Frédéric Walthard (1921-2014) - an economic diplomat heads the Sample Fair

The fifth director of the Swiss Sample Fair was Dr. Frédéric Walthard, who took up the post in 1971. With massive personal commitment, he was dedicated to expanding the specialist fairs and (like his predecessor) to internationalising the Sample Fair.

MCH Group Frédéric Walthard

Walthard, a former economic diplomat and representative of the Swiss watch industry in the USA, had been the secretary general of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs before becoming fair director in Basel. Thanks to his experience on the international stage, he was ideally suited to making a reality out of opening up the Swiss Sample Fair. Carefully analysing what his predecessors had experienced, the steps Frédéric Walthard took towards internationalisation were cautious and made sufficient allowance for the interests of the trade associations.

The 1961 amendment to the statutes permitted foreign products to be exhibited at the sample fair, but did not permit foreign exhibitors to attend. The general meeting of the Swiss Sample Fair Cooperative adopted another amendment to the statutes in March 1972, this time permitting foreign exhibitors to display their products in Basel. There were, nonetheless, restrictions in that permission was still granted only a sector at a time and in consideration of Swiss business interests.

Immediately after the amendment to the statutes, the fair management under Frédéric Walthard announced that foreign products would be admitted to the 1972 sample fair in twelve categories. This opening up went furthest in the watch and jewellery sector, which became firmly established as an international specialist fair in parallel with the Sample Fair itself from 1973 onwards, with the creation of the "European Watch and Jewellery Show (EUSM)". ((Link zu Meilenstein Uhren- und Schmuckmesse)) It was during Walthard's period in office that the construction sector was also hived off from the Sample Fair. Swissbau was held in its own right for the first time in 1974 as one of the largest specialist trade fairs in Switzerland.

Frédéric Walthard remained at the helm of the Basel trade fair until 1988. He was followed as director general of the Swiss Sample Fair by another commercial diplomat, Philippe Lévy (born in 1936).

Photo: Staatsarchiv Basel Stadt/Privatarchiv MCH Group