This week Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel, Chopard, and Tudor announced their official withdrawal from Baselworld, which effectively marks the end of the largest watch trade fair in the world.
The over 100-year-old trade fair has been losing interest for several years now. The Swatch Group, which owns Brequet, Glashuette, Omega, and many others, announced it was leaving Baselworld in 2018 and created its Time to Move event in May of last year to debut its new releases (it was postponed this year, as well, due to the pandemic). In January of this year, LVMH watch brands Bulgari, Hublot, Zenith and Tag Heuer celebrated a new event in Dubai to show their watches, and other key brands, such as Grand Seiko and Breitling, have also recently left Baselworld.
After leaving Baselworld, the Swatch Group started its own event, known as "Time to Move"
It was no surprise that Baselworld would have to be canceled or postponed this year, as the Swiss government banned gatherings of more than 1000 people back in February in light of COVID-19. However, brands voiced their dissatisfaction with the show’s management and lack of communication as well as their decision to postpone the show until January 2021. Several open letters were criticizing the Fair’s plans and its organizer’s handling of refunds, among other things, this past week. Some even claimed that Baselworld management decided to reschedule Baselworld 2020 to January 2021 without asking the exhibitors and without offering refunds.
Rolex CEO Jean-Frederic Dufour explained that: "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."
Rolex also distributed a joint statement on behalf of the five brands and the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), that there would be a new show next year. The new show, which will be organized in cooperation with FHH, will take place in early April 2021 at Palexpo in Geneva, it said. According to Rolex’s announcement "This new event will be geared predominantly towards retailers, the press, and VIP customers,"
The Palexpo is also where Geneva's International Motor Show has been taking place annually in the spring for the last 90 years.
The new event is slated to take place during the same time frame as the Watches & Wonders exhibit in Geneva. The show that was previously known as Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, is the second-largest watch trade show in the world. Part of Rolex's vision to differentiate the new show from Watches & Wonders’ is to be more consumer-facing, which is a departure from traditional trade show formats. Jérôme Lambert, CEO of the Richemont Group, said on behalf of the FHH Council: “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."
In any case, it seems that a lot more people will be booking flights to Geneva next April and Rolex will certainly be able to save some money by not having to travel too far from home.
Rolex Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland
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