Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tudor, Chopard and Chanel will not return to Baselworld in 2021.
The brands have informed the show’s management that it had failed to consult its major exhibitors about key decisions regarding the postponement of this year’s event.
“This departure follows a number of unilateral decisions made without consultation by Baselworld management, including the postponement of the watch show until January 2021, as well as its inability to meet the brands’ needs and expectations,” a jointly signed statement from the exiting brands says.
All five brands are committed to a new show being created in Geneva at the same time as Watches & Wonders Geneva, which is home to all of the Richemont watch brands. It will be in the same Palexpo exhibition complex, effectively making it one show.
Watches & Wonders is taking place early April 2021 although dates have not been confirmed.
The brands establishing their own show are evidently furious at the way they have been treated by Baselworld.
Jean-Frédéric Dufour, CEO of Rolex and board member of Tudor, sounds at breaking point when he writes: “We have taken part in Baselworld since 1939. Unfortunately, given the way the event has evolved and the recent decisions made by MCH Group, and in spite of the great attachment we had to this watch show, we have decided to withdraw. Following discussions initiated by Rolex, it seemed only natural to create a new event with partners that share our vision and our endless, unwavering support for the Swiss watchmaking sector. This will allow us to present our new watches in line with our needs and expectations, to join forces and better defend the interests of the industry.”
Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe says trust has gone. “The decision to leave Baselworld was not an easy one to take for me, being the fourth generation of the Stern family to participate to this traditional yearly event. But life evolves constantly, things change and people change as well, whether it is at the level of those responsible for the watch fair organization, the brands or the clients. We constantly have to adapt ourselves, question what we do, since what was right yesterday may not necessarily be valid today! Today Patek Philippe is not in line with Baselworld’s vision anymore, there have been too many discussions and unsolved problems, trust is no longer present. We need to answer the legitimate needs of our retailers, the clients and the press from around the world. They have to be able to discover the new models from Swiss watchmakers each year, at one time, in one place, and this in the most professional manner possible. That is why, following several discussions with Rolex and in agreement with other participating brands, we have decided to create, all together, a unique event in Geneva, representative of our savoir-faire.”
Michel Loris-Melikoff, Baselworld’s managing director, spoke on behalf of the show’s management to WatchPro today, saying: “We deeply regret this decision. We will analyse this situation also regarding the future of Baselworld in the next weeks.”
Mr Loris-Melikoff disputes the assertion from the departing brands that they had not been consulted. “All decisions regarding the new strategy and especially the date were shared and discussed with all these brands; as well the January 2021 date that they agreed,” he insists.
Where next for Baselworld?
Rolex and Patek Philippe are the backbone of Baselworld because they work with the greatest number of premier retail partners in the world, and have always timed their watches launches for the full year to coincide with the show. Both brands also continue to meet those retailers to discuss their allocations for the year, a practice that many brands have abandoned.
LVMH brands Bulgari, Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith already established their own event to launch new products with the launch of LVMH Watch Week in January. With the exception of Bulgari, the brands have not yet made a statement about plans to continue at Baselworld.
Swatch Group left Baselworld in 2018 to host its own event. Breitling had already announced it will not participate in 2021 and hosts Summits to launch collections throughout the year at different venues.
Major Japanese corporations Citizen Watch Group, Seiko, Grand Seiko and Casio had all withdrawn.
Jérôme Lambert, representing the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie Council, which organises Watches & Wonders Geneva (formerly known as SIHH), is clear that the new show set up by the breakaway brands will make the Geneva event even stronger next year. “The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie is delighted to welcome a new salon which will strengthen the historical Watches & Wonders event in Geneva next year in early April.”