Tag Heuer connected watch

PARIS — Watch brands belonging to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton have quit Baselworld, after Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel and others announced their departure, throwing the trade fair into disarray. 

“We are facing an opportunity to reinvent the format and content of one of the key moments of our watchmaking year, which represented both a major commercial challenge and a lever of influence for our brands,” Stéphane Bianchi, chief executive officer of LVMH’s watchmaking division, said in a statement on Friday. 

LVMH labels plan to show in Geneva in April, in step with the brands that announced on Tuesday they are setting up their own show alongside the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie’s Watches and Wonders event.

LVMH cited the “weakened representation” of the Swiss watch industry following the latest defection as the reason for the withdrawal of Bulgari, Hublot, Zenith and Tag Heuer.

Baselworld has faced tumult in recent years, with a steady stream of brand departures, including those belonging to Swatch Group, and, more recently, Breitling and Gucci.

Formerly known as SIHH, Watches and Wonders is dominated by labels belonging to Compagnie Financière Richemont, and was traditionally held in January. Organizers had coordinated with Baselworld managers to schedule the events back-to-back, in April and May, to allow globetrotting showgoers to attend both events in one trip.

But the spread of the coronavirus scuppered both events this year, with local authorities banning large gatherings in a bid to curb the epidemic.

LVMH had continued to throw its weight behind Baselworld, where its labels were well-positioned at the entrance of the sprawling exhibitor halls in Basel, Switzerland.

But this year the group kicked off its annual product launch schedule with a new watch event in Dubai, holding intimate presentations in seaside villas to introduce its latest collections. And Bulgari had already opted out of the planned Baselworld edition this spring, saying it would make a decision on committing to further editions by the end of June.

Meanwhile, the Italian label banded together with rivals including Ulysse Nardin to set up an alternative watch event in Geneva, called Geneva Days and scheduled for August. Participation fees and dates were key elements in the decision, Bulgari’s ceo Jean-Christophe Babin had said.

Noting that the Swiss watch industry is regrouping in Geneva at the same time, Babin said it would be an opportunity to “at last revive a sector that all too many divisions and divergent interests have weakened compared to the rest of the luxury sector.”

Further details of the format of the presentations will be hammered out in the coming weeks, he added.