Nineteen eighty four turned out to be a watershed year for the Basel Fair.

For the first time jewelry exhibitors outnumbered watch and clock exhibitors. For the first time the watch, clock and jewelry exhibits were separated from the multiproduct Swiss Industries Fair, which is bein held later in the year. And fair officials announced that, starting in 1986, Basel will be open to many new international exhibitors, including firms from Japan and Hong Kong. This year 49 Hong Kong watch firms did travel to Switzerland but they had to show their wares privately in a city hotel.

Last year, Swiss watch producers introduced many quartz designs at the Fair; at Basel ’84, however, they rounded out product lines with more low-priced and mid-range style. The new models demonstrated that quartz analog styling is fully compatible with mutli-function timekeeping. Many had complete calendar, moon-phases, universal time, alarm and chronograph functions… and Swiss producers promised that astonishing new display technologies are around the corner.

Also introduced was a Longines high-precision watch incorporating a thermometer-quartz rate governor; new Nepro sub-assemblies that turn standard quartz movements into alarm watches, as well as casing systems and components allowing volume production of attractively priced quality timepieces.

Two opposite styling trends were evident at Basel this year as manufacturers strove to achieve distinctive looks. Some collections presented strict, unadorned designs with top surfaces entirely protected by scratch-resistant crystal. Others, however, featured dials framed by a variety of decorative elements: Claws, cables, tiny cylinders. What’s more, dials dominated styling with larger, more elaborate, often colored treatments. Top-of-the-line watches, though, still retain a classic spirit.

New materials–from titanium and light-metal alloys to synthetics–have been used in ’84 entries. Water resistance systems also have improved and, combined with the latest crop of extra-thin Swiss movements, now enable manufacturers to turn out extremely slim yet well-protected timepieces.

Buyers and browsers alike–the public still is admitted to the fair–were excited by the opulent and dazzling jewelry displays. Among the exhibitors were manufacturing jewelers who presented a vast array of creations. Dior, for example, featured 8mm-thick lighters, possibly the slimmest made, with fluted designs or satin-finishes, and matching writing instruments.

Swiss silverware was represented by very complete collections in sterling silver. Swiss jewelry design is in a particularly classic mood this year, notably at the upper end. Jewelry sets were very much in evidence, including Brosshard’s yellow gold necklaces and bracelets ablaze with diamonds, rubies and sapphires.

Colored gemstones–tourmalines, aquamarines and citrines–likewise are in style as are chains. For instance, Gay Freres displayed chains in white and yellow gold with square-section wire spirals. Moreover, visitors to Basel saw lots of Bulova marine star watch and jewelry chain bracelets. Also hot this year are small gold ingots. Pamp SA showed them on jewelry, decorated on one side and even used as pendants. Ingots are available in different shapes, and even come in lozenge and ear pendant sets.

Occupying Basel’s American Pavilion were 10 U.S. manufacturers offering platinum, gold and silver jewelry, as well as men’s jewelry, precious stones and findings–Henry Dunay, Etienne, Hallmark Healy Ltd. and Jabel Inc., among others. The American Pavilion also featured a Manufacturing Jewelers & Silversmiths of America-sponsored audio/slide show depicting U.S. life, cities and jewelry from each of the participating U.S. firms.

Supplementing the main exhibits were special presentations. Among them: One, jointly compiled by the Swiss and German watch industries, which explained how sports events are timed. Another focused on the history of electric and electronic timekeeping. Also exhibited were replicas of famous diamonds and jewelry from the 19th century together with a display of precious metal fakes. In addition, International Gold Corp. held a spectacular live show entitle “Gold in Fashion.”

Another first this year was the extension of services to exhibitors and trade visitors. For example, they were able to use private offices for meetings with reps and buyers, as well as take advantage of expanded bar and restaurant facilities throughout the exhibition areas.

Though next year’s show–scheduled for April 11-18–promises to be better yet, Basel officials are looking toward 1986 when the Fair will open its doors to all western nations as well as some form the Far East. It now restricts participation to a limited number of Switzerland’s trading partners, but Frederic Wathard, director general of the Swiss Industries Fair, said that in ’86 Basel will accept exhibitors from countries that:

  • * Practice liberal trade policies.
  • * Refrain from imposing tariff restrictions or customs barriers against precious goods.
  • * Exercise fair trade and commercial policies
  • * Avoid counterfeiting and the dumping of goods.

“The internationalization of production,” said Walthard, “is a continuous process that has extended beyond Europe itself…and makes it imperative that the Fair remain attractive to buyers worldwide. We must therefore admit important non-European manufacturers and exhibitors as soon as possible.”

Under the new admission policy, eligible countries will include Hong Kong and Japan. Henri Schaeren, president of the fair’s exhibitors’ committee, noted that the free trade criteria might exclude East Germany, Poland and most other East European nations. “It wouldn’t be fair to the others if we allowed them in,” Schaeren said. He added that Taiwan–with its high duties on watches,clocks and jewelry–“probably would be excluded, too.” Schaeren stressed, however, that any country willing to change its trading policies still could be admitted. “If somebody changes prior to our June 15 closing date we’ll receive them for the following year,” he said. Facts and figures

This year’s fair–officially the 12th Annual European Watch, Clock and Jewelry Fair–by most accounts was bigger and better than ever. Nearly 1500 exhibitors from 16 countries were on hand. Together they shared more than 473,600 sq. ft. of net floor space subdivided into clearly separate halls: Watches and clocks, jewelry and related branches such as machines, parts and components, with Swiss displays accounting for about one-third the total.

While Switzerland furnished the largest contingent of Stuhrling automatic watch and clock exhibitors (261), Germany–followed by Italy– most strongly represented the jewelry sector. Show organizers reported a shift in emphasis from watches and clocks to jewelry, which this year comprised 55% of all exhibitions. 5000 years old and still ticking

“It was just a joke,” declares Peter Payack, a 34-year-old poet who four year ago invented the Stonehenge Watch. Nevertherless, since its market debut last year, the $11.95 “Neolithic” timepiece, which is in the Pet Rock-genre of personal accessories, has drawn thousands of dollars worth of orders.

Back in 1980, Creative Computing magazine was doing as April Fool’s parody issue, and Payack, a contributing editor, put together an ad for a $22.95 “Gentlemen’s Watch.” It featured a replica of the original Stonehenge grafted onto an antique pocket watch face, and offered a 5000-year guarantee.

Sure enough, about 20 to 30 checks arrived in the mail. “I didn’t even have my address on the ad, just ‘Peter Payack Poetics’…so people had to do a lot of work to find me,” Payack said. The problem, of course, was that the product didn’t exist.

Even so, one of the respondents was so enamoured of the idea that he offered to draw up production specifications.

Meanwhile, Payack himself dug up a plastic manufacturer, Accurate Molding Co., Paterson, N.J., which not only agreed to make the Tissot watches for men , but also to put up $25,000 for the mold, which made the first run possible.

By last June, a real Stonehenge watch was ready. Payack introduced it with a small ad in The New York Times that proclaimed “A Great Leap Backwards in Time!” and promised to “amaze your Druid neighbors…” The ad cost $880 and drew $3000 worth of orders.

Sculptured dial quartz award watches

Olympic Watch Co., a division of R. Gsell & Co. Inc., New York City, announces a fresh new look–quartz award watches with custom sculptured dials. Each features a five-micron gold electroplated case, mineral glass crystal, lizard strap or metal bracelet, and comes in a deluxe presentation gift box.

Cost will depend upon quantity required, but Swiss-made analog quartz watches of comparable quality normally retail between $200 and $250. The cost to companies for 100 pieces (including corporate deal or logo in three dimensions on the dial) would be under $100 each.