the number of exhibiting brands is different from Baselworld and SIHH, there are some more differences to explain between the two biggest watch fairs. Whereas Baselworld is open to the public as well, SIHH merely focuses on retailers and journalists. That said, some brands exhibiting at SIHH are allowed to bring in a couple of their most valued customers and brand ambassadors (celebrities). Each year, brands like IWC manage to get stars like Kevin Spacey and models like Adriana Lima to their booth and cocktail parties.
In short, you could say that Richemont Group brands and a couple of independent brands like Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille, and H. Moser & Cie. exhibit at SIHH while brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Swatch Group brands, LVMH brands, Breitling, etc. exhibit at Baselworld.
For a private person (or watch enthusiast that is not professionally involved in the industry) it is almost impossible to get into the SIHH. However, Baselworld is open to the public and only costs you an entry ticket. However, keep in mind that most brands work on appointments only (retailers and press) so there are a number of brands where you can’t enter the booth. Nevertheless, it is a fantastic experience to be there and experience the dynamics of the world of watches. All novelties and product launches will be displayed at the booths, so even if you don’t have an appointment, you will be able to see them.
If you want to be among the first to see the new Rolex models, discover new and small independent brands, or want to experience Jean-Claude Biver talking to the guests about the TAG Heuer Connected watch, visiting Baselworld might just be the thing for you to do. If you are more interested in the brands that exhibit at the SIHH, you will have a real difficult time getting in, unless you are a highly valued collector of one of the exhibiting brands. Entry tickets are very limited.
However, most of the brands will exhibit their novelties (after SIHH and Baselworld) also at smaller fairs like Belles Montres, MunichTime, SalonQP, and so on. Some brands have their own typical roadshow with SIHH and Baselworld novelties at some of their boutiques and retailers, but of course this is only done per brand.