Baselworld Bites the Dust

Baselworld cancelled official photo reports that Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chopard and Chanel have all pulled out of the horological schmoozefest known as Baselworld. In a joint statement, the four watch brands cited the organizers’ “inability to meet the brands’ needs and expectations.” Which is a fancy way of saying Baselworld’s organizers . . .

stiffed them. Here’s what Baselworld proposed in terms of a refund to the Coronageddon-cancelled event’s planned participants:

In this challenging environment, Baselworld is very conscious of the stakes for all exhibitors and is absorbing a significant portion of costs due to postponing the show by offering to carry forward 85% of the fees for Baselworld 2020 to Baselworld 2021 (the remaining 15% will serve to partially offset out-of-pocket costs already accrued). If needed, exhibitors can alternatively request a cash refund which will be of up to 30% of the fees, with 40% carried forward to Baselworld 2021.

Nope. This camel’s back breaking straw came after local hotels also said tant pis pour toi, and a general lack of communication between Baselworld organizers MCH and the “anchor” brands that guarantee the event’s success. Sorry. Guaranteed. Not that Patek & Friends are coming right out and saying exactly why they bailed.

Baselworld cancelled official photo

“We have taken part in Baselworld since 1939,” Rolex CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour boasts, sadly. “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.”

Baselworld 2015

“Patek Philippe is not in line with Baselworld’s vision anymore,” Patek Prez Thierry Stern pronounced with an equal lack of specificity,there have been too many discussions and unsolved problems, trust is no longer present.”

The five brands have decided to join hands and do their own thing, coordinating with the corona-aborted Watches and Wonders get-together, now scheduled for the end of April 2021.

“The creation of this new watch show in Geneva, in parallel to Watches & Wonders, will allow us to better serve our watchmaking partners and our customers,” Chopard co-Prez Karl-Friedrich Scheufele trumpets.Through the alliance, these grandes maisons will also be able to collaborate in promoting the values and best interests of Swiss watchmaking.”

In a more cost-effective manner, he forgot to add.

Yes but – how cost-effective is the new event? In these Internet-enabled times, doesn’t it make more sense to go local and avoid releasing new products at the same exact time as everyone else, competing for buyers and media attention in a horological scrum?

Watches & Wonders Baselworld refugees

Given the large number of brands (a.k.a., the usual suspects) who’ve signed up for W&W, isn’t this new event nothing more than Baselworld 2.0? How great is that, really?

Anyway, stick a fork in Baselworld. “We deeply regret this decision,” Baselworld MD Michel Loris-Melikoff told WatchPro. “We will analyse this situation also regarding the future of Baselworld in the next weeks.” I imagine a number of lawyers will be involved . . .


  1. Kohl’s, JCPenney, Sears, etc., refused to see the internet trend and when they finally did, they were late, to put it mildly, to the internet game. Absent a serious turn around in sales, and with some already on their last leg in bankruptcy status, they’re done.

    Most high-end watch manufacturers refuse to join the smartwatch trend, either with an affordable smartwatch (Sorry Tag, the Connected Modular doesn’t qualify) or one at all. I suppose at the price point smartwatches are going for, they either see it as “cheapenIng” the brand name, which it would, and/or a huge profit margin killer. However, for shear survival, they need to change.

    Young adults, my kids included, have very little interest in a watch that does “little more“ than tell time. And no amount of “new and improved” watch shows are going to change that without giving today’s consumer what they want. Let’s face it, time has indeed passed the high-end watch manufacturer by.

    1. The traditional watch industry doesn’t have the expertise or culture needed to compete with Apple or its WearOs competitors. They’re stuck in their “ghetto.”

      There is and will be a good market for high or at least higher end mechanical watches. But it will be small. The Baselworld model is simply unsustainable.

      I suspect that the W&W reboot is still a huge waste of resources. It’s like that old saying “Cocaine is God’s way of saying you’re making too much money.” Same for these industry back slapping affairs.

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