Fair Games: A Look at the Future of best Swiss Watch Trade Shows

Two weeks ago, on April 14, Baselworld’s parent company MCH Group took notice”with great surprise […] of this cancellation of major exhibitors at Baselworld,” namely Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel, Tudor, and Chopard. Two years before this, on July 30, 2018, the organization’s former CEO René Kamm was caught off guard by Swatch Group’s determination to leave the show”The cancellation is even more surprising for us since this information reaches us at a point in time when new direction has arrived with a new group, new esprit and several new ideas.” In both cases, the business’s unfiltered general display of surprise has been followed by the desire to directly”contradict the representation” (July 30, 2018) of its former clients, or, even more recently, by questioning the intentions of the aforementioned five brands. MCH Group’s most up-to-date answer (April 14, 2020):”The MCH Group must therefore conclude that the applicable plans [to leave Baselworld] have already been in preparation for quite a while and that the discussions concerning the financial arrangements for its conclusion of Baselworld 2020 are now being put forward as an argument.”

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The company’s responses were notable for two reasons:
Primarily, in a consensus-driven society such as Switzerland, you seldom find a provider publicly react as confrontational as of this: the Swiss, already utilized to having one of the world’s oldest democracies, just don’t want to burn bridges, especially if there’s absolutely no proof.

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Secondly, a provider usually aims to understand the needs of its key clients if it needs to remain relevant.
Almost as unexpected because Baselworld’s PR strategy: that the show’s development (or lack thereof) had prompted even a company like Rolex to make a public statement, something which barely ever occurs:”We’ve taken part in Baselworld because 1939,” explained Jean-Frédéric Dufour, CEO of Rolex SA and board member of Montres Tudor SA, in the statement by April 14. “Unfortunately, given how the event has developed and the recent decisions made by MCH Group, and despite the wonderful attachment we had to this swiss watch series, we have decided to withdraw.” Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe, even added:”Today, Patek Philippe is not in line with Baselworld’s vision , there were too many talks and unsolved issues, hope is no more present.”

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Baselworld started in 1917 as a dedicated industry section throughout the Swiss Mustermesse Muba. In 2013, the show reopened a 1.5 million-square-foot exhibition site in Basel (Picture source: MCH Group).
Within another blow into the Baselworld fair, LVMH, parent firm of TAG Heuer, Hublot, Zenith, and Bulgari, announced on April 17 its intent to also leave the series for great — a decision that is ultimately forcing the current management to create”a decision about the continuation of Baselworld and on investments in its further development in the next few weeks.”

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In summary, while the city of Basel is possibly going to lose another massive exhibition with an estimated 80,000 people seeing (in 2019, the Schweizer Mustermesse Muba, where Baselworld originated, finally had to shut after 103 years), Geneva is quickly becoming the world’s watchmaking funding: Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel, Chopard, and Tudor will set a brand new Baume&Mercier watch trade show in Geneva. The introduction of the show will take place in early April 2021 at Palexpo in Geneva, simultaneously with the first variant of Watches & Gamble Geneva, formerly known as the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), coordinated by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH). Geneva is currently the home of important events such as the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), the Salon EPHJ and the biannual Just Tachymeter Bronze Watch Auction, and also home to several watch groups, manufacturers and affiliated associations.