CORDER’S COLUMN: Swiss cheese
There were a number of huge holes in the main halls of Baselworld this year, the largest of which was close to the size of a football field where Omega, Longines and a dozen other Swatch Group stands used to be. That was well-telegraphed ahead of the show, and the organiser attempted to turn it into a positive by moving a large press centre and a couple of over-priced restaurants into the gap. More surprising were the yawning spaces up one floor in Hall 1.1 where, despite the whole of Hall 2 being closed this year, there were not enough exhibitors to fill it. Why the fantastic independent watchmakers were collectively ejected across the outdoor plaza into an area they named Les Atelier is a mystery. Presumably they could not pay the same price per square meter as Casio, Seiko and Nomos so had to be quarantined. It is reasonable that organiser MCH Group is fair and consistent with pricing, but this was the sort of lose-lose outcome that needs a more creative solution. My annual trip to Baselworld was not spoilt or diminished by its diminution, my four days were as productive and interesting as ever. All the brands that showed in Davos, Zurich or Geneva are in constant contact with news, so WatchPro readers will not miss any of this year’s major launches. This is the reality facing exhibitions today. Nobody needs to attend to see what’s new. They can follow all the news online. However, I remain a strong supporter of Baselworld and SIHH and hope they find a formula for survival and future growth. Their importance is not in the presentation of new product but in the sharing of ideas and the promotion of Swiss watchmaking as a global success story. These two objectives are best-met when the biggest brands mix with the smallest; the industrialised share space with independents; the rich mingle with the cash-strapped; retailers and brands find common cause; press and the public are both welcome; the oldest companies share ideas with the newest. The watch world needs diversity, fresh thinking and to be open to the most challenging ideas. Nobody can be certain what threats and opportunities this industry will face in the future, but I believe we will profit most from disruption if the watch world comes together at fairs like Baselworld instead of fragmenting into self-interested tribes.