The organizers of Watches & Wonders Geneva (the luxury wrist watch and jewelry trade show formerly known as SIHH) have just announced that Watches & Wonders Geneva 2020 is to be canceled. This news arrived with the assurance that Watches & Wonders Geneva 2021 is on track and currently being organized.
Watches & Wonders Geneva is a trade show organized by the FHH (Fondation de al Haute Horlogerie) and created for the benefit of FHH member brands (mostly firms within the Richemont Group). The FHH made the difficult decision to cancel Watches & Wonders due to a series of international complexities which have made it very challenging for luxury watch brands (as well as their trade show guests) to productively conduct business in 2020. The official reason for the cancellation of Watches & Wonders Geneva 2020 are concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus. The virus has been found in Europe and has already been responsible for the cancellation of a few high-profile trade shows.
Many SIHH and now Watches & Wonders Geneva guests are consumers, retailers, and media from China and other parts of Asia where COVID-19 infections are of a greater concern at this time. Accordingly, even if Watches & Wonders Geneva was to take place, a large number of its intended guests would not likely be able to attend. The luxury watch industry is already having a rough time in general due to geo-political uncertainty and a climate of accordingly low investor confidence. The Coronavirus fear has further eroded at many brands’ ability to sell watches as well as get needed supplies from China (where many companies are still shut down).
This leaves Baselworld as the only remaining serious international wrist watch trade show that is currently scheduled to take place over the next few months and possibly in all of 2020 Some brands have canceled their participation in Baselworld over COVID-19 (notably all the Japanese brands). Others have canceled participation at Baselworld over other financial issues (happening prior to the virus’ outbreak) which are still effecting the watch industry. It is presumed that at least a few watch brands have used the concern of COVID-19 as a pretext reason for cancelling show exhibitions in 2020 as means of saving cash during periods of uncertainly.
Stability and growth are the hallmark signs that actors in a given economy are ready to consume luxury goods en masse. I like to call these “celebratory periods” in an economy. During stressful or uncertain periods luxury goods are traditionally more difficult to sell to a consumer public. This and other issues such as COVID-19 have put the traditional luxury watch industry in a challenging position circa 2020. I do not believe the long-term health of the watch industry is in serious peril, but a number of companies today who rely on a particular level of market performance may have to wind down or find buyers over the next few years. Further, if history is any guide, in economic downturns luxury consumption declines but demand for luxury tends to wind up like a spring. Assuming an economic recovery happens before everyone goes broke, an economic upswing could be a windfall for the luxury timepiece industry who has over the last few years received so much media attention that a record number of consumers around the planet are familiar with luxury timepieces as a desirable product category. In other words, despite a downturn, the watch industry will likely materially bounce back in the future.
A number of questions remain for wrist watch industry professionals who were counting on Watches & Wonders Geneva to meet with the over 30 officially participating brands. This leaves some retailers and many members of the media without a clear opportunity to view new products and receive face time with timepiece brands they do business with. A number of brands who were assuming they would meet retailers, media, and other partners at Watches & Wonders Geneva (as well as other shows) will now need to put in considerable leg work to travel or organize alternative events to demonstrate their new products. A number of economic opportunities exist in such a climate, but for the time being the luxury watch industry is still scrambling as a number of messes have yet to be sorted out.
aBlogtoWatch is likewise affected by this show cancellation news. Efforts will be made to ensure a consistent flow of new wrist watch product news produced by the aBlogtoWatch editorial team – who is prepared to travel and go to what lengths necessary to “chase time” for our audience. Stay tuned…