For almost a century, the Swatch Group has been a front-runner of the watch industry, boasting brands like the super-premium Breguet, ever-popular Omega and more affordable Flik-Flak in its portfolio.
Baselworld 2018 was an adrenaline filled affair as always, but there can be no denying the hushed undertones that whispered of big changes to come in the coming year and beyond. The mega-show, long hailed as the benchmark of prestige in the world of haute horlogerie and fine jewellery has seen a steady reduction in the number of participants, with exhibitor numbers dropping by close to 50% from approximately 1300 to 650 between 2017 and 2018.
At the close of the show, the MCH Group that runs Baselworld issued an upbeat and positive press release stating that the ‘Big 5’, Rolex, Patek Philippe, LVMH (which owns brands like Bvlgari, Zenith, TAG Heuer and Hublot) Chopard and the Swatch Group (owners of Omega, Swatch etc…) along with several other big-name brands had confirmed their participation in 2019.
It came as a huge surprise then, when Swatch Group CEO, Nick Hayek Jr., announced on Sunday that the group, owner of no less than 18 brands which occupy prime property in Baselworld’s ‘Hall 1’, will be withdrawing from the 2019 edition of the world’s Watch and Jewellery Show.
So what does this mean for the future of Baselworld? In a world increasing driven by social media and the internet, how will the exit of the Swatch Group impact Baselworld and will in it turn have a domino effect on the entire watch industry?
When approached for comments during and immediately after Baselworld 2018, industry insiders were hesitant to commit to any opinion about the future of show, but the general consensus seemed to be that without the participation of even one of a handful of major players, the show stood a good chance of being ‘broken’.
It is probably a gross understatement to suggest that that future of Baselworld, or even of trade shows in general is easy to imagine, but we would go so far as to hazard a guess that big changes are underfoot.
What Does Basel Say?
Michel Loris-Melikoff, who assumed the position of MCH Group MD on July 1st 2018 expressed his and the group’s deepest regret at the news of Swatch Group’s decision not to participate in Baselworld 2019.
He also shed light on several proposed changes that will be implemented at the 2019 edition of the watch and jewellery show, including a stronger focus on a more holistic and interactive experience for consumer, the watchmaker, the media, the retailer and watch enthusiasts in general.
Special exhibitions, a Retailer Summit, more robust press day, better use of the space available and even a new culinary extravaganza promise to make an appearance at Baselworld 2019, and Loris-Melikoff also indicated that the MCH Group is in the process of working with hotels in the area to provide attendees with the best available rates and best service to ensure a positive experience for all.
Michel Loris-Melikoff the MCH Group seem confident that the newer approach to Baselworld and the changes underfoot will receive a positive response from participants and also that other pillars of the watch community will continue to showcase their masterpieces in the hallowed halls for years to come. It is even possible, that the Swatch Group may be convinced to return to the show in the future after they witness the success of the new format in action.
Ominously, Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek was unavailable for comment in the days following the 2018 show, and also immediately following his breaking news this past Sunday.
Will the Swatch Group choose to exhibit at other watch fairs around the world? Will the reasons for their (un)ceremonious exit from a century old institution like Baselworld ever truly come to light or will brands move towards finding alternate ways to display their novelties to buyers, retailers and collectors in the future?
In the meanwhile, tell us what you think will happen next? We at HOT are looking forward to see just what the changes at Baselworld 2019 will bring, and we will continue to bring you all the latest news and updates just as soon as we have it…