*May contain traces of Glenfiddich
“How was your Basel fair? What happened?”
It’s a question that’s always brought into sharp relief the true importance of Baselworld. Which is that it’s really not important. Most of us that go have families. We have loved ones; children, pets, partners, parents. We have lives outside of the giant halls that dwarf it and make the tiny revelations – a new colour of dial, a new rubber strap, a new movement with a new escapement – pretty small as soon as it’s over. Which is why it’s important to write this on the plane before we get home and reality floods back in.
Most of us that go to Baselworld also love watches. Otherwise it would be a Kafka-esque nightmare. I can really only speak for the Time+Tide team I suppose. We are watch people. We endure the eight appointments per day (minimum) in a labyrinth of booths, the endless trays of product, the jetlag from Australia mitigated by litres of sparkling water, espresso and champagne because we actually get excited by watches.
We shouldn’t, we try not to, but we talk about them out of hours too. We talk about them in airport lounges when we’re meant to be chilling out and drinking Glenfiddich. We talk about them while we’re actually drinking Glenfiddich. We go to Duty Free watch stores when we should be buying souvenirs for our kids. We are hopeless. We love watches. We also love that they are a career that provides a living. We love them full stop; that these mechanical objects from the 17th Century still exist. That they still matter.
We are watch geeks and Baselworld is a blast. But this fair was different.
It didn’t just make news in watch blogs or online magazines like ours. It made news in broadsheet newspapers. Usually, it’s a Steve Jobs style “reality distortion field” kind of place, where what matters inside the halls – the new colour of dial, the new rubber strap – matters not at all in the world outside of it.
On the contrary, Baselworld 2015 mattered in both places, because for the first time in our experience, the real world is overlapping with the watch world. And it’s awesome. In the words of Oasis, it’s electric.
Anyone who attended this year knows what I’m talking about. The first things you saw when you walked inside Hall One were the Google and Intel Logo beneath the (new) TAG Heuer brandmark. And on the left you have Bulgari’s ‘wisekey’ Magnesium Watch, that can do everything from start your Aston Martin to remember your internet banking codes. For some CEOs we spoke to the prominence of Google and Intel was an issue. It was more than that, even. It was enraging. What are these tech brands doing inside the sacred Basel halls?
For us, this changed the game instantaneously. It charged the atmosphere. It made the interviews mean something. There was a topic to talk about, there was a position to be taken – for, against or neutral. You know you’ve reached saturation when you sit down with the President of one of the most powerful luxury brands in the world and he opens by saying “ask me about anything but (effing) smartwatches.”
Perhaps the VP of Breitling said it best. “This is not about a fight for the wrist,” he said in reference to smartwatches vs luxury mechanical timepieces. “It’s a fight to have something on the wrist at all. If there’s something on the wrist at all, then we are winning.” The impact of smartwatches will play out over the year. There is no definitive story to be written at this early stage, aside from the fact that it well and truly transformed Baselworld 2015. And aside from the even colder fact that the category of ‘smart’ watches is the dumbest and most reductive ever. One ‘smart’ watch measures your steps for the day and measures your sleep patterns, another one remembers your passwords, and another can map your flight log. What is smart, what is dumb? What is really, really lifestyle specific?
We will see. Let’s talk in 12 months.
But for now, let’s answer that first question. How was Baselworld 2015?
It was the best one yet. Not just because we worked with the true artist Sunflowerman. Not just because we pointed at a bin with Vdzeletovic. In the words of a fellow Australian, Iggy Azalea, it was the realest. Our tiny watch bubble is about to be entered by Apple, the company that doesn’t start a fight it can’t win, and it’s only weeks away. It’s real. We’ll be on the forefront of that wave, too, with our Apple Watch fitting scheduled for early April. Stay tuned for a HANDS-ON review in the next few weeks. As Apple devotees (our entire tech rig is Apple, 97% of our traffic comes from Apple devices, so yeah) we’re curious and open. We’re ready. Bring it on.
We’re heading home now, we can’t wait to see the people that matter in our larger lives. But before we do, let’s have a little look in Dubai Duty Free. Last time we were here one of us walked away with a Tudor Black Bay. The seven hour flight from Zurich was obviously enough. Let’s get back into it.
See you on Instagram and everywhere else,
Time+Tide (plus Sunflowerman and Adam C from Longines, minus KD who, surprise! Is behind the lens)