2020… What a year… what a year! Both on a professional as well as on a personal level this was a bizarre year, and not only due to that nasty Corona pandemic that is terrorizing humankind. Politics also reared its most ugly head on various sides of the globe and Baselworld, an old watch institution, fell apart. And let’s not forget the extreme fires that raged in Australia at the beginning of the year. What a year…
Usually when looking back at a year, it’s easy to focus on the best, coolest, most novel and most interesting watches that we’ve seen in a year. But this year is different. Of course, MONOCHROME is here to entertain you with news, reviews and in-depth stories from the world of watches. We, or actually I, cannot look at this year only from that perspective. 2020 started in the midst of the extreme bushfires that raged through Australia and we, like most of our online colleagues and many watch brands, supported the Watch & Act! Auction to help our Aussie friends from down under. It will be tough to bounce back from so much damage, especially now Australia is locked-down due to the Corona pandemic.
Baselworld, Watches & Wonders, Grand Seiko Summit, LVMH Watch Week and Geneva Watch Days
Due to this nasty virus, we all have experienced some sort of lockdown. Traveling to events and watch fairs was heavily reduced, but in this respect, the year started great with a new watch event hosted by the LVMH watch brands Bvlgari, Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith. This event, baptised LVMH Watch Week, was initiated by Jean-Christophe Babin (CEO of Bvlgari), because the dates for both Baselworld and SIHH (now renamed Watches & Wonders) were quite late in spring and for sales reasons they needed a moment earlier in the year. Xavier and I were happy to attend the event, for a few carefree days in Dubai. In hindsight it was even better because we weren’t worried about any pandemic!
From February on, things started crumbling…
- February 7: Swatch Group announced the cancellation of the ‘Time to Move’ event
- February 11: Bvlgari pulls out of the 2020 Baselworld show
- February 12: Grand Seiko cancels its Summit event in Tokyo
- February 24: Citizen Watch announces not to exhibit at Baselworld 2020
- February 27: Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie announces the cancellation of the Watches & Wonders show
- February 28: Switzerland’s Federal Council announces a nationwide ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The Baselworld organisation announces a “postponement” of the event from May 2020 to January 2021
- March 2: Initiated by Jean-Christophe Babin from Bvlgari (again), eight brands announce the upcoming ‘Geneva Watch Days’ event
- March 16: my Letter from the Editor to let you know what to expect from MONO
- April 14: Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tudor, Chopard and Chanel leave Baselworld to organise their own event
- April 17: All LVMH brands leave Baselworld for good
- May 2: I looked back at our infamous Schnitzel Dinner and wondered if a next edition would ever take place
- May 5: The Baselworld organisation announces that Baselworld won’t happen again, ever…
This side of the watch industry almost felt like a sitcom, a pretty bad one! But, regrettably there will never be another edition of Baselworld. To us here at MONO, Baselworld will be dearly missed….despite the overpriced hotels, overpriced sausages and overpriced everything!
Since we are just getting started with Corona vaccines, I’m not expecting any watch event before summer 2021. Maybe Geneva Watch Days can be held in late August ’21, but we will see what’s possible. I sincerely hope for watch events again, because I’m totally fed up with Zoom meetings, let alone a Zoom presentation to show a new collection of watches.
New watches in 2020
Luckily, on the side of watches, we’ve seen some pretty nice new launches! Besides the new Rolex Submariner (finally well-proportioned again!), I was also pleased to see the new Bvlgari Octo Finissimo. And while the monochromatic versions of the OF (Octo Finissimo) in gold, steel and titanium (GST… does it ring a bell?) broke the world record for thinnest automatic watch and looked absolutely fabulous, personally I prefer the new version with its increased water-resistance. But there were more beautiful, stunning, desirable and interesting watches in 2020. All gathered under the tag “2020” and easy to find via our top menu (although this will be soon changed for “New in 2021”) and when clicking on the tags at the end of each article.
Although there was no Baselworld and a half-baked digital version of Watches & Wonders, we still managed to cover more then 500 (!!) new watches in 2020! Altogether we have seen a pretty impressive number of new watches and often MONOCHROME was the only or one of the few media with our own photos and proper hands-on reviews. Xavier, who lives and works in Switzerland, was able to visit the brands who were still able to welcome a journalist. And many brands were also happy to send watches, to Brice, Erik and myself, with a courier, so we could get some hands-on time and take our own photos.
Some of the Independents had a very good year, despite Corona and lockdowns. Think Moser (Streamliner), MB&F (FlyingT and more), Czapek (Antarctique) and quite a few more Indies who had a pretty good year! But as they say, fortune favours the brave! This success didn’t come automatically or just because of a century-old name. It’s all about being agile, reactive, daring and flexible. A huge organisation with a lot of overhead might get strangled in its own internal affairs and policies, and lose momentum. It’s always important to keep a view on what matters: namely clients, customers, fans.
Still, with the Swiss watch export down 23% over the year from January to November, things aren’t good but also not devastating. And of course, some of the century-old names had a ‘not-too-shabby year’. The demand for Rolex sports watches, Audemars Piguet RO and Patek steel sports watches remains high, extremely high.
What’s new for 2021…
Let’s start with what’s not new… at MONO we will continue to cover the world of watches with news, reviews and in-depth stories. And since summer 2020 we’ve started with video reviews and we will certainly continue these! We’re bringing back interviews with collectors in The Collector’s Series and a series focusing on collectable ‘youngtimers’, named The Collector’s Corner. And of course we continue our Saturday installment, The Petrolhead Corner!
Additionally, we are venturing into unexplored territory. We’re going to introduce the MONOCHROME Montre Souscription. I’m just going to mention a salmon dial monopusher. More about that later, but if you want to stay informed, drop me a line at email@example.com.
What’s more? We will certainly do more of our long format movies and we have one about the OMEGA Co-Axial Escapement in the final stages, one about a very complex AP in the making and something far more complex is being planned.
As for new watches, I guess we can expect more horological fireworks next year, as many brands kept the best new pieces in the vault due to the pandemic. But time will tell. Again a digital Watches & Wonders, no Baselworld anymore, ever, and no clear vision of what’s coming instead, I’m again curious how watch launches will take place. But with a team like we have, this is the least of my worries!
But most importantly, on behalf of Nina, Rebecca, Brice, Erik, Patrick, Robin and Xavier, I want to thank you for reading MONOCHROME. We wish you a splendid 2021. I hope you get to experience the new year in good health and prosperity. And of course I hope you will be able to buy your personal grail watch!