Baselworld 2017 / History

History of Baselworld – 100 Years and Counting!

History of Baselworld

History of BaselworldIt’s almost time for the most important event in the horological calendar. Baselworld 2017 starts on Thursday the 23rd of March and this years event is shaping up to be more exciting than ever. This event is even more exciting as it happens one hundred years on from the first ever Baselworld event.

There is no doubt that the previous 99 Baselworld events have brought about some incredible moments. Today, we are going to look back at the history of Baselworld and look at the journey which brought us to Baselworld 2017.

The Founding Years in the History of Baselworld

History of Baselworld

The first Baselworld started on the 15th of April 1917 and was called the Schweizer Mustermesse Basel (MUBA). This particular event did not focus primarily on watches and jewellery but there was a showcase of wristwatches on display at the event. Overall, 831 companies were at the event from many different areas of Swiss business. Tissot, Longines and Thommen were three of the first watch manufacturers to appear at Baselworld.

Over the next few years the event started to attract more and more manufacturers from the watch industry. The first halls dedicated to the watch and jewellery centre were opened in 1926 in the space where Hall 1 stands today. The growing influence of the watch industry led to the watch event being held in its own dedicated pavilion under the name of the “Swiss Watch Fair” in 1931. In many ways 1931 was the start of the history of Baselworld in the form that it takes today.

Baselworld Grows in Influence

History of Baselworld

The biggest names in the watch industry started to descend upon Baselworld in the coming years. Patek Philippe made their first appearance at Baselworld in 1932 and they have become one of the main attractions at the event over the years. Heuer (TAG Heuer today) appeared for the first time in 1934. Another of the most important exhibitors in the history of Baselworld, Rolex, did not make their first appearance at Baselworld until 1939.

With some of the exciting innovative minds heading to Baselworld every year, it became a can’t miss event for people in the wristwatch industry. Jean-René Bannwart, son of Corum founder René Bannwart, explained the feel of the event to Quill and Pad: “You had ideas coming from all over the world. And after eight days of the Basel fair you came back here with an enormously open mind about many, many things, and problems to solve, and solutions to find.”

Baselworld Goes International

History of Baselworld

Throughout much of Baselworld’s history the event was only open to exhibitors from the Swiss watch industry. This meant that much of the excitement of the quartz revolution (or quartz crisis, if you’re a Swiss manufacturer!) was missed at Baselworld as brands like Seiko were unable to exhibit their timepieces. Unbelievable as it seems now, the Seiko Astron was not on show at Baselworld despite being one of the watches which redefined the industry. In 1970 a number of Swiss companies did exhibit their own quartz watches to compete with Japanese manufacturers.

Finally, in 1972, Baselworld opened up to watchmakers from France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. This event was called Europe’s Meeting Place and was the first time that Baselworld looked outside of the Swiss watch industry. Another memorable moment from this event was the debut of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, which is one of the most popular luxury watches to this day – especially with footballers!

It wasn’t until 1986 that the event opened its doors to watchmakers from outside Europe and, for the first time in the history of Baselworld, the event became truly international. At this stage Baselworld became the most important event in the world for the watch industry and has remained as influential to this day.

The Most Important Event in the Watchmaking Industry


As Baselworld had become such a huge event by the 1990’s there was talk of the event being moved away from its traditional setting. Unsurprisingly there was a huge backlash against this idea. Massive investment was poured into the existing settings so that it was able to hold the large number of people who wanted to attend. This work was completed in 1999.

While we have called the event Baselworld throughout this article, the name Baselworld was not in use until 2003. The event was called the Swiss Watch Show until 1983 when it was renamed BASEL 83 (the numbers denoting the year). It was then renamed BASEL 95 – The World Watch, Clock and Jewellery Show in 1995. Finally, in 2003 the current name of Baselworld, The Watch and Jewellery show was introduced. This name change took place before the exhibition area was extended once again in 2004 in line with the demand for people to attend the event.

In 2013 the exhibition area was modernised and Baselworld had truly become known as the most important event on the horological calendar. As we move towards the 100th anniversary of Baselworld, the event continues to be the one to watch out for and Baselworld 2017 could certainly be the most exciting in the history of Baselworld!

Baselworld Week on First Class Watches!

Baselworld 2017 starts tomorrow and we will be covering the latest happenings from the event right here on First Class Watches. Later today we will check in with an update from the Baselworld Press Conference then make sure to check in every day as we will bring you the latest updates from the Messe Basel. We will keep you right up to date with the news from the biggest event in the watch industry!

Images: Life Inspired TV, Baselworld, Wladyslaw

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