In an announcement that may not come as a huge surprise to those following goings on in the Swiss watch industry, Swatch Group has confirmed that it is departing Baselworld, one of the biggest events on the annual horology calendar.
In a statement, Nick Hayek Jr, CEO of Swatch announced that the show’s biggest single exhibitor will not return in 2019.
“Today everything has become more transparent, fast-moving, and instantaneous. Accordingly, a different rhythm and a different approach is needed. In this new context, annual watch fairs, as they exist today, no longer make much sense. This does not mean that they should disappear. But it is necessary that they reinvent themselves, responding appropriately to the current situation and demonstrating more dynamism and creativity.”
The fair has lost hundreds of smaller exhibitors in recent years, as well as more well-known brands such as Dior and Faberge. Ulysse Nardin moved to SIHH in 2017 and Hermes followed suit in 2018.
Hayek, an outspoken and high-profile CEO, didn’t mince his words, noting that the fair has, in his opinion, failed to move with the times. He is not alone. In an increasingly digital sphere, many have started to question whether a fair format that has changed little in recent years, can still serve the purposes of its exhibitors effectively – namely to increase sales and global media coverage.
“The MCH Group, which organizes Baselworld, is clearly more concerned with optimising and amortising its new building – which, incidentally, is largely financed by the watch industry during the fairs – than it is in having the courage to make real progress and to bring about true and profound changes. For all these reasons, Swatch Group has decided that from 2019 onwards, it will no longer be present at Baselworld.”
There is speculation as to whether Swatch Group will organise its own alternative fair, or even perhaps follow a travelling roadshow format such as the recent Breitling Roadshow, that took the new Navitimer 8 Collection to cities around the globe at a fraction of the cost of participating at Baselworld. How Swatch’s departure will further impact Baselworld also remains to be seen, although with its single biggest exhibitor off the books, it seems the departure may be the long-awaited catalyst for change in an industry that has traditionally been slow to respond to changing times.