World watch fair opens in Basel | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 08.03.2012
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World watch fair opens in Basel

The world's largest watch fair has kicked off in Basel, Switzerland. The Baselworld show brings together all the big names in the watch-making business, with Swiss producers of timepieces leading the field.

The world's biggest watch fair, Baselworld, opened in Switzerland on Thursday in a fairly optimistic mood, on the back of a bumper year for watchmakers thanks to soaring Asian demand for luxury timepieces.

Over 18 hundred exhibitors – including leading brands Rolex, Chopard and Omega – are showcasing their latest creations at the Baselworld 2012. About 100,000 visitors are expected at the event until March 15.

Swiss watchmakers remain the industry's barometer. Their exports last year soared to a record 19.3 billion Swiss francs (11.5 billion euros, $15.1 billion), up 19.2 percent from a year earlier.

Swatch, the world's largest watch group, alone posted sales of 5.8 billion euros in 2011, a jump in net profit by 18.1 percent year-on-year.

Steering clear of collateral damage

Predominantly thanks to growing Asian demand, the watch industry has largely been spared the effects of the current European debt crisis, which has hit most other industries.

"Demand in January and February of this year looked good again, and there are still good markets in emerging countries," said the head of the Swiss Exhibitors' Committee, Francois Thiebaud, in a statement in Basel.

Swiss watchmaker Hublot unveiled the world's most expensive watch with a price tag of five million euros and over 12 hundred diamonds, including six stones of more than three carats each. 17 people worked for a whole 14 months to create that timepiece, Hublot announced at the Baselworld.

Organizers hope this year's show will not produce any nasty surprises again. In 2011, thieves made off with a set of four diamonds after distracting staff. The booty has not been recovered, but police have meanwhile identified a man who they think was responsible for organizing the multi-million-euro robbery.

hg/slk (AFP, dpa)