The Swiss industry is struggling with a strong franc, which makes its products more expensive to sell abroad, and with the technological threat from smart watches that are being proposed by the likes of Apple and other high-tech firms.
Sylvie Ritter, Baselworld’s managing director, acknowledged at a press conference on Wednesday that the situation is not ideal for the industry.
But despite the challenges, the previous year was an extremely positive one both for watches and jewellery and “the attractiveness and buzz that this sector creates go on growing”, she said.
Ritter noted that every year 150,000 professionals, including many watch dealers, come to Basel “to feel the pulse of the industry”.
Around 1,500 Swiss brands are promoted at the week-long show that attracts more than 4,000 journalists.
Last year, Swiss watch exports rose 1.9 percent to 22.2 billion francs from in 2013.
Sales continued strong in January at 1.6 billion, up 3.79 percent from the previous year.
But the Swiss National Bank’s decision in January to abandon a policy designed to prevent the Swiss franc from appreciating against the euro has caused concerns in the watch industry.
Forecasts for exports have been revised downward and watch companies are wrestling with prices and competitiveness.
Meanwhile, with Apple set to release its smart watch in key markets next month, more than ten Swiss watch brands are poised to unveil their “smart watches” at Baselworld.
The show at the Basel Congress Center is set to run until March 26th.