Friday, February 28, 2020

Baselworld 2020 Cancelled




Just a day after Watches & Wonders Geneva announced it is cancelling due to the coronavirus (see Jake's story here), Baselworld said it will not hold its yearly trade show either. The next Baselworld will be held in 2021, from Jan. 28 to Feb. 2nd (with Press Day on Jan. 27).

Michel Loris-Melikoff, Managing Director of Baselworld, said in a press release today: "We deeply regret having had to postpone the event as planned due to the coronavirus, in full consideration of the needs of the watch and jewelry industry to be able to benefit from the platform to develop their business. This decision has been all the more difficult in view of all the positives that have been achieved through listening and dialogue over the last few months, which resulted in new concepts and new solutions, that have attracted exhibitors to return and new ones to sign on. We registered encouraging growth in all sectors; watchmaking, jewellery, the gemstone and pearl trade, as well as in the technical branch."

Michel Loris-Melikoff continues: "By postponing the show to January 2021, we have found a solution that enables the industry and all our customers to avoid losing a full year and at the same time reset their calendars for the beginning of the year, a period that is conductive to the presentation of their new products, new trends and order taking. This postponing will also allow Baselworld to continue developing and bringing new formats and solutions as well as improvements to the new concept we propose."

This year's cancellation due to the coronavirus is a blow to a watch and jewelry fair that has already seen a reduction of hundreds of exhibitors including big players, like the entire Swatch Group, the Movado Group, Breitling, Citizen, Bvlgari, Seiko and Grand Seiko resulting in the closing of several halls.

Why BASELWORD 2021 will be held in January

In 2018, in a huge effort by both SIHH and Baselworld to come together to keep both shows alive and operational, the two tradeshows announced it would coordinate dates to coincide for the year 2020 and move both shows to the end of April and early May.

But in another faux-pas, the dates proved to be too late. Breitling immediately said it was quitting Baselworld, and LVMH reacted to the later SIHH dates by announcing that its usual January showcase, which has been held alongside the Geneva-based SIHH event, would move to Dubai.

Retailers and jewelry suppliers have said April/May is too late. Italian brands said they would not showcase because this timeline wouldn’t allow them to fulfill retailer orders before closing for summer. Placing orders for watches that can have six-month lead times, could mean waiting until November for deliveries of new collections. Baselworld admitted the timelines were wrong. 

When will the watches be introduced?

Just like last year, I was invited by Baselworld for Press Day, a day before the fair is open to the public. My appointments with Rolex and Tudor were set. But now that watch brands are not held to the Baselworld timeline, what date will they choose to broadcast their 2020 collections? And what would a Rolex announcement sans-Baselworld look like? Live stream in Geneva?

I believe that the brands will first drum up their announcement dates to create a pre-buzz online. But if they were planning on April to release their new models, it is possible that the brands are not completely ready to announce for another few weeks. 

One thing for sure, the cancellation of Baselworld in 2020 might be the ultimate test for the ailing 103-year-old trade show: Brands this year will be forced to self-promote their new collections. They might learn, one, that it is not that difficult to do; and two, that the cost-benefit analysis might not warrant attending Baselworld in 2021.

I will miss Baselworld. When I went through my phone's photo album today, I found the clip above. I had filmed the pulling of the curtains, which takes place at exactly noon on Press Day, and marks the official beginning of the largest watch fair in the world. This area is exclusively reserved for members of the press, so we can write stories, edit videos or record podcasts. Just before noon, however, there is this "It's Christmas morning" palpable feel in the press booth. And there's a certain camaraderie among us, heads are nodded, and laughs and smiles are exchanged in acknowledgment of the excitement.