Will Swatch Group Brands Move To Geneva In 2021? The Baselworld aftermath in full swing by Robert-Jan Broer April 21, 2020 MIN READWill Swatch Group Brands Move To Geneva In 2021?
When Swatch Group decided to pull out of Baselworld 2018, I expected that it would be the beginning of the end. “When Rolex pulls out as well, it is done,” I said numerous times.
And last week, not only Rolex (and Tudor) and Patek Philippe pulled out, but also LvmH made the decision to leave Baselworld. Also not totally unexpected, as Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of the Bvlgari Group told me in January that the reason for being in both Dubai and Baselworld, was a “contractual thing”. That all LvmH watch brands would be pulling out, was a bit of a surprise though. Oh, let’s not forget that Breitling also made an early move out of Baselworld.
Things will be very different from now on, and the annual pilgrimage to Basel — which I thoroughly enjoyed for many years — is over. I will even miss the CHF 8,50 sausages everyone is raving about (and they weren’t even that good).
I missed Swatch Group dearly last year, even though the group did its own Time to Move event in May. That was an interesting event as well, but not something that could be done in the same way in the next year (thus 2020). For this year, Swatch Group had something else lined up. Time to Move would take place in a one-day event in Zurich, using an SG building/venue. TTM became an early casualty of COVID-19. Soon after its cancelation, Grand Seiko — another brand that pulled out Baselworld, at least for 2020 — announced that the GS Summit in Japan would not come to pass.
The other event that had been due to take place this year, is Watches & Wonders in Geneva. It was also canceled due to the pandemic. In fact, it beat Baselworld to the punch on that front. It is a move that looks wiser and wiser as time goes by.
Watches & Wonders announced that a digital show would take place this coming weekend. It had been slated to start on Saturday 25th, but word is that it’s been brought forward to kick off at 6:00 PM CET, Friday the 24th.
As we wrote last week in this article, the watch fair landscape will definitely look different next year. Baselworld’s very existence now hangs by a thread. If there’s going to be a Baselworld at all, it will be in an entirely different format. I don’t just think that. I hope it as well.
They (and more) are all out.
Last Friday LvmH announced it would also leave. Now, there are not many big brands left. Just let this sink in for a moment: Patek Philippe, Breguet, Rolex, Glashütte Original, Blancpain, Omega, Hublot, Breitling, Zenith, Tudor, TAG Heuer, Bvlgari, Longines, Hamilton, Tissot, and Certina… They (and more) are all out.
The good news? There will be at least one huge event again in Geneva next year. Most of the brands above + Richemont (or the Watches & Wonders brands) will exhibit. That’s awesome, and a big relief to us watch journalists. And, I assume, it will be so for retailers as well.
I have two remaining questions: what will happen to the smaller (independent) brands that were showing their new watches to us and their retailers in Baselworld? Think of Oris, Sinn, Fortis, but also smaller indie brands. And last not but least, what will Seiko, Grand Seiko, Casio, G-Shock, and Citizen (Group) do? Will there still be two major events with one being a bit less major than the other?
With the way things panned out, he’s looking like a soothsayer now…
The other question, which I started this column with, is about Swatch Group. Mr. Hayek pulled out of Baselworld with good reason. With the way things panned out, he’s looking like a soothsayer now. He also decided to cancel Time to Move 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That also turned out to be a good call, silencing those who commented that the cancelation came too soon. But what will be done in 2021? Will Swatch Group still organize their own Time to Move 2021, or will they join forces and go the Geneva route?
Time to Move
And what about the brands like Longines, Certina, Tissot, Hamilton, etcetera? They weren’t present at Time to Move. Instead, they introduced their novelties locally. That did not really work out so well, to be honest. I would love to see all Swatch Group brands being part of an event (be it Time to Move or in Geneva), to get to see the new watches, examine them, talk to the brand representatives, and to do our photography. The alternative is going back to Baselworld, with all Swatch Group brands and occupying the entirety of Hall 1. But is that really an alternative? I have no preference, except for seeing all Swatch Group brands back together at one (larger) event. Be it their own event or part of a bigger event.
A displeased exhibitor
The fact remains that Baselworld messed up big time. COVID-19 might have been the last drop for the fair, but the organizers resisted getting their act together after the first concrete signs of a displeased exhibitor (Swatch Group). Their spammy behavior that followed, including interviews with brands, with journalists, with news about brands that would return to Baselworld (Maurice Lacroix was hailed), the willingness from Basel hotels to move a bit towards the visitors (which they didn’t in the end), all “efforts” fell short of the desired effect.
At some point, people (and companies) get tired of being treated with so much disrespect.
The one thing that comes to mind is greed, not only from MCH Group/Baselworld but also by the city of Basel in general. Not so strange, as Basel holds an interest in MCH Group. Crazy prices that scared away not only exhibitors but also visitors and guests. At some point, people (and companies) get tired of being treated with so much disrespect. And, it seems, COVID-19 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Baselworld 2020 got postponed to 2021, and yet the organization wanted money from the brands. They basically gave exhibitors two options (grabbed from SJX’s article, which is a must-read, if you haven’t done so already):
– 85% of the amount for Baselworld 2020 carried over to cover fees for Baselworld 2021
– the balance 15% retained by the organizers to help cover the out-of-pocket costs of Baselworld 2020
– 30% of the amount reimbursed
– 40% of the amount carried over to Baselworld 2021
– 30% of the amount used to help cover the costs incurred by Baselworld 2020
Watch and wonder
Rolex pulled out, as did Tudor and Patek and a few days later, LvmH followed. MCH Group sent out a press release that included a fair amount of mud-slinging but neglected to mention any of the above behavior. Glaringly absent was any kind of apology or guilt. Surprising? No. Disappointing? After all these years of support, yes.
Or will it be gone forever…
Will Baselworld be able to fix it? Will it be a very slimmed down exhibition for the brands that can’t or won’t join the Geneva events next year? Or will it be gone forever in all forms? Have the organizers finally learned that arrogance never pays? I watch and wonder.
If Baselworld goes ahead, we will certainly be there to show support for the exhibiting brands. We will book our tickets and places to stay with cancelation insurance, though. After what we (and MCH) have seen this year, one thing is clear: taking things for granted will come back to haunt you.
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About the author
Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in… read more
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