Swisscreativelab Ramada Plaza Basel

SwissCreativeLab: the independents join forces

The Ramada Hotel is opposite the main entrance of Baselworld. Led by Carlo E. Naldi, around twenty brands are playing the dissident exhibitors on the top floors.

By Joel Grandjean

When it comes down to it, we all breathe the same air in Basel - it is free. However, you need to establish your credentials and be financially sound to pay the fee to exhibit peacefully in the huge halls managed by the MCH group. In other words, the event is not accessible to everyone. This resulted in the organization of a resistance, with the effusive Carlo Enea Naldi in charge. The activities of this Italian based in Zug does not tread on any watchmaking brands’ toes. The resistance is so well rooted now that we could say it has been orchestrated right under the noses of the official organizers.

Nonetheless, there is a certain logic in the fact that such an event – which is above all a commercial initiative – might choose profitability over a reason of stateor indeed over culture.

In that sense, we could see why the division of space in Baselworld reflects the current economic situation, i.e. the wealthiest brands – often those owned by leading groups – occupy the best and most expensive spaces. It must be said, though, that out of respect for watchmaking history, the door should not be closed to smaller brands or former flagship brands, even if they are not in the best financial situation. On a cultural and artistic/artisanal level, the watchmaking sector can be compared to a huge mosaic. From this point of view, the lack of one or several pieces of this huge juxtaposition of entrepreneurial stories should hinder the visual appreciation of the whole, even if the main patterns in the picture are visible.

Swiss Creative Lab Six independent brands: (left to right), Michel Dawalibi (Jämes C. Pellaton), Carlo Enea Naldi (Edelberg), Ludovic Ballouard, independent watchmaker, Luc Pellaton (WATCHe), Bernard Dick (Snyper Genève), Thomas Engeler (Pierre Thomas Genève)

It all started with the courageous gesture of Carlo Enea Naldi, a businessman based in Zug who endeavoured to give those less well-off brands a place to exhibit their products which was as accessible as possible. Even before knowing whether they would fill up or not, he decided to rent large spaces in the vicinity of Baselworld, the world's greatest watchmaking event. New brands join the resistance group every year and thusit has become a common platform that can no longer be ignored.

It offers a more financially accessible alternative to the spaces in the neighbouring halls of the huge exhibition center. Armed with his disarming Latinity which has brought him closer to the French-speaking part of Switzerland together the  spirit and faith that could move mountains, the entrepreneur took a brave risk. His initiative was not only meant for Edelberg, his very-Swiss brand of writing instruments that reflects manufacturing arts. Indeed, it was also aimed at watchmaking, a branch for which he has been organizing parallel exhibitions for almost 10 years now, which enable independent brands like his to stand out and to stand on their own two feet. Some of the watchmaking brands that have grown to be part of the Baselworld family were first supported by the dissidents. For instance, Graff, which now has a huge glass and wooden stand in the middle of hall 1 (the most popular and busy hall), found refuge initially at the Ramada Hotel, when it was only a young and aspiring brand.

Carlo Naldi Carlo Naldi

Is the SwissCreativeLab exhibition a sort of sub-Baselworld?

The SwissCreativeLab was created in 2008 and this is our seventh edition. We do not only focus on watchmaking but also on all creative activities related to Swiss know-how. As a company, we have been working for the past 20 years on the design and  production of POS for watchmaking, on the distribution of writing instruments and on producing care and entertaining goods. We also have a store named “Style” in Zug. We thus deemed it necessary to create a structure that would gather and promote the independent creative activities of the sectors with which we shared something in common as well as benefit us all.

Can your concept be applied outside Basel or Switzerland?

It is very much appreciated because it does not only focus on watches but on Swiss creativity in general. Our common synergy-boosting platform is thus open to every creative discipline. The strong impact caused by our name has aroused a keen interest abroad where we have developed contacts spontaneously. Edelberg produces Swiss-made writing instruments and hi-tech accessories. It is thus not a direct competitor to our watchmaking partners.

We have already organized exhibitions, concept stores, common distribution, communication and marketing platforms in China, Macao, Taiwan, USA and Arab countries. In 2016, we will certainly be in India, in two Russian towns, in Africa and in several Arab countries. Further, we have two important projects going on for Switzerland.

What results have you already obtained?

They concern synergies, market openings and connection with media interested in our respective activities. The small companies with great potential need our know-how and our connections. We have generated important sales and acquired a whole new generation of clients.

It seems that the SwissCreativeLab is once again sending a message this year.

The 7th edition of the SwissCreativeLab during BaselWorld will take place at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Basel; it is now a tradition. This year, we have rented 500 meters squared on three floors and we have also created new spaces for brands that have just joined us. In 2015, we had 24 brands and 54 partners.

Exposing brands: 

Akrivia, Atlantic, Edelberg, Mer-Air-TerreNaldi, Linde Werdelin, Rudis Sylva, GoS, 4n, Urwerk, LIC Belgique, Marc Newson Hourglass, Tiret World, Luis Franciacorta Winery, Kairos watches, De Pasquale eyeswear, Officina De Giorgio, AP Limited Edition Singapore, A. Favre & Fils, J.C. Pellaton watches

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Swiss Creative Lab: the independents get organized

By Joel GrandjeanEditor-in-Chief
Back from an exhibition in China, the six brands that make up the Swiss Creative Lab made a splash in Geneva, at Lamborghini, before taking over Basel. Others...