08.07.2021 - News

Is time ticking for Baselworld? Famous five break ranks to set up new show

FIVE of the world’s favourite luxury watch brands have snubbed Baselworld to create a brand new watch trade show in Geneva.

Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chopard, Tudor and Chanel have all agreed to set up shop with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie – the group that runs Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH).

It’s another damning blow for the flagging event that has already seen the departure of Swatch Group, who left in 2019 citing cost issues amongst others.

In the next few weeks, the MCH Group says it will decide whether to continue with Baselworld and on digital investments which are geared to the long term.

A new watch trade show

The new show, which is yet to be named, would provisionally be held in early April 2021, at Palexpo.

But the move may bamboozle some horology fans as the event will not only take place at the same convention centre, but at the same time as Watches & Wonders.

Mass exit 

The brands’ main decision to leave one of the world’s biggest watch exhibitions was down to the fact they were not consulted about the postponement of the show, which should have taken place this month.

However, due to the Coronavirus outbreak and the associated fear of international travel, it was cancelled.

It has also been reported that the household names were unimpressed with Baselworld management, saying the team had failed to meet their expectations.

New and improved professional platform

The aim of creating the new show is to offer partners a highly professional platform whilst engaging with one another to meet potential forthcoming issues in the watch industry.

Innovation will be given key prominence, with more brands to be added but the main event will be mainly geared towards retailers, press and VIP customers.

Jean-Frédéric Dufour, Chief Executive Officer of Rolex, SA, said he was highly disappointed not to be taking part in the show anymore, having participated since 1939 but stressed that decisions made by the MCH Group led to the decision 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,” he added. 

“Trust has gone”

Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe, 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 organisation, the brands or the clients.

“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.”

Joining watchmaking stalwarts, Chanel shared the same desire to protect and promote the values, know-how, utmost quality and precision of Swiss Watchmaking.

Chopard first exhibited at Baselworld back in the sixties, hosting a 25sqm stand but its directors also took the agonising decision to also abandon the show.

But the brand is very excited for the new era, as they say the new show will allow it to serve its  customers in the best way.

Jérôme Lambert, on behalf of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie Council said: “The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie is delighted to welcome a new salon which will strengthen the historical Watch & Wonders event in Geneva next year in early April.” 

MCH Group shock

However, a spokesperson from the MCH Group – which runs Baselworld – said members were very surprised with the announcement, saying that the new date of January 2021 for the postponement of April 2020’s show was defined jointly with leading exhibitors.

A statement read: ‘The companies now “migrating” – including Rolex – spoke out in favour of a postponement to January 2021. They are also represented on the Exhibitors’ Committee, where the future vision of Baselworld has been discussed on several occasions and has met with a positive response, as was also evidenced by countless individual discussions.’

It went on to insinuate that a move to Geneva had never been mentioned and therefore the plans must have been in preparation for some time. 

MCH Group claims that the financial arrangements for the cancellation of Baselworld 2020 are now being put forward as an argument.

Timepiece lovers should watch this space for more information as it unfolds, including the name of the new show.