Baselworld caught off-guard as key partners join together to jump ship.

Last week Baselworld sent a press release that described an untenable strategy with regard to existing exhibitors. Highlighting an unwarranted arrogance and a myopic perspective, the leadership of the fair stipulated that any exhibitors who stuck with Baselworld for the new dates in January 2021 must pay a premium of 15% to retain what they had already paid for. Alternatively, exhibitors could request a refund of (up to) 30% of what they had already paid.

If brands chose option B, the release states that 40% of the fees already paid to Basel could be applied to a future space at the 2021 event if the brand had a change of heart and wanted to come back. Either way, the message was clear – we’re keeping your money.

Based on this release I speculated as to what Baselworld would do if any of the remaining key partner brands (Rolex and Patek for example) might withdraw from the event. As the entire watch industry now knows, this came to a head this week with a cabal of brands led by Rolex and joined by Tudor, Chopard, and Chanel, has abandoned Baselworld to partner with the FHH in an as-yet unnamed show to run in concert and in the same location as the newly coined Watches and Wonders – previously known as the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH).

As of now we are not sure who else will join the new unnamed show, and how the various brands will choose between exhibiting at one or the other. You can read the entirety of the release here below which mentions an early April date for W&W and the “new” partner show, but I cannot find any confirmation of this time-frame anywhere else on the FHH site and have had no reply from their staff to confirm this time-frame.

Baselworld leadership is suspect of the quick action taken by these brands after the notification and offers Baselworld had put forth, and may believe that the brands were already planning to vacate en-masse. True or not, it was a time for change. As I’ve posited before, having a single event in either Geneva or Basel would make more sense for all involved.   

Both the initial withdrawal press release and Baselworld’s response are here below:

Update: We’ve also added the April 17 letter from LVMH announcing its plans to depart Baselworld for a new show scheduled for April 2021 in Geneva.

 

FHH PRESS RELEASE:

ROLEX, PATEK PHILIPPE, CHANEL, CHOPARD AND TUDOR LEAVE BASELWORLD CREATION OF A NEW WATCH TRADE SHOW IN GENEVA IN COLLABORATION WITH THE FONDATION DE LA HAUTE HORLOGERIE

Geneva, 14 April 2020

 – Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel, Chopard and Tudor leave Baselworld to create a new watch trade show in Geneva with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie. The show will be held early April 2021 at Palexpo, at the same time as Watches & Wonders. This departure follows a number of unilateral decisions made without consultation by Baselworld management, including the postponement of the watch show until January 2021, as well as its inability to meet the brands’ needs and expectations. The new show, which will be linked to Watches & Wonders, organized by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, is to take place at Palexpo. The aim is to offer partner brands the best possible professional platform, applying a shared vision to successfully meet future challenges in the watchmaking industry. It will also give crucial prominence to the sector’s expertise and innovations, both in Switzerland and internationally. Other brands may also be added, according to terms that have not yet been defined. This new event will be geared predominantly towards retailers, the press and VIP customers.

Jean-Frédéric Dufour, Chief Executive Officer, Rolex SA, and Board Member, Montres Tudor SA, said: “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.”

Thierry Stern, President, Patek Philippe said: “The decision to leave Baselworld was not an easy one to take for me, being the fourth generation of the Stern family to participate to this traditional yearly event. But life evolves constantly, things change and people change as well, whether it is at the level of those responsible for the watch fair organization, the brands or the clients. We constantly have to adapt ourselves, question what we do, since what was right yesterday may not necessarily be valid today! Today Patek Philippe is not in line with Baselworld’s vision anymore, there have been too many discussions and unsolved problems, trust is no longer present. We need to answer the legitimate needs of our retailers, the clients and the press from around the world. They have to be able to discover the new models from Swiss watchmakers each year, at one time, in one place, and this in the most professional manner possible. That is why, following several discussions with Rolex and in agreement with other participating brands, we have decided to create, all together, a unique event in Geneva, representative of our savoir-faire.“

Frédéric Grangié, President of Chanel Watches & Fine Jewellery said: “Like its partners, CHANEL shares the same independence and the same desire to protect and promote the values, know-how, utmost quality and precision of Swiss Watchmaking. This initiative marks a key milestone in the history of CHANEL Watchmaking and is part of a long-term strategy, which began with the launch of this activity in 1987. This exhibition will allow us to present all of our new creations in an environment that meets our high-quality standards.”

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-President Chopard et Cie SA said: “Chopard first exhibited at the Basel fair in 1964 with a stand of some 25 square metres. After careful consideration, our family decided to support the Rolex initiative and retire from Baselworld – a painful decision. 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. Through the alliance, these grandes maisons will also be able to collaborate in promoting the values and best interests of Swiss watchmaking.”

Jérôme Lambert, on behalf of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie Council said: “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.” Further information will be published at a later date, in particular concerning the name of the new watch fair and its organization.

Baselworld Press Release:

MCH GROUP IS SURPRISED AT THE STATEMENTS MADE REGARDING THE BASELWORLD CANCELLATIONS

Basel, Switzerland, April 14, 2020

It is with great surprise and equally great regret that the MCH Group takes note of the cancellation of major exhibitors at Baselworld. The new date for the unavoidable postponement of Baselworld 2020 was defined jointly with leading exhibitors. The objective was to find the earliest and best possible date for the industry following the Covid-19 related measures.

 

The companies now “migrating” – including Rolex – spoke out in favor of a postponement to January 2021. They are also represented on the Exhibitors’ Committee, where the future vision of Baselworld has been discussed on several occasions and has met with a positive response, as was also evidenced by countless individual discussions. The intention to move to Geneva has never been mentioned. The MCH Group must therefore conclude that the relevant plans have been in preparation for some time and that the discussions concerning the financial arrangements for the cancellation of Baselworld 2020 are now being put forward as an argument. On the basis of the positive and supportive feedback received from exhibitors, especially the small and medium-sized exhibitors from the watch, jewellery, gemstone and supplier industries, the MCH Group decided last year to invest substantial sums in the further development of Baselworld and in the establishment of additional digital platforms. The MCH Group is convinced that, in addition to a physical platform, a connection with the community must be maintained throughout the year. More than ever before, it sees an opportunity to develop a modern platform in the watch and jewellery industry for brands that do not rely primarily on tradition, but above all on innovation. In the next few weeks, the MCH Group will be making a decision on the continuation of Baselworld and on investments in its further development, which is geared to the long term.

 

April 17 letter from the LVMH Group:

The Swiss watch Manufactures belonging to the LVMH Group, the world leader in luxury, have in turn decided to leave Baselworld in order to join the other flagship brands of the Swiss watch industry in Geneva from 2021 onwards.

 April 17th 2020 – The Swiss watch Manufactures of the LVMH Group, including the LVMH Watchmaking Division (TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith) and the House of Bvlgari, have taken note of the departure of Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chanel and Chopard from the Baselworld show scheduled for January 2021. Within this context of clearly weakened representation of the Swiss watch industry and hence inevitably lower participation, it appears clear to the brands composing the Division and to the House of Bvlgari that they must also withdraw in order to preserve their image and their relations with their clients as well with the media. They will therefore not be taking part in the 2021 edition of Baselworld.

The four Maisons are examining various potential event formats corresponding to the need to present their strategic directions and new products to their commercial partners – as well as to the international press – next year. The LVMH Watchmaking Division on the one hand, and Bvlgari on the other, will decide on their plans in the coming weeks, according to their respective objectives.

We are sorry to have to leave this over hundred-year Baselworld event to which our Maisons have been consistently loyal. It is nonetheless clear that we must respond quickly and make other arrangements. We are facing an opportunity to reinvent the format and content of one of the key moments of our watchmaking year, which represented both a major commercial challenge and a lever of influence for our brands. With this in mind, we will do our utmost to be present alongside the other prestigious Maisons that will gather in Geneva in April 2021, and thereby meet the requirements of our partners and clients while offering them an unrivalled experience.”

 Stéphane Bianchi, CEO Watchmaking Division LVMH

 Grouping the entire Swiss watch industry in a single location, Geneva – the historical capital of watchmaking – and around a single date, is a major opportunity to at last revive a sector that all too many divisions and divergent interests have weakened compared to the rest of the luxury sector in which Bvlgari is active and that is making much faster progress. We are looking forward to going to Geneva in April 2021, even though we still need to define the terms of our participation, which we will specify in the coming weeks. We are also delighted not to have to make up for the lack of institutional watch shows, which in 2020 forced us to take tactical initiatives that were necessary in the short term but undesirable in the medium term.”

 Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO Bvlgari Group

 

 

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