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Breaking News

Swatch Group (meaning 18 brands) To Leave Baselworld in 2019

Number 1 watchmaking group is leaving the much criticised Basel-based trade show.

| By Brice Goulard | 3 min read |

For once, we’re not going to use the “breaking news” title for nothing. What came in this morning is important news, no debate. As reported by Swiss newspapers NZZ am Sonntag and Le Temps, Swatch Group, the world’s largest watchmaking group, will be leaving Baselworld – Switzerland’s largest watch and jewellery fair – as of next year. After already several departures and complaints, this is another hard blow for the highly decried show. 

In an interview with the Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag that was published this morning, Nick Hayek, CEO of the Swatch Group, explains that it is no longer relevant or useful for the group to exhibit at Baselworld – even though the Swatch Group’s brand portfolio was one of the major, if the not the main, exhibiting groups of the show. Mr Hayek explains that the costs of such a fair are extremely high for the group and its brands – in excess of CHF 50 million for the group, including travel expenses and accommodation – and that the system itself isn’t adapted to today’s needs, regarding retailers and journalists. The market has changed drastically in just a few years, and for this reason, Swatch Group brands (incl. Breguet, Blancpain, Omega, Glashutte Original, Tissot, Hamilton and Longines, among others) won’t exhibit at Baselworld as of 2019. “Such watchmaking fairs are no more relevant for Swatch Group,” said Hayek.

The impact will be immense on the organisation, which already faced major departures in 2017 and 2018 – moving from 1,500 exposing brands in 2015 to less than 700 in 2018. Also, the fair had to face several management crises – since the longstanding Managing Director of Baselworld, Sylvie Ritter, decided to step down from her position at the MCH Group after suspicions of nepotism – and critics from most brands, which find the running costs of such an event too high. This will have a major impact on the fair’s revenues, as the Swatch Group had the largest exhibition budget of all exposing brands. In his interview, Nick Hayek explains that “the MCH Group is too busy optimizing and amortizing its new building, instead of being brave enough to bring real changes“. Michel Loris Melikoff, the newly appointed Managing Director of the show, reacted in saying that Baselworld 2019 will “be as attractive as possible, in a new style and in a new way of thinking“.

Swatch Group brands – credits:

While it is known that Rolex (including sister brand Tudor) has signed for another 5 years with Baselworld and that Breitling announced being present too in 2019, we’re curious to see what will be the impact of such a massive departure will be on the other brands, such as LVMH brands, Patek Philippe, Chopard and many more mainstream and independent brands. Will this be the beginning of the end for Baselworld? We’ll see the answer to that in a few months.

8 responses

  1. Not really sure what to make of that. I mean, first reaction is “penny-pinching”. I would also freely admit that the head of Swatch group knows a bit more about who buys their watches and why than I do. We will obviously still be made aware of any new watches and/or calibres from SG but this decision feels….off.
    In charge of the largest Swiss watchmaking consortium in history and you grudge a few days at the most important Swiss watch-makers’ convention?

  2. I got the same initial feeling, Just another guy. Richemont rules the other Big Show, so Swatch are going to be at a disadvantage for focused exposure.
    However, Hayek’s withering comment about MCH signals that there’s bad blood, so I think the expenditure might not be the deal-breaker.

    Or maybe it’s something else. Has Baselworld become too much about Rolex and to a lesser extent, Patek? I dunno.

  3. I guess they’ll double down on social marketing instead. Still, I’m gonna miss all those Flik Flak exhibits at Baselworld.

  4. Quantifying the cost/benefit of a show is nearly impossible. My co struggles with the same non-specific every so many years.

    HOWEVER – it does serve as a powerful tool to present new models and new technology. Would be interesting to see how eg Omega, a “new” model intensive venture, will do this without attending a major show. I hope Monochrome smells the opportunity here…

    On the topic of new technology, seeing the Swatch Group has a lot to say about the priorities of others, how about they ‘sweep in front of their front door first’.

    SG should take the CHF50m and invest it in material research – specifically a scratch-resistant, high corrosion-resistant, high luster (stainless) steel. While they have top brands with superlative movements – it is all soon lost underneath a jaded (steel) case and strap; look no further than the selling-price/list-price ratios Rolex muster for their steel stuff.

  5. everyone tells me that the local hotels and restaurants hike up their prices big time when the show is on all in all its far too expensive to travel and stay there.

  6. I understand the change, resources are better allocated elsewhere, to benefit the consumer.

  7. Bold move on Hayeks part…Swatch Group doesn’t need Basel anymore and should be focusing on using its global network of boutiques to create “mini-Basel” experiences for the trade, press and consumer.

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