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Baselworld 2016: Hopes are high for a reinvigorated watch sector

Still, the fair’s organizer put its best foot forward, highlighting its longstanding history and comparing it to the watch industry’s current state of affairs. This year’s edition of the fair marked a milestone for MCH, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its first Mustermesse Basel (MUBA). The event marked the start of the group, along with the birth of the modern Swiss exhibition industry. Describing how Baselworld had evolved from being a small exhibition of Swiss watches within MUBA, MCH Group CEO René Kamm also stressed its success at weathering other storms over the course of its history.

“Where passion presides, the will to overcome challenges will always succeed,” Kamm said. “And the watch and jewellery industry has the passion and resilience to deal with these challenges.”

His words came days after the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) released its February 2016 report. It noted Swiss watch exports remained on a negative trend for the eighth consecutive month, down 3.3 per cent compared to February 2015 for a total value of 1.7 billion CHF ($2.3 billion Cdn.).
The decline was due mostly to a downward trend in the Hong Kong market. The situation looked no better a month later when FH released it March 2016 figures. Hong Kong recorded one of its steepest downturns at -37.7 per cent, followed by the United States at -32.9 per cent.

Speaking at the annual Baselworld press conference, François Thiébaud, president of the Swiss exhibitors’ committee, put the yearly figure into perspective, saying the sector had only weakened by 3.3 per cent in 2015, a figure in sharp contrast to the industry’s 60 per cent growth in exports since 2010. The watch industry’s showing was also better compared to other Swiss exports, he added.

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