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CORDER’S COLUMN: Baselworld must be cancelled today or Rolex should pull the plug

rob-corder

Watches & Wonders Geneva took the sensible decision today to cancel this year’s event.

It is a genuine shame, because its organiser, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, has interesting plans to turn a trade exhibition at the brutalist Palexpo centre into a city-wide celebration of luxury watchmaking that would have made retailers in the city part of the entertainment.

Another year of developing that idea will do no harm.

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As I write, Baselworld and its parent organisation, the publicly traded MCH Group, are silent on how it will react to the rapidly growing Coronavirus threat.

Its most recent announcement was promoting a Forum that will have seating for 250 people to watch interesting executives from the watch industry speak about the market. Gatherings of 250 people, let alone tens of thousands that might once have been planning to attend Baselworld, now look improbable two months out from the event opening.

It is not just that people are more likely to catch Coronavirus if they attend a massive event like Baselworld, it is that they could be caught up in quarantine rules.

You only have to watch the news to know that if one person who has attended Baselworld tests positive for the virus, tens of thousands of people will be expected to self-isolate, which means two weeks twiddling their thumbs at home (or worse).

Nobody is going want to take that risk.

If Baselworld does not take the correct decision, Rolex, LVMH and Patek Philippe — the remaining giant exhibitors — should. They can advise their authorised dealers not to attend, because they would not want to put them at risk of contracting the disease or being forced into quarantine.

I am not a health expert, but this is a business issue. The risk is simply too high for Baselworld to go ahead and it must be cancelled.

5 Comments

  1. With the greatest of repect, I think this is a complete overreaction and would fundamentally harm the industry; roughly six hundred people die each year in the UK from the flu, it has risen to over 10,000 deaths in 2008-2009.. Closing Basel will have a mammoth impact on the industry. I think Geneva is disproportionately dependent on the Asian Market compared to Basel, but I can’t verify that. Until we reach worldwide plague dimensions, with precautions we should carry on and encourage the rest of the world to do the same. As you say you are no health expert but you are a contributor to trade conversation. I’ll be at Basel and I urge Rolex, LVMH and Patek Philippe to do the same. The Americans are open for business as is most of the Far East, Middle East and Europe. My son just went to watch the Scotland Italy game in Rome at the weekend so I’m sorry but I think that horse is bolted for a lot of people

  2. Sorry Rob, I don’t agree, it’s only the “flu”. It goes around all the time, every year some die from it, sad but true. How many people get run over by a bus? Not heard for a ban on buses yet, but that would be good, we could then drive in bus lanes!!!
    Look at all the other “viruses” we’ve had in the past, Sars, Bird Flu and all the others.

    1. The lesser the impact, the happier I will be be. But if there are just a handful of cases reported for people that would have attended the major shows, then everybody who attended is going to need to be tested and likely self-isolated for weeks. I do not think brands like Rolex could expect their retail partners to take that risk.

  3. From my perspective, the events should not be cancelled. The entire affair with Corona is that it has been blown completely out of proportion. In many places, people are panicking unnecessarily, “The Sky is Falling!”. This is an amazing observation while ignorant people react to massive media coverage in an area that should be left to professionals, and the public advised to employ certain precautions. In the US, we lose well over 18,000 people each year due to influenza, with some estimates take the toll to 60,000. Statistically, the relatively small number here make the panic nearly laughable. The virus must run its course and fade away. Given this strain is particularly virulent and long lasting, additional precautions need to be made but not on this scale. Banning flights and citizens to and from affected areas would be a prudent plan, but to cancel whole expositions and travel plans costing folk collectively tens if not hundreds of millions, no.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder