With this year’s Baselworld canceled due to Coronavirus, luxury watch brands are forced to switch gears. The already declining Baselworld event has seen fewer and fewer attendees over the past few years. Now it’s been postposed to January 2021.
See also: Is Baselworld Done?
Collectors and retailers are left wondering what’s to come of the trade show, and how will watch brands respond?
A Brief History of Baselworld
Baselworld is the world’s largest watch and jewelry show in the world. Luxury watchbands showcase their newest models to reporters, editors, distributors, collectors, and retailers from around the world.
Related: Luxury Watches from Baselworld 2019
The first Baselworld was actually more of a trade show for general Swiss goods, but eventually the wristwatch market took over. It was initially called Schweizer Mustermesse Basel (MUBA) and held in a casino.
Interest from powerhouse watch brands grew as the trade show gained popularity. The 1920’s and 1930s drew participation from Zenith, Patek Philippe, Heuer, and Rolex, and eventually led to a breakaway event for timepieces.
The name changed to the Basel Fair, and the rest is history. Baselworld attendance exceeded 100,000 people in 2007, but has steadily declined since the 2008 recession.
The number of exhibitors has also dropped– from 2,000 exhibitors to 650 in 2018. That was a 50% decrease from the year prior, which drew around 1,300 brands.
2020 Baselworld Canceled
Baselworld, along with almost every single early spring event in the entire world, has been canceled. The difficult news came from Michel Loris-Melikoff, Managing Director of Baselworld, in late February.
“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 jewellery 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….
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. (Baselworld.com)
The event was set to coordinate with Salon Internationals de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) to draw more attendees to both shows, rather than being forced to choose between the two.
It sounds like Baselworld planned to take other innovative measures as well based on the official statement above. Now, watch and other luxury commodity brands will need to be even more creative to sell their products.
Dealing with Coronavirus Cancellations
Art Basel Hong Kong was one of the first luxury world fairs to cancel amid the outbreak. But the event is capitalizing on the turn of events. The show will continue in late March, but attendees won’t be viewing art collections in person.
Instead, attendees will be viewing and purchasing art in online viewing rooms. With the increase of consumers buying online anyway, the digital development will only compliment future fairs.
Major fashion weeks have felt the impact of Coronavirus cancellations as well. The Paris Fashion week, held just after Milan’s Fashion week, had several brands cancel events.
Although the Paris Fashion week continued, some shows were switched to live stream only.
Luxury fashion brands held run way shows sans an in person audience. Models could be seen walking the run way via live stream only. Moncler and Michael Hors both canceled large fashion events.
Luxury Watch Brands Get Creative after Baselworld Canceled
Several watch brands announced they’d be participating in Geneva Watch Days from April 26- 29 in Geneva. At least that’s the plan for now. Brands participating so far include Bulgari, Breitling, Ulysse Nardin, Girard-Perregaux, MB&F, DeBethune and Urwerk.
The event was announced by Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bvlgari, during a televised interview with the Swiss National Television TTC. According to Forbes, the event has “full support of the State of Geneva.”
Geneva Watch Days coincides with the recently canceled Watches & Wonders Geneva show. The event is planned to be much smaller and more spread out, to mitigate any health risks. Brands will showcase their newest products in luxury hotels around the city, or even in their own boutiques.
Several other brands have decided to host a sister pop-up show as well. The Swiss Creative Lab will host a Pop Up Watch Show in the St’Art Contemporary Art Gallery, running from April 26-29.
Swiss Creative Lab is no stranger to this type of show. It has been hosting an exhibition in the Basel Hyperion Hotel’s ‘Exhibition Tower’ for the last 11 years.
One question on everyone’s mind– what is Rolex’s plan? Rolex is set to release a range of new watches in the coming weeks. Rumors swirl, but of course no one has a clue when.
Until then, we’ll be anxiously awaiting a press release or perhaps a live steam!
It will be interesting to see how luxury events and watch brands adapt to this temporary normal and how it impacts the industry overall.
In the meantime, are you in the market for a luxury watch?
Jonathan’s Fine Jewelers has the ability to overnight new watch models directly to our showroom.