Baselworld, taking the pulse on watches

Baselworld, taking the pulse on watches
An employee paints a clock-face of a watch at the exhibition stand of Swiss watch manufacturer Blancpain at Baselworld fair in Basel in this April 25, 2013 file photograph.

ZURICH - The world's biggest watch fair is set to open this week in Basel, offering an industry showcase for the world's most extravagant, rare and complex time pieces.

The 42nd edition of Baselworld, which opens in the northern Swiss city to the media on Wednesday and a day later to the public, is expected to draw some 100,000 visitors.

Nearly 1,500 exhibitors, including leading watch brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Breguet and Omega, will be there, offering up all different styles for all different budgets.

From affordable plastic sports watches to intricately detailed mechanic time pieces that can be priced well above the one-million-Swiss-franc (S$1.4 million) mark.

Hublot, a brand belonging to French luxury group LVMH, for instance told AFP it would unveil a watch with a face made of osmium crystal, a new material. Like other prestige brands, Hublot is in a race to offer collectors exclusive models not dangling from every wrist.

It has teamed up with a Swiss scientific team to develop a new way to work with osminum - a rare metal in the platinum family which when crystallised has a rare shine to it, the brand said.

At Baselworld - also devoted to jewelry - exhibitors also indulge in cut-throat competition on the marketing front to grab attention for their new offerings amid the multitude of sparkling gems and flashing lights.

With the Easter holidays fast approaching, Geneva jeweller Shawish is thus set to present its own version of hollowed-out chocolate egg surprises popular among children, with a very adult twist:

Inside the fine, Swiss milk chocolate shell is not a plastic toy, but one of Shawish's latest jewel creations.

Less than three months from the start of the World Cup in Brazil, Baselworld will also be showcasing its share of football related themes.

Swiss watchmaker Jeanrichard, which recently partnered with British club Arsenal FC, will for instance bring in French football great Robert Pires to unveil the limited editions it has created for the club.

Baselworld is the most important event of the year for the global watch industry, with retailers making the lion share of their annual orders there.

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