It’s early spring, when the eyes of luxury shoppers everywhere turn toward … Basel, Switzerland for the jewelry and watch rubbernecking event of the year. Now in its 40th year, Baselworld provides the perfect backdrop for brand announcements and gem envy. LVMH’s Tag Heuer, for example, announced that actress Cameron Diaz will be the new brand ambassador for its Link Lady line. Diaz appeared on stage wearing a steel and diamond version of the new collection, which the company says is “dedicated to beautiful and rebel women.”
While luxury brands from all over the world had a good showing last year, it was especially strong for Swiss watches, with exports up 19.2% in Swiss francs in 2011, and 14% in volume, the biggest increase since 1999. Even better, says the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, those gains were uniform at all price points. Companies like Swatch, in the midst of legal wranglings with Tiffany over its timepiece agreements, for example, reported a 21.7% jump in annual revenues. And at LVMH, annual sales in the watch and jewelry division increased a hefty 23%.
The show is also a great place for trendspotting, and typically attracts more than 3,000 journalists. (Last year, show attendance topped 103,000 visitors from 45 countries.) This year, for example, show organizers report that Ceylon blue sapphires are big, and that emeralds are making a comeback. As if to prove the point, Faberge showed up with its astonishing Romanov Necklace, a contemporary emerald and diamond collar that reworks a piece first made in 1885. The piece, which took 14 months to create, includes more than 79 emeralds, totaling 186.85 carats, including a single pear-shaped drop of 30.65 carats. (The emeralds were ethically sourced in Zambia.)
In another sign that the world is warming up such luxury purchases again, Women’s Wear Daily reports that the international editions of GQ hosted their first cocktail reception at Baselworld, and that the media group had 140 reporters, editors and publishers from its various publications in attendance. The fashion trade paper says that in 2011, CN magazines had 1,800 editorial pages dedicated to wristwatches, with 850 in GQ editions alone.