Swatch Group calls time on Baselworld

Swatch Group has announced it will not be present at Baselworld from 2019 onwards, citing the hefty cost of the fair’s exhibition building as its reason for calling it quits.

This move will see all the Group’s brands pull out of exhibiting at the annual Switzerland-based show, leaving quite a big gap on Baselworld’s main hall floor plan.

The Swatch Group’s chief executive Nick Hayek made the announcement in an interview with NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

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“The MCH Group, which organises Baselworld, is clearly more concerned with optimising and amortising its new building – which, incidentally, is largely financed by the watch industry during the fairs – than it is in having the courage to make real progress and to bring about true and profound changes,” Hayek tells the newspaper.

“For all these reasons, Swatch Group has decided that from 2019 onwards, it will no longer be present at Baselworld.”

As the Group pulls out, chief executive Mr Hayek challenges the fundamentals of giant jewellery and watch trade shows at a time when there is year-round communication with retail partners and customers.

The paper reports Hayek saying: “Today, everything has become more transparent, fast-moving, and instantaneous. In this new context, annual watch fairs, as they exist today, no longer make much sense.

“This does not mean that they should disappear. But it is necessary that they reinvent themselves, responding appropriately to the current situation and demonstrating more dynamism and creativity.”

In an exclusive interview American network CNBC accuses Baselworld’s executive team of lacking the courage to make real progress.

“I invited the executives and told them they have a big opportunity to change. The Swiss watch industry is booming so now is the time to make changes. All of the Swiss watch industry is ready to help, not just Swatch Group. Buy you must open up. You must do something now,” he urges.

“We are ready to help, but for 2019 we are definitely out,” the chief exec concludes.

Michel Loris-Melikoff, who took over as managing director of Baselworld on July 1 following the departure of Sylvie Ritter, agrees there is no chance of persuading Swatch Group to return next year, but has not given up hope of getting the Group back in the future.

Loris-Melikoff tells Swiss newspaper Le Temps: “I do not think that such a decision can be communicated without being final. But we are of course in regular contact with this partner, as we are with all major Swiss watch groups, and we will strive to bring [Swatch Group] back.”

He went on to defend the way Baselworld has communicated its ideas to develop the event.

“Some even claim that we have presented a fait accompli of Baselworld 2019, but I have trouble with this terminology. After the review of the 2018 edition, we presented new ideas for the first time May 3, then in the form of a summary concept in front of Swiss exhibitors gathered in Neuchâtel on May 29, and finally before the World Exhibit Committee on July 4th. We have incorporated the feedback into our plans and will present a detailed version on September 3rd. The design of our 2020 Vision is expected to be completed by November. But we had to launch without delay the sales process for 2019.”

Mr Loris-Melikoff goes on to state that the 2019 event already has 650 exhibitors confirmed, but could not rule out further departures.

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