Baselworld - outside the show hall

PARIS — Baselworld organizers are canceling next year’s show and have settled with departing labels, closing a fraught chapter in the Swiss watch event’s history as they consider the shape it might take in the future.

“Together with the exhibitors and visitors, we are working intensively on clarifying and discussing the requirements and options for new platforms,” said Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director of Baselworld, which is run by MCH Group.  

“We will be taking a decision on possible follow-up formats by the summer and will then provide information on the new concept and scheduling,” he added.

The fair had suffered a steady stream of defections in recent years. In 2018, Movado opted to hold its own retreat, inviting hundreds of guests to Davos, Switzerland. The fair fees had grown too costly and the format was ill-adapted to the rise of e-commerce, Movado had said, noting it was able to host guests at the mountain retreat for a fraction of the price. 

Swatch Group, Baselworld’s largest exhibitor, was next, pulling its brands which include Longines, Tissot, Breguet and Omega later that year. 

Last month, the event was stripped of the remaining luxury labels still propping it up. Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel and Chopard decided to leave amid tensions that arose following the cancellation of this year’s event amid the spread of the coronavirus. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s labels Hublot, Tag Heuer and Zenith soon followed suit. Bulgari, another LVMH label, had already opted out of the show this year, which the group had already kicked off with its own watch event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

“I welcome the constructive attitude of the representatives of the MCH Group, which has enabled us to find a balanced solution,” said Hubert J. du Plessix, president of the Swiss exhibitors committee, speaking of the agreement between fair organizers and the recently departed labels. The executive also thanked Patek Philippe, Rolex, Tudor, Chanel, Chopard, Hublot, Zenith and Tag Heuer who agreed to a lower refund which he said would allow other exhibitors to “benefit from better conditions.”

MCH Group chief executive officer Bernd Stadlwieser said that he was pleased a solution was found in a short amount of time.

“With the amicable settlement for Baselworld 2020, we can now concentrate fully on the future,” he said.

Baselworld 2021 had been planned for Jan. 28 to Feb. 2.

While the relevance of splashy trade shows has come under question with the rise of digital channels that allow brands to communicate directly with consumers, high-end watch labels are continuing to group together, with Baselworld’s former heavyweights now planning to hold their own show in Geneva next April alongside the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie’s rival event, Watches and Wonders. Formerly known as SIHH, the Geneva showcase is dominated by labels belonging to Compagnie Financière Richemont, including Cartier, Piaget and Jaeger-LeCoultre.

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