It’s hard to believe that in two short weeks we will be elbow deep in the chaos, madness, and industry shenanigans of Baselworld 2019. It’s going to be quite a different experience this year, as the Swatch Group and several others have been a part of a mass exodus, but there will still be no shortage of brands to see and watches to admire. While things kick off for the press on Wednesday the 20th, the public can still purchase tickets to attend (CHF45 per day, or CHF110 for the entire fair) from Thursday the 21st through Tuesday the 26th. Though we’re coming at this a little last minute, a recent skim of flights and accommodations in Basel revealed that things are nowhere near as off-the-rails as in years past.
If you haven’t been to Baselworld before, you’re in for a bit of a treat. It’s a zoo, it’s a playground, it’s a hustle, but if you’re not sprinting from appointment to appointment to report on it all, it can be mighty entertaining. You’ll be able to see a healthy chunk of the industry’s latest releases, however don’t expect a first-hand look the way you would at a boutique. The major brands are back-to-back with press and retail appointments, so unless you have an industry connection at the fair you’re not going to be able to get too close to things from the big guns at least. That said, the real show (at least in my eyes) is up in Les Ateliers. Here, the industry’s indie greats like MB&F, Kari Voutilainen, URWerk, Sarpaneva, Romain Gauthier, and others are hiding, and historically speaking these smaller outfits are miles more welcoming to enthusiasts and collectors. It’s a prime opportunity to cross paths with the makers themselves and meet fellow watch geeks in the process.
It seems this year the fair’s organizers have been working with the city of Basel to make things more enjoyable for the throngs of visitors heading their way. You may not know, but restaurants in Basel are notorious for price gouging during the fair, passing out freshly printed menus with exorbitant prices. This go around 49 partner restaurants around the city have agreed not only to not inflate prices, but they’re also offering up “Baselworld Specials”… Whatever that means. They’ve also integrated a restaurant and bar into the convention halls, which is a godsend for those with little time to spare between appointments.
If you’re considering making the trek, a few options exist if you intend to travel to Basel. The obvious answer is flying into Basel itself, however that will be the most costly option (and it’s also not always the quickest). The most common option is to fly into Zurich—a direct flight from many global hubs—and then hop the roughly 50-55 minute train into Basel. Personally given the option between direct to Zurich and catching a connecting flight, I’ll always opt for the train, as they are equal parts comfortable and reliable.
The third option, and one that I’ve also experienced first hand, is to fly into Paris and take the train from there. This isn’t always the best deal, but if the other flight options are looking pricey, give it a look. The TGV Lyria runs from Paris to Basel departing every 20 minutes or so, and the journey can be completed in just over 3 hours. In situations where flights to Switzerland have spiked, flying through Paris and spending the approximately $150 on a return train ticket can still result in saving a few bucks. Two key notes to this: First, you will have to train in from Charles de Gaulle airport to Gare De Lyon in Paris to make the connection, and second, plan your flight times to account for the train. If you book a flight to leave Paris by noon or earlier, you won’t have enough time by taking the earliest train out of Basel.
On the accommodation side, it used to be near impossible to get a hotel this late in the game, but with dwindling attendance and the boom of Airbnb, VRBO, and others, there are still a good number of rooms to choose from. On the hotels side, many options closer to the fair are in the $400+ range, but if you want to save cash and don’t mind a quick train ride or Uber into the halls, we just spotted the Aparthotel Adagio access Saint Louis Bâle listed for only $148 a night during the days of Baselworld. While on the topic, do not take cabs in Basel. Uber is up and running (and effective) in Basel during the fair, and without exaggeration, an Uber will cost you as little as half of what cabs will charge you. The tram/streetcar system in Basel is also quite effective, so if you can find a place to stay on one of the lines, that can be a comfortable way to get around as well.
Part of our team will be on the ground Wednesday though Sunday of the fair (the 20th until the 24th), bring you live coverage from the show floor of the latest and greatest (and sometimes just weirdest) releases from our favorite brands around the industry. If you can’t make it yourself, stay tuned into the site for all the essential coverage.