Well, my time here is almost over (I have a watchmaking seminar tomorrow and will leave Basel in about 2 hours' time.
I spent some time today off the beaten track. Went downstairs to the technical side of the show, where 5-axis CNC machines were on display. These are the core of the industry nowadays (from the machine tool side, that is) and are really only of interest to the hard-core manufacturing freaks (yours truly) and those setting up to make movements.
That leads me into the biggest complaint that the independents have: while movements are largely a commodity product, they are increasingly harder and harder to get, be it from ETA, Sellita, Soprod or any of the manufacturers. On the one hand the government-granted Swatch group monopoly gives ETA enormous leverage with all non-Swatch group companies; on the other hand, the other movement manufacturers are, at times, struggling to meet demand in the face of extremely strong interest in mechanical movements in watches world-wide. The alternatives are either very, very long lead times - order your movements now for watches in 2014! - or move upwards to specialty shops that can provide you with small numbers of movements (<1000) but with extremely good finishing and complications for the watches priced north of $10k. It's a challenge facing the industry.
I also went to Hall 6, where the Chinese, Korean, Indian and Thai companies have their pavilions. These are largely jewelry makers, rather than watchmakers, but I thought I'd take a look nonetheless.
Not much there, to be honest: while Seagull was there (Hall 6), they were not showing in the major halls. The non-Swiss watch industry has a long, long way to go, largely in terms of quality control and design: they simply will not be taken that seriously at a show like this until they can compete, technically, with basic Swiss movements. The smaller makers I've talked to don't really consider the Chinese movements capable of being a true alternative for a serious watch until quality control is signifcantly better. It's not that the movements are bad - they generally are not - but rather to get the movements to a point where you can pop into a case and it will really perform to Swiss standards, there is a long way to go. The Swiss have got watchmaking down to an art form: competing here is the litmus test of being able to compete internationally.
I'm off to my last meeting and will say adieu to Basel and BaselWorld 2011, more than a tad exhausted (my feet hurt).
More will come, but it will take a few days to digest everything. Lot of neat stuff.