Rolex, Tudor, And Patek Philippe Postpone Releases But what does that mean for the future of Baselworld and all fairs like it? by Rob Nudds April 11, 2020 MIN READRolex, Tudor, And Patek Philippe Postpone Releases
By now, you might already have heard that Rolex, Tudor, and Patek Philippe (arguably the “big three” left in the Baselworld fold) have announced that they will postpone their 2020 releases. We dig into what that means right now, the immediate future, and the long-term.
The announcement came as no surprise. In fact, it was so unsurprising that we didn’t report it immediately. Partly because the announcement amounted to a confirmation of the status quo, and partly because it doesn’t actually commit the brands to any definite action. We’re past Baselworld’s planned dates. There were no releases. This much we knew. Officialising the postponement simply rubber-stamped a plan that had already been put into motion. But in addition to this, Rolex, Tudor, and Patek Philippe made it clear that there is no new release strategy in place. They are, together, keeping their powder dry. For now…
At first, none of this seems particularly newsworthy. It becomes more interesting, however, when we frame it in the context of the future. And not the future of these three brands. That seems well-enough assured. Rather, it is relevant to the future of Baselworld specifically (currently scheduled for January 2021), as well as other events like it.
Thinking on their feet
Baselworld organizers have been thinking on their feet for the past couple of seasons. As more and more mainstays cast off for oceans unchartered, the powers that be have scrabbled to make Baselworld seem like a cohesive product. Bringing independent manufactures to the fore seemed like a fine idea while the big-hitters of Rolex, Tudor, and Patek Philippe remained. It almost seemed to make perfect sense.
But imagine for a second what might happen if these three brands exited the fair. While many of the independent, artisanal brands would remain and remain interesting to the buying public and the press, relatively few of them have retailer networks extensive enough to justify a whole show dedicated to them and them alone. Even middle-sized, well-distributed brands that had committed to attend might start wondering whether paying a premium for a third-party-controlled event makes sense without the significant reputational boost of Rolex, Patek, and Tudor’s combined presence.
The future in their hands
The impact of the actions of industry leaders can hardly be overstated. It seems more tangible now how Rolex, Tudor, and Patek Philippe hold the future in their hands. What will be interesting to observe is whether there is any collusion on the brands’ part. The news of product postponement came from Patek first, with the Crown and Shield following soon after. But what if the shadowy figures behind this powerful triumvirate coalesce and make a mutual decision to save or slay Baselworld?
…something must exist in its place.
I could see it happening. Personally, I’d be sad to say goodbye to Baselworld. I love it. But I’m not sure I can say in good conscience that it is absolutely necessary anymore. What is clear to me, however, is that something must exist in its place. It may not be a physical fair. It may not even be one event or idea. But there must be some new mechanism through which brands — of all sizes — are able to communicate their novelties.
The precipice of change
Smaller events make sense. More on-brand experiences offered to the faithful and newcomers alike would be nice to see. But the reporting on and communication of these events is crucial. Once again, I see a large opportunity for brands to work directly with established watch media outlets to increase engagement and widen reach like never before.
…at least I can replicate the experience by visiting my local hot dog vendor and leaving a 10-buck tip…
It is, admittedly, a little bit terrifying standing on the precipice of change. But it is equally exhilarating to see new and creative ideas and models taken seriously at last. If this really is the beginning (or second, or third beginning) of the end for Baselworld, I will shed a tear. But at least I can replicate the experience by visiting my local hot dog vendor and leaving a 10-buck tip…
These are strange times indeed. Brands will spend the next few months figuring how they can go it alone or perhaps form new alliances to stretch ever-thinner budgets that little bit further. But what do you, the consumers of watch media the world over, think Rolex, Tudor, and Patek Philippe should do? Should they wait until Baselworld next year to release their updates, or should they break with tradition and try something new? Let us know your reasoning in the comments section below.
Follow me on Instagram @robnudds
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About the author
Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more
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