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CORDER’S COLUMN: Watches and Wonders needs to decide this week whether to proceed

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Rob Corder.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which took place in Las Vegas last week, shows that in-person events can take place despite the current omicron case rates, but also how finely balanced the situation is.

Watches and Wonders in Geneva will need to make a decision on whether to proceed with its inaugural physical outing within days.

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Retailers are crying out for certainty, including the likes of Rolex authorised dealers that, until the pandemic, would make the annual pilgrimage to Baselworld to see new watches and their allocations.

Watches and Wonders organisers have already shown admirable resilience delaying a decision until now, particularly when you consider that the 2021 event was cancelled in mid-November 2020.

I suppose we will have to wait to see whether 45,000 people attending CES in Las Vegas last week has any measurable impact on infections over and above what would be expected if those people had not attended.

All were forced to wear masks on the show floor and to have shown proof of double vaccination on entry.

W&W organisers should note that attendance to CES was 70% down on pre-pandemic levels.

Whether the April show faces a similar fall will depend largely on how quickly the current omicron wave passes.

Mainland Europe is in a slightly better position to the United States when it comes to covid cases.

The US has 208 cases per 100,000 people, and still rising sharply. The European Union (yes, I know Switzerland is not in the EU) has 140 per 100,000 and cases might have peaked in recent days.

I reached out to a number of the biggest exhibitors at Watches and Wonders, including Rolex and Patek Philippe, and neither had any information on whether the show is going ahead.

That means their retailers are still in the dark at the very time when they need to be making travel plans for the show, which is set to run from March 30 to April 6.

I do not envy the W&W team as they face a multi-million dollar decision that could even be considered a life or death call.

My hope is that the show goes ahead, and I would certainly attend, but beyond that all I can say is that the decision surely needs to be made this week and I am glad it is not me that is making an incredibly difficult choice.

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