PARIS — Watches & Wonders Geneva has bit the bullet and canceled its physical event that was set for April, solidifying the industry’s shift to digital channels to replace traditional trade shows.
“This decision, taken in close consultation with the principal stakeholders, is seen as the most responsible course of action, given the current health crisis and uncertainties as to how the situation may evolve,” said organizers in a statement Tuesday. The event had been scheduled to take place in Geneva at the Palexpo hall on April 7 to 13, 2021.
Plans are to upgrade the digital platform, which was launched in April this year as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe, halting travel and prompting the physical event’s cancellation.
The platform is geared towards networking between media, retailers and clients of exhibiting brands, with live chats and presentations streamed online.
Some 50 brands take part in Watches & Wonders, formerly known as SIHH, mostly Compagnie Financière Richemont labels, including Cartier, Jaeger LeCoultre and Vacheron Constantin, but also Hermès and Kering labels Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux. Some former Baselworld exhibitors, including Chanel, Chopard and Rolex, also planned to show in Geneva in April and are listed on the Watches & Wonders website as exhibiting brands.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the decline of traditional, physical trade shows, which had struggled to adapt to the rise of digital channels. Watches & Wonders rival Baselworld, which was held in a sprawling exhibition hall in Basel, Switzerland, was known for elaborate booths that rose several stories high. MCH Group, which organized the event, has since abandoned the format, and launched a new platform called HourUniverse for watches, jewelry and gemstone industries after settling with departing labels in May.
More than a dozen labels, including Bulgari, which belongs to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and Kering labels banded together to host a series of small events in Geneva at the end of August, dubbed Geneva Watch Days.
Watches & Wonders hit the road in September, taking a handful of labels to Shanghai.