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CORDER’S COLUMN: 2020’s calendar for launches from the major watchmaking groups is in chaos. WatchPro plots a course through the wreckage

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What might life in a post-Baselworld era look like? The answer is far from settled, but we are starting to get a taste of things to come.

Baselworld and Watches and Wonders Geneva take place back-to-back at the end of April through to the beginning of May, theoretically making it cheaper and less disruptive for retail partners and press to travel to both in a week in one trip.

To align the shows, it was deemed necessary for W&W to jump from January to April and for Baselworld to slide from March to April. This disruption to the launch calendar of watchmakers went down like a lead balloon, and caused several of them to make alternative plans to launch watches ahead of the big Swiss shows.

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In an effort to help the industry plan for such a fragmented year, WatchPro has pulled together what we know about the launch programmes for all of the major watchmaking groups.

Bulgari, TAG Heuer, Zenith and Hublot

 

LVMH’s four watch brands: Bulgari, TAG Heuer, Zenith and Hublot, hosted an all-expenses paid trip for around 400 retail partners and journalists in Dubai this month.

There were two days of meetings, and almost half of the watches we will see from Hublot and Zenith were introduced at the event.

CEOs from all four brands were available for round table interviews with the press.

No expense was spared on business class flights from all corners of the world, 5-star hotels, lavish meals and evening entertainment that ended with live music sets and a spectacular firework display.

All four brands will also appear at Baselworld in their usual positions in Hall 1. In essence, there is little chance from last year, when the brands split their launches between an event in January alongside SIHH in Geneva and the usual Baselworld reveal in March.

Richemont

 

The major change to Richemont’s plans is not how the group will present its 2020 collections, but when.

SIHH every January was effectively a Richemont event, with all its watchmaking maisons from Cartier to IWC and Baume & Mercier to Van Cleef & Arpels presenting under a single roof in Geneva.

SIHH has changed its name to Watches & Wonders Geneva and shifted to the last week of April, but it will still be where Richemont’s brands unveil their major collections of the year.

Breitling

Breitling seems committed to continue with its summits, which CEO Georges Kern introduced at the end of 2018. The day-long events are touring the world like a Springstein concert, touching down in London, New York and Los Angeles.

We do not know the full schedule for 2020, but since Breitling is not exhibiting at Baselworld, it is expected there will be an event in Switzerland as well as elsewhere in the world later in the year.

The focus of these Breitling summits varies, but typically they are wrapped around a theme. In Los Angeles, for example, Brad Pitt represented the brand’s Cinema Squad in presentations and interviews while a Surfer Squad put on a demonstration of board skills as a stunt to launch a new Superocean watch. American press and retailers lapped it up.

Audemars Piguet

Audemars Piguet has pulled out of SIHH, the Geneva event re branded as Watches & Wonders that takes place April 25-29. In its place there will be watches launched alongside the opening of a major new AP Museum in Le Brassus, Switzerland, most likely on April 23.

There are additional watch launch events planned alongside Art Basel in June and the Montreux Jazz Festival in July. A global event is expected, but insiders could not say when or where it will be.

The schedule suggests AP is going a similar direction to Breitling, with a focus on entertaining and exciting audiences at events all over the world.

Swatch Group

Swatch Group arranged for retailers and press to visit Zurich in the same week as Baselworld in 2019 in an event it called Time to Move — a thinly-veiled snub at Baselworld which it had exited after a fall-out in 2018.

Retailers were shuttled from Basel to Zurich for presentations at which they were sworn to secrecy. They even had their mobile phones quarantined so that they would not share pictures of the new watches.

The press got their turn a few weeks later, with a 3-4 day tour that took in manufacturing facilities of the luxury brands (Omega and up) along with product presentations. Lower price point brands like Certina and Hamilton had show and tell sessions in local markets all over the world.

There was a bit of griping among the press pack at being excluded from the first round of secret retailer presentations in Zurich, and their mood was not lifted by the grueling schedule of factory visits when they got their turn.

This year Swatch Group has chosen to re-use the Time to Move name for its 2020 launch event, but appears to have significantly scaled back on the time and investment devoted to the exercise.

It may be that other journalists and retailers from other markets are getting a different experience, but many speaking to WatchPro have confirmed they have much the same invitation which is a day of meetings at Swatch Group’s Zurich headquarters in the first week of March.

In the case of WatchPro, presentations will take place from 11 am to 5pm on March 6, a schedule that allows us to pay for an Easyjet flight that gets us in and out on the same day.

On a personal and professional level, this plan from Swatch Group suits WatchPro. It may not be glamorous, but it is practical. With the Swiss mega shows shrinking and the brands scattering, there are myriad events to attend, so brevity is to be welcomed.

Making our own travel arrangements also means we keep control and feel far less pressure to show gratitude for lavish hospitality in the form of obsequious coverage.

It should also appeal to Swatch Group shareholders, since the millions saved compared to the Baselworld days should drop straight to the bottom line.

It remains to be seen whether all of Swatch Group’s key partners, which include multi-millionaire retail partners, also enjoy the the stripped-back treatment.

Patek Philippe, Rolex and Tudor

Rolex remains the biggest draw at Baselworld. It is rumoured to be demanding all its authorised dealers attend this year’s exhibition as a show of support for the event.

 

Baselworld can take comfort in the assurance from Patek Philippe, Rolex and Tudor that the brands are holding back their entire 2020 launch programme for the exhibition.

Despite the show taking place over a month later than usual at the end of April through to the beginning of May, retail partners will have to wait until that time to learn about the new watches for this year and their allocations.

Seiko and Grand Seiko

Seiko and Grand Seiko have not said they will leave Baselworld for ever, but the timing of next year’s exhibition from April 30 to May 5 is too late in the year for them and they have withdrawn.

Instead, selected retailers and international press are being invited to a Grand Seiko Summit scheduled to take place March 4-5 in Tokyo. Additional events are planned around the world including presentations in Orlando, Florida, later in March.

A Seiko executive speaking to WatchPro informally said the decision on whether to exhibit at Baselworld will be reviewed if the dates fit better with their plans in future years.

Casio

Casio at Baselworld

 

Casio has withdrawn from Baselworld this year, but has not announced any alternative plans.

Kai-Christian Helms, senior marketing manager for watches at Casio Europe, said the timing of Baselworld was too late in the year.

Citizen Watch Group

Citizen baselworld

 

Citizen Watch Group, home of Citizen, Bulova, Frederique Constant and Alpina, will be one of the biggest exhibitors at Baselworld this year.

In a corporate statement sent to WatchPro the group says: “Despite the negative media report about how some brands have moved away, Baselworld, one of the world’s largest premier show of watches and jewellery, remains the place for the industry to communicate the beauty and value of watches far beyond any single brand.

“Being an active part of Baselworld with its rich history which extends over a century, Citizen Watch Group is thrilled for the opportunity to generate excitement across the entire watch industry with our fellow brands.

“Given how many stakeholders gather from across the globe, Baselworld offers a wonderful time to socialize and exchange information with VIPs of brands old and new and remains the place for great business opportunity and for the Citizen Watch Group, it is where we uncover new possibilities and challenges for not only the complete watch but also for our movement business.”

In addition to Citizen, Bulova, Alpina and Frederique Constant returning to Baselworld, the group’s movement manufacturer Miyota will also take part.

Arnold & Sons, which makes only small quantities of ultra-luxury watches, will take part in Watches & Wonders Geneva (formerly known as SIHH) from next year.

 

2 Comments

  1. Dear Editor,
    What a great read, but also a sad read, as I have worked at Baselworld for 20 years, as an exhibit designer/builder, and the writing was on the walls for many years, as exhibitors simply felt that they were paying way over the odds, for exhibit space, exhibit services, and of course accommodations and F&B.
    This also happened to another huge show, which was the pinnacle of its industry called World Telecoms Geneva, where 4 storey booths were the norm, but the show was only held every 4 years, (In Geneva,) but the controlling body never listened to the exhibitors, and the changing market, and sadly, the show died, and it has evolved in to what is now called MWC in Barcelona.
    It remains to be seen, if Baselworld can survive the next couple of years, as ultimately, it is down to the exhibitor profile, and of course, the visitors of the show.
    Best
    Chris

    1. Thank you Chris. I would share your sadness if Baselworld goes the same way as Geneva Telecoms. I do think the Swiss watch industry needs to come together to show its skills and stature to the world every year and hope Baselworld and Watches & Wonders can come together to find a way. It may not need four storey booths, but it must set out to impress.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder