PARIS — The trade show angst that hit Baselworld forcefully this summer has now spread to its rival, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, known as SIHH, following announcements from Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille that they will leave the fair.
In signaling their departure from the upscale trade show, the watchmakers cast further doubt on the future of such industry events.
“The evolving nature of the watchmaking industry is such that Audemars Piguet’s business model is changing and the Manufacture has decided to explore new directions in order to forge closer and more direct relationships with end clients and watch enthusiasts worldwide,” the watchmaker said in a statement.
Richard Mille also cited the evolving nature of interaction with clients, pointing to the development of its international distribution network in recent years, which included the expansion of its own store networks. It has also pulled back on the number of multibrand retailers selling its timepieces. “Consequently, the brand’s presence at exhibitions no longer corresponds to its strategy for exclusive and selective distribution,” the company said.
Both companies remained committed to the upcoming January 2019 edition of the fair, but will leave afterwards.
SIHH is dominated by labels from Compagnie Financière Richemont including Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, along with Kering brands Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux while Baselworld counts LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton labels Tag Heuer, Zenith, Bulgari and Hublot. LVMH has also moved in on the action at SIHH by parking a boat on Lake Geneva to tap into the flow of fairgoers.
In a high-profile defection last year, Hermès left Baselworld for SIHH.
The departure from Baselworld of Swatch Group, the show’s largest exhibitor, announced this summer, sent shudders through the industry and prompted the resignation of the show organizer’s chief executive officer, René Kamm.
The industry has been rethinking the traditional trade show format of drawing labels under the same roof and using splashy displays to attract the crowds of buyers and potential clients that traditionally flocked to such events. But the speed and convenience of the Internet has dramatically changed how watchmakers reach and interact with consumers.
Movado Group, which has its own brands as well as licenses for Juicy Couture, Coach, Tommy Hilfiger and Lacoste, for example, pulled out Baselworld last year and used the funds to invite some 300 guests to Davos for a four-day summit. Executives said the cost of the Movado event would only come to 20 percent of what the group normally spent on the fair, and said they would invest the remaining fund on bolstering digital channels.