In an unprecedented move, the Big Five – Rolex, Chopard, Chanel, Patek Phillipe, and Tudor – recently announced their exodus from Baselworld to form a new event (in collaboration with Foundation de la Haute Horlogerie) in Geneva in April 2021. This, unfortunately, comes as the final hit for Baselworld post the cancellation of the 2020 edition. But what led to this possible end of the century-old Swiss watch fair?
Well, this is not the first time when Baselworld has faced a mass exit of its exhibitors. Swatch Group, which previously presented novelties from its brands including Omega, Breguet, Blancpain, and others at Baselworld, departed from the fair back in 2018. And last year, they presented at a new fair called ‘Time To Move’. Not just that, even a collective of jewelers exited in 2018 as they felt their needs were ignored to fulfill the demands of watch exhibitors/brands.
Fast forward to the present times, the 2020 show gets cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. And in a bid to find the earliest and best possible date for the industry, they moved Baselworld 2021 to January 2021, instead of sticking to its original time in April. This decision, according to the joint statement released by the Big Five, was made unilaterally by Baselworld management (MCH Group), but the management has been denying it. And the dates also happen to conflict with a host of other exhibitions around the world in jewelry and watches. Also, the fact that Baselworld decided to offer only partial refunds or partial credits to be carried forward to the cost of next year’s show made many brands dissatisfied; especially since the fair has already been scrutinized for overpricing and not being able to adapt to the present age of community-building. Therefore, in connection to their exit, each of the brands felt that Baselworld’s visions were not in line with theirs’ and it wasn’t able to meet their needs and expectations. And just as Thierry Stern, President – Patek Phillipe, said, “The decision to leave Baselworld was not an easy one to take for me, being the fourth generation of the Stern family to participate in this traditional yearly event. But life evolves constantly, things change and people change as well, whether it is at the level of those responsible for the watch fair organization, the brands or the clients. We constantly have to adapt ourselves, question what we do, since what was right yesterday may not necessarily be valid today!”
It seems all calendars will be marked for April 2021 with the Big Five working with the Foundation de la Haute Horlogerie to create the new luxe watch salon, which will be linked to Watches & Wonders, for retailers, press and VIP customers in Geneva. This show aims to give crucial prominence to expertise and innovations in the industry, both in Switzerland and internationally. And Frédéric Grangié, President – Chanel Watches & Fine Jewellery, further added, “We all share the same independence and the same desire to protect and promote the values, know-how, utmost quality and precision of Swiss Watchmaking. This exhibition will allow us to present all of our new creations in an environment that meets our high-quality standards.”
Following the Big Five’s exit, LVMH just yesterday announced the exit of Hublot, TAG Heuer, Zenith, and Bvlgari from Baselworld to preserve their image and their relations with their clients but they’ll be coming to Geneva in April 2021. Looks like Geneva is the new center of gravity of the watch-making industry, though we can’t stop ourselves from thinking if this is how one of the greatest Swiss traditions ends.
Karishma is a science nerd turned fashion and beauty writer who loves talking about trends as much as eating desserts. Gucci, salted caramel ice-cream, jewels, and Simba (her dog) make up four chambers of her heart. Like Karishma’s story? Drop her a line in the comments section below.