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Thread: Baseljing 2016

  1. #1
    Master Webwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Baseljing 2016

    Baseljing 2016

    I fancied a visit to Switzerland to see my wife who is working in Geneva.
    She actually works for the Police, in watches too. Reuniting stolen or lost watches and jewellery with their rightful owners.

    It so happened that Basel Watch Fair was on the same week I planned to go.

    As technically a resident of Geneva I was able to buy a ‘Go anywhere train, bus or boat ticket’ for Chf40 per day and as I haven’t been to Basel since 1998, thought I would give it a look.

    In 1998 I was employed by the Japanese owners of the once great American Waltham Watch Company to describe and catalogue their entire collection of historical Waltham timepieces. This was quite a large task but very interesting because it included the Waltham pocket watches with rock crystal plates, finest quality chronographs and chronometers and several watches owned by American Presidents, flyers and explorers. Including Abraham Lincoln, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford and Florentine Ariosto Jones who founded IWC.

    The Japanese owners had no new models to show at Basel for 1998. So they needed to display something.
    And in my opinion because of dreadful management, an MD who sacked nearly all his staff and employed his illiterate daughter as receptionist, a Company with no employees and no vision soon went into the ground !

    It has now been bought by an American who intends to revive this once world leading name.

    Well I got to Basel on it’s opening day and went into one of the main halls looking to buy a ticket. I was told that tickets were being sold in a wooden hut. On my way out of the hall I was approached by a wealthy looking elderly lady who asked me for my ticket if I had finished with it. I explained that I didn’t have one yet and perhaps she should buy one also.

    I bought a ticket for Chf80 and proceeded with a thick book of where each stall was to find the people I had intended to meet.
    I planned only to visit a few specific stalls where pals of mine were working.
    I am not a watch collector as such. Just a humble repairer.

    The Fair was held in several different buildings over many floors and frankly I could have done with an electric car to travel around the venue(s).
    The ticket had to be tediously scanned on entering and leaving every hall, typical Swiss security.

    First thing I noticed was the Fair was full of Chinese, both buying and selling.
    Many crisp suits and after shaves permeated the atmosphere.

    I headed for Omega to chat with a retired employee of theirs and who was sitting in a café, part of the Omega stall, waiting for me. As I tried to enter the café a burly security guard approached me and said ‘This is a Private Area, Business only!’
    ‘But I just paid Chf80’ I replied, ‘Why should any of this be private ?’.
    At that point my pal Fritz appeared and welcomed me to the café.
    I pulled a gawpy face at the Security guy ! All 6 foot 10 of him.

    We chatted about Omega and its future. He told me that many jobs in watchmaking have been axed, due to downward sales and this because of the high value of the Swiss Franc plus global uncertainty.

    He told me that many Chinese were now investing heavily in watches and that the Swiss had pitched their prices according to what the Chinese will pay.
    He also told me that many retired Swiss find it hard to live on their pensions and there is a lot of hidden poverty there.

    (I did witness that for myself. I was approached by one or two beggars asking for money.
    One 19 year old Romanian girl standing by the tram queue to the Fair asked me to buy nappies and milk for her baby.
    She was a bright girl and obviously good at begging.
    I couldn't refuse.
    I sometimes do.
    She told me that the Swiss will not employ immigrants in favour of Swiss.)

    I was told by Fritz that he found it disturbing that this brand would stop supplying parts to independents even though they were short of repairers nationwide.
    The idea being to get all watch repairs returned to CH.
    I also learned that a French retailer was supplying parts to independents against Omega policy, and that of other luxury brands, because his customers were complaining about the long repair waiting times and walking back out of his shop with their broken watches.
    He told me that watches are now taking up to 42 weeks for service in CH.
    And with higher than ever charges.

    From Omega I happened upon the Glasshutte stand where a watchmaker was dismantling a pocket watch for public amusement. He had an interesting old micromillimetre measuring tool which I asked him about. There is a photo of it in Jocke's Basel post. As I did so I couldn’t help notice that the watch he was dismantling was an English Thomas Russell.
    ‘How come you’re taking a Thomas Russell apart?’ I enquired.
    Five or six people were watching this guy take the watch apart.
    He looked like a rat in a trap and said ‘Oh they are very similar to old Glasshutte watches’.
    ‘Oh yes’, I replied, ‘Coventry and Glasshutte watchmakers regularly exchanged ideas before the Second World War, when Glasshutte became a prisoner of war camp’.
    ‘Anyway who are you?’ He continued.
    ‘Oh I am just a watch repairer living in England. I sometimes make cases but I’m getting a bit old for that now’.
    He quickly retorted ‘Well maybe you should give up repairing watches too’.
    At which point several of the observers gasped and raised eyebrows in disgust at his rude remark.
    ‘What an arrogant b*stard’ one guy uttered.
    But my wife said ‘It serves you right you shouldn’t have mentioned the War!’.
    Sharp exit !

    The first of many Chinese stands I visited had two very tall and self conscious chinese models in native dress, trying to entice customers to their wares.
    Some pimpy looking guy was telling them how to stand and grooming their costumes.
    The watches were very complicated looking timepieces with so many dials and hands it would be difficult to know which one was the time.

    I noted later that many watches on display had very complicated faces and it seems to be the theme for 2016.

    Whilst walking around it was impossible not to notice the extreme wealth of many Fair goers. One guy who looked Arabic had diamonds studding the face of his shoes and was wearing a ton of gold and diamond jewellery.

    Another had a caddie carrying his brief cases. He was Indian I think.

    Outside the main hall was a private parking area full of very expensive and classic cars. This was drawing a lot of attention from those who had gone outside for a smoke.

    Naturally I looked at the commoner luxury brands briefly then left the main hall non plussed.

    It looked more like a shopping mall than a Watch Fair as I remember them.
    Mostly sales personnel and very few practical watchmakers in sight.

    I headed to the smaller pitches where innovations take place. New ideas, latest technology and small time luxury watchmakers who want to make it big time.

    Since I was told that the price of a stall at Basel is Chf16,000 per square metre, I am not surprised that some of these stalls were as small as a 3x3 metres square.
    Smart style, connected watches were on display here. The Swiss have mostly been ignoring them but guys like JC Biver (MD of Hublot, Tag Heuer amongst others) are saying that the Swiss need to wake up to them soon or they will miss the boat. The Chinese are obviously very into these as they move from manufacturing to high tech innovations.

    Well I visited about 30 stalls in all, including my friend Kari Voutilainen who is now following Daniels in making an innovative escapement.
    I also visited Ronda to enquire about spare parts manufacture.
    Then Elmo, to look at new cleaning machines and went to several other tool and spare parts makers.
    Finally I caught up with my friend Michel Golay formerly of J LeC and we moaned about Frederic Piguet movements over coffee.
    He never thought that J LeC would now be using them.

    By this time I was exhausted and looking forward to a good nights sleep and visiting a great watch tool shop in Bienne, the next day, which my old friend Maurizio now owns.

    I hoped to visit CERN too but didn't make that due to my wife's remarkable cooking abilities (Gulp!)

    I've got to say the best day I had was on the Saturday morning visiting the Plainpalais antiques market in Ge.
    It's a car boot sale really but it has loads of watch tool stands, paintings, furniture, you name it and everything except watches is cheap.

    I was amused to hear 'Hey, hello English with no money, how are you?'.

    I have a habit of haggling with the Swiss stall holders and he remembered me....perhaps for not the best reason, but we always got what we wanted. That was nice.

    When I got back to Geneva one of my TZ customers texted me and asked ‘Did you buy anything at Basel?’.

    ‘Course I did !’. I replied.

    'What, what did you buy?'. He eagerly asked.....

    'Two croissants!'.
    Last edited by Webwatchmaker; 28th March 2016 at 00:53.

  2. #2
    Master
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    And I bet those cost the best part of £10!
    Enjoyable read Brendan, thanks for taking the time to regale us with your experience.
    Poor showing on the GO front.

  3. #3
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    A very enjoyable read, thank you. It looks like China is still a massive market in spite of their economic slowdown and the clampdown on gift-giving.

  4. #4
    Thank you for a very informative read. We forget the economic and nationalistic tendencies which affect the countries that are best known for high luxury.

  5. #5
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    An excellent and entertaining read, thank you sir! What a shame about Omega and the lack of manners at GO. Couldn't agree more on your point about overly complicated dials and bling.

  6. #6
    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Thank you for that. What an intriguing report.

  7. #7
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    Most enjoyable- thank you

  8. #8
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    Just woke up to this thread and I said to myself, this is quite long to read. At first I thought I will not be able to finish this but hey... I can say this was a good read. Totally enjoyed it and felt like I can picture every place or stall You visited. Thanks for sharing Your experience Brendan . And belated happy birthday.
    Last edited by mjoranga; 28th March 2016 at 11:53. Reason: auto correct

  9. #9
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    A informative article you posted.

  10. #10
    Apprentice
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    An informative article you posted. great sharing

  11. #11
    Master TimeOut's Avatar
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    Great to read about the industry from an insiders perspective.

  12. #12
    Apprentice
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    This was interesting.

  13. #13
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    Interesting, thanks. I think we went on the same day so probably walked past each other. GO are always a bunch of miserable buggers anyway.

    The security scanning is only at the entrances/exits of the outside halls but you can walk between 1 and 2 with no scanning; otherwise people would be able to wander in and not pay the "bargain price" of 80chf of course.

    I had no idea a stall would cost THAT much there though!

  14. #14
    A rather ‘alternative' report from the Fair - and all the more interesting for it.

    Thanks for posting it.

    R
    Ignorance breeds Fear. Fear breeds Hatred. Hatred breeds Ignorance. Break the chain.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralphy View Post
    A rather ‘alternative' report from the Fair - and all the more interesting for it.

    Thanks for posting it.

    R
    My thoughts exactly.

  16. #16
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    Interesting read Brendan, thanks.

  17. #17
    Craftsman RJK35's Avatar
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    Great read. Many thanks for taking the time to share your interesting experience.
    I like the bit about the Thomas Russell and exchange of ideas, especially as I have a nice Thomas Russell pocket watch in my collection
    Last edited by RJK35; 28th March 2016 at 11:08.

  18. #18
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    Nice one Brenden........you're a bit naughty for mentioning the war

    I've considered going myself but never got around to it. I even know a good place to stay (Bad Sakkinen) which is a shortish train ride from Basel and it's cheap because it's over the German border. Stayed there with work a few times, would be nice to go back. Next year maybe.

    Not sure I'd fit in, breathing the rarified air at this show, but I'm sure l'd have some fun

    Paul

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by mjoranga View Post
    Totally enjoyed it and felt like I can picture every place or stall You visited. Thanks for sharing Your experience Brenda.
    Yeah, thanks Brenda.

  20. #20
    Grand Master Der Amf's Avatar
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    Restrained of you not to mention what happened to Coventry during the war as well....

  21. #21
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    Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. Shocking about the 42 week return on Omega servicing, glad I tend to flip mine before a service is due.

  22. #22
    Grand Master Carlton-Browne's Avatar
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    That was an interesting read. Thanks.

  23. #23
    Grand Master magirus's Avatar
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    Thanks for taking the time to post this OP, very interesting and informative indeed.

  24. #24
    Thanks to the OP, for his alternative view on the watch fair.

    Which was most interesting

    I think that it is safe to say, that your insight, has put me off going!

    I shall just look at the photos and read the reports from the comfort of my lounge :)

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by bitfield View Post
    Yeah, thanks Brenda.
    Thanks for that... I hate auto correct

  26. #26
    Master
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    Interesting post, nice to see it from an alternative perspective, thanks for taking the trouble.

  27. #27
    Master Webwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Der Amf View Post
    Restrained of you not to mention what happened to Coventry during the war as well....
    My parents, sisters and I emigrated from Dublin to Coventry in 1956 when I was just 3.
    Coventry was still in a mess following the Blitz. Loads of Irish came over to rebuild.
    My dad was offered a job with Hawker Siddeley Dynamics. He was an electronics wizard and generally out-thought his bosses.
    He did top secret work for the MOD but finally opened a cinema in Radford I think, as he loved movies.
    It's now a Mosque.

    I was allowed into town on my own for the first time when I was 9, to buy 'She Loves You' by the Beatles. 1962 ?

    Kids at my school had told me that at the Herbert Museum there was a Triumph car cut in half down the middle to show the pistons in the engine and interior.
    Alfred Herbert was the engineer who was sent 'the smallest drill in the world' by an American counterpart.
    He famously sent the drill back to the Americans with a hole drilled through the middle !

    Anyway I was intrigued and set off for the museum.
    There I discovered watches for the first time.
    They were magical. So tiny and so beautiful and so alive !

    There were photos of the watchmaking quarter of Coventry. Largely timber framed and thatched cottages which had been obliterated during the war.
    There were pre war letters from German Watch Companies, notably Lange and Glasshutte comparing production techniques and sharing innovations and ideas.
    Before the war, one in eight workers was employed in the watchmaking industry in Coventry.
    So German and Coventry watches were very similar in design.

    This really moved me and I promptly swapped all my Waddington games with a Polish kid at school, my best friend, Richard Nycz, for four broken wristwatches.
    Armed with eyebrow tweezers and a can of lighter fuel I got one of the watches working. It was a Fero Feldmann Calibre EB1197.
    The bug had bitten.

    The tremendous waste of human and technical resources caused by the war never fails to sadden me.
    As I am sure it does our German counterparts.

    Sadly Coventry has never really recovered from rapid and ill thought out building and planning.

    Also sadly some are still bitter about the final outcome.

  28. #28
    Master Webwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bitfield View Post
    Yeah, thanks Brenda.
    PS It's still Brendan last time I looked.....

  29. #29
    Master Wexford's Avatar
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    Very interesting Brendan, thank you for taking the time to write up your experience. Made me chuckle too, which is always a bonus.

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Webwatchmaker View Post
    PS It's still Brendan last time I looked.....
    I'm afraid the forum has spoken. You're Brenda from now on.

  31. #31
    Master Webwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bitfield View Post
    I'm afraid the forum has spoken. You're Brenda from now on.
    HaHa ! I love my feminine side !
    In which case you're Titfield from now.....!
    B.

  32. #32

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing!

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Webwatchmaker View Post
    HaHa ! I love my feminine side !
    In which case you're Titfield from now.....!
    B.
    Sounds like a plan to me..

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by mjoranga View Post
    Sounds like a plan to me..
    I don't mind, there's a classic Ealing comedy about me!

    Titfield

  35. #35
    Master Webwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bitfield View Post
    I don't mind, there's a classic Ealing comedy about me!

    Titfield
    Neither you should !

    It's a brilliant film. Set just outside Bath on the way to Radstock.

    Love Brenda xx

  36. #36
    Thanks for a nice and interesting post. Sadly, with your experience with GO, I have always experienced Jürgen like a nice guy. Maybe you stepped on a sore toe.

  37. #37
    Master Webwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jocke View Post
    Thanks for a nice and interesting post. Sadly, with your experience with GO, I have always experienced Jürgen like a nice guy. Maybe you stepped on a sore toe.
    I guess.

    However, several others who have met him describe him sparingly as an arrogant little s*it !

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Webwatchmaker View Post
    I guess.

    However, several others who have met him describe him sparingly as an arrogant little s*it !

    Sounds like he's nice only to those whose wallets have been emptied onto his desk.


    I thought Basel was way overrated, went last year and no plans of ever going again. I suspect the only ones who enjoy it are the AD staff who get the champagne treatment behind closed doors at the brand booths...

  39. #39
    Grand Master Der Amf's Avatar
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    This photo on watchesbysjx.com gave me a shiver



    http://watchesbysjx.com/2016/03/edit...orld-2016.html

  40. #40
    Grand Master
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    A great real-world write-up. Much more informative than the same boring close-ups of various bling!
    ...but what do I know; I don't even like watches!

  41. #41
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    That's the type of write up I want to read!

    Thanks for sharing

  42. #42
    Grand Master
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    Superb read, and great insights too. It's a shame Basel seems to be heading to becoming a stage managed corporate cash fest, glad a few old guys can still be found who tell it like it is.
    ktmog6uk
    marchingontogether!



  43. #43
    Master Webwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Above is my post about a visit to Baselworld 2016. Is anyone going this year ?

    Sent from my SM-G900F using Tapatalk

  44. #44
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    With so many exhibitors dropping out, and now the Corona virus essentially barring Chinese visitors (who lets face it is all it's for these days), may be and hopefully is the death knell for Baselworld. On to better things!

  45. #45
    Master Webwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 744ER View Post
    With so many exhibitors dropping out, and now the Corona virus essentially barring Chinese visitors (who lets face it is all it's for these days), may be and hopefully is the death knell for Baselworld. On to better things!
    I have to agree with you. The atmosphere there is nothing like I remember in the 80s and 90s. As a watchmaker I felt totally out of place there back in 2016.

    Sent from my SM-G900F using Tapatalk

  46. #46
    Craftsman earlofsodbury's Avatar
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    Given the received wisdom that Baselworld has gone the way of the Norwegian Blue, are there any enthusiast-friendly shows worth the trek across Yurp to visit?

  47. #47
    Master Webwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by earlofsodbury View Post
    Given the received wisdom that Baselworld has gone the way of the Norwegian Blue, are there any enthusiast-friendly shows worth the trek across Yurp to visit?
    Haha. That leading question should propogate some interesting replies....!

    Sent from my SM-G900F using Tapatalk

  48. #48
    Craftsman earlofsodbury's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Webwatchmaker View Post
    Haha. That leading question should propogate some interesting replies....!

    Sent from my SM-G900F using Tapatalk

  49. #49
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    This was an interesting necro....

    I have to ask, why does everyone hate Frederic Piguet movements? I know some think of them as too thin and fragile for a sports watch, but as far as I can remember, they have never been directly replaced due to reliability issues unlike the JLC 889 in the IWC MK12 which no one seems to complain about.

  50. #50
    Master Webwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superthrust View Post
    This was an interesting necro....

    I have to ask, why does everyone hate Frederic Piguet movements? I know some think of them as too thin and fragile for a sports watch, but as far as I can remember, they have never been directly replaced due to reliability issues unlike the JLC 889 in the IWC MK12 which no one seems to complain about.
    The JLC889 and 889/2 are both great movements and I have serviced loads of them over the years. Only issue I had on the earlier model was a sticking calendar disc. JLC sent me new ones. The damping spring for the centre seconds hand was sometimes placed, by inexperienced repairers, on the wrong side of the seconds wheel reducing the amplitude dramatically.
    New FP movements are great too, but early ones had to be redesigned because of winder and automatic system issues.

    Sent from my SM-G900F using Tapatalk

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