ATTRACTING MORE than 2,200 exhibitors and 85,000 visitors, the annual BaselWorld watch and jewellery fair is one of the premiere events for the international watch industry. With the popularity of Swiss watches in Hong Kong showing no signs of abating, the fair is a permanent fixture on local retailers' calendars. 'The show is the best way for us to get up to date on the latest developments in watchmaking,' said Simon Tam, a branch manager for Emperor Watch and Jewellery, who has been making an annual pilgrimage to Basel for more than a decade. Francis Yip, head of the King Fook jewellery chain's watch department, has been going to Basel in April every year since 1988 - including 2003, the year most Kong Kong representatives were controversially 'barred' because of the Sars outbreak. 'If we order at Basel, then we can get priority on the less-available products,' he said. Noel Wong, marketing manager at Elegant Watch and Jewellery, said this year's collections showed how far the market for mechanical watches had progressed in recent years. 'A lot of brands have put a lot of effort into producing new complications,' Mr Wong said. 'You can see that in the number of tourbillons on the market - they really have taken off in the last two years.' Ulysse Nardin's Royal Blue Tourbillon was one of the show's top innovations, he said. The tourbillon's bridges and plates are made of blue sapphire crystal, giving the impression that it is floating on air. 'This year was really exciting,' King Fook's Mr Yip said. 'A lot of brands were launching a lot of new products and innovations.' He said the biggest surprises had been Patek Philippe and Rolex, as they had released more models than in previous years. Mr Wong said these developments would go down well with Hong Kong watch buyers. 'A lot of our business is with collectors of mechanical watches. These people appreciate it when people know the things that they know. For them, it's not about the brand; they prefer something low key but which is better quality.' He said Breguet's Classique 7027 was a fine example. The brand had taken a classic pocket watch, given it an improved movement and transformed it into a wristwatch. Mr Tam said the newly emerged spending power of mainland consumers had an effect on this year's collections. 'There has been a big change,' he said. 'Everybody seemed to be geared towards the Chinese market this year. They are a lot easier to cater for - they have money but they are not very demanding.' The mainland market was the reason for this year's trend for rose gold, he said. With many mainlanders coming to Hong Kong to shop for jewellery and brand name watches, they are an important consumer group for local retailers. 'They go for the popular brands,' Mr Wong said. 'They stick to brands that have big marketing campaigns on the mainland.' Mr Yip said mainland tourists were getting savvy in their shopping patterns and had a keen eye for a bargain. 'They are normally looking for a specific brand and model,' he said. 'They know what it costs at home and how much they are going to save.' On average, Hong Kong prices were about 20 per cent lower, he said, and tourists tended to buy watches in the $10,000 to $20,000 price range.