Formerly the five key attractions holding up Baselworld, the brands made a joint public announcement earlier this week announcing their departure from the show. The plan was to create a new watch trade show in Geneva set for April 2021.
The consortium however will not be alone in their endeavour. They will be working with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, which is the company behind Watches & Wonders Geneva.
As such, the show will take place concurrently with W&W and be held at the same place. In addition, both shows will be linked.
The aim, according to the announcement, is to “offer partner brands the best possible professional platform, applying a shared vision to successfully meet future challenges in the watchmaking industry.”
A United Front
It follows a series of unsuccessful talks between the fair organisers and its exhibitors. Various issues include the show’s abrupt postponement to January 2021, its refusal to refund exhibition deposits in full, and the overall sentiment that it no longer fulfils exhibitors’ needs and expectations.
In response, however, Baselworld organisers the MCH Group expressed surprise at the statement. Adding that the new date for the unavoidable postponement was established jointly with these exhibitors. MCH also said that the brands’ decision to move to Geneva was kept from it until yesterday.
Choosing to place the interests of its shareholders above that of its exhibitors have cost Baselworld all its best exhibitors, and therefore the show.
MCH will make an announcement on the fate of Baselworld in the weeks ahead, but truthfully, there aren’t many options left to explore.
State Of The Industry
The LVMH group has already created its own event, LVMH Watch Week, held in January 2020 in Dubai. In addition, it has the annual Geneva Days exhibition held concurrently with W&W, then known as SIHH.
The Swatch Group has Time To Move which started in 2019 for its high-end brands. Breguet, Blancpain, Jaquet Droz, Glashütte Original, Harry Winston, and Omega. Entry level brands such as Longines, Tissot, Rado, and Hamilton keep to regional and digital presentations scheduled throughout the year.
In a statement to Bloomberg on 14th March, Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek Jr. has said that the pull-out is permanent. This moves away from his earlier stance that the Group might consider getting back on board provided the show reinvents itself.
Other independent watch companies such as Audemars Piguet, Breitling, Richard Mille, Corum, Seiko and Grand Seiko, as well as Citizen have gone solo. They prefer to reach out to customers and retailers through individual brand summits.
Just Enjoy The Show
Long regarded as the watchmaking capital of Switzerland, therefore the world, Geneva is the city where many key brands are headquartered. Rolex, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, Chopard, Harry Winston, and Roger Dubuis are some key examples.
Geneva was also the first watchmaking city of Switzerland. Iconic sights such as the Tour de l’Île and Jet d’Eau remind us of that.
For the industry at large, it was a long overdue market correction and a welcome decision at that. All the major brands will present their novelties in one united location. So visitors worldwide could expect significant costs and logistical savings.
It would also cultivate a truly magnificent atmosphere where watch enthusiasts and experts from all corners of the world could gather and partake in this shared passion.
Once again the watch industry would have the undivided attention of the world. For just a few days, all eyes will be on the industry. Just like the good ol’ days.
More importantly, it gives the brands and organisers a chance to properly sit down and review the role of watch fairs today. To regroup and rethink the format of watch fairs. To consider the needs of the visitors. The digital resources at hand. And ultimately, the true spirit of luxury watchmaking.
As much as Baselworld did get in over its head, it would be hard to see the curtains go down on this grand old dame. Too many of us cut our teeth pounding the carpeted floors and multi-storeyed booths of the Messeplatz, and Hall 1.0 will always have a special place in our hearts.