Perhaps a gross exaggeration but there is plenty of truth as Baselworld, the world’s largest watch and jewellery trade fair, as we know in the current format is no longer sustainable. The embattled fair has seen the Swatch Group, Corum, Breitling and many more pulling out in the past couple of years. The latest to depart? The alliance of Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chopard, Chanel and Tudor has announced that it will form a new and yet-to-be-christened trade show at the same time as Watches and Wonders (rebranded from SIHH) in Geneva. The straw that broke the camel’s back appeared to be the Baselworld management’s unilateral decision to postpone the 2020 fair to January 2021 without prior consultation and consensus with its stakeholders – brands and retailers. In a joint statement, the alliance says Baselworld has lost its ability “to meet the brands’ needs and expectations.”
The new show will take place in April 2021 at Palexpo, organised by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, which is also the organiser of Watches and Wonders. Access to the new show will be on a restricted basis, targeting primarily at retailers, the media and VIP clients. Apart from the intent to offer brands the best platform to showcase their novelties, the new show will apply a collegial vision to meet future challenges faced by the brands. The new show, however, is presently at its formative stage and more information will be furnished when it is available. Meanwhile, Rolex announced last week that it would delay the release of this year’s novelties indefinitely.
The embattled industry is currently facing its biggest threat since the quartz crisis as the Covid-19 pandemic has temporarily shuttered production facilities and retail outlets. The greater woes are likely to reverberate in the years to come as economies worldwide contract and consumers may quell luxury purchases as a result. A new way of working and cooperating is required to ensure their collective survival, continuity and prospering.
“We have taken part in Baselworld since 1939. Unfortunately, given the way the event has evolved and the recent decisions made by MCH Group, and in spite of the great attachment we had to this watch show, we have decided to withdraw. Following discussions initiated by Rolex, it seemed only natural to create a new event with partners that share our vision and our endless, unwavering support for the Swiss watchmaking sector. This will allow us to present our new watches in line with our needs and expectations, to join forces and better defend the interests of the industry.”
Jean-Frédéric Dufour, Chief Executive Officer, Rolex SA, and Board Member, Montres Tudor SA
“The decision to leave Baselworld was not an easy one to take for me, being the fourth generation of the Stern family to participate to 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! Today Patek Philippe is not in line with Baselworld’s vision anymore, there have been too many discussions and unsolved problems, trust is no longer present. We need to answer the legitimate needs of our retailers, the clients and the press from around the world. They have to be able to discover the new models from Swiss watchmakers each year, at one time, in one place, and this in the most professional manner possible. That is why, following several discussions with Rolex and in agreement with other participating brands, we have decided to create, all together, a unique event in Geneva, representative of our savoir-faire.“
Thierry Stern, President, Patek Philippe
“Like its partners, Chanel shares the same independence and the same desire to protect and promote the values, know-how, utmost quality and precision of Swiss Watchmaking. This initiative marks a key milestone in the history of Chanel Watchmaking and is part of a long-term strategy, which began with the launch of this activity in 1987. This exhibition will allow us to present all of our new creations in an environment that meets our high-quality standards.”
Frédéric Grangié, President of Chanel Watches & Fine Jewellery
“Chopard first exhibited at the Basel fair in 1964 with a stand of some 25 square metres. After careful consideration, our family decided to support the Rolex initiative and retire from Baselworld – a painful decision. The creation of this new watch show in Geneva, in parallel to Watches & Wonders, will allow us to better serve our watchmaking partners and our customers. Through the alliance, these grandes maisons will also be able to collaborate in promoting the values and best interests of Swiss watchmaking.”
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-President Chopard et Cie SA
“The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie is delighted to welcome a new salon which will strengthen the historical Watches & Wonders event in Geneva next year in early April.”
Jérôme Lambert, on behalf of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie Council