When the king leaves, the rest will follow. After a group of significant brands left the Baselworld watch trade show in Switzerland (lead by Rolex in conjunction with Patek Philippe, the two most influential watch brands in the world), the organizers have announced they are canceling the event for 2021. That is big news for the world’s biggest timepiece tradeshow—Baselworld has been running for over a century, and this is the first time its organizers have ever called it off.
The 2020 show, originally intended for April 30 to May 5, was “postponed” due to Covid-19, with a replacement show scheduled for January 8 to February 2, 2021. But many industry insiders began to speculate that Baselworld might already be in more serious trouble. A number of frustrated watch brands, including Grand Seiko, Breitling and the entire Swatch Group, had already left the show in pursuit of hosting their own big reveals outside of the old trade show format.
Rolex and Patek Philippe’s decision to leave the show, announced on April 14, seems to have marked the beginning of the end. Those two brands, along with Tudor, Chopard and Chanel, said they would leave Baselworld in favor of their own exhibition in Geneva to coincide with Watches & Wonders. A second blow came when all of LVMH’s watch brands —Tag Heuer, Hublot and Zenith—also pulled out (Bulgari had already decided to leave earlier in the year). It was no surprise that the luxury conglomerate also decided to pull out, having already hosted a lavish summit in Dubai in January to reveal its new watches for 2020 to VIP clients, retailers and press. LVMH watch executives noted then that the big reveal might become their new platform thanks to the slew of Bulgari hotels around the globe that could play host to an annual watch release preview.
According to WatchPro, the big lucrative brands—Patek Philippe, Rolex, Tudor, Chanel, Chopard, Hublot, Zenith and Tag Heuer—are accepting lower refunds in payment for their participation in the show, so that smaller brands suffering from losses due to global economic conditions, can receive more.
MCH Group, the owner of Baselworld, is said to be considering other options for the event going forward. But the big takeaway for collectors is that Geneva will now be the place to get their hands on the hottest releases going forward, which means that anyone wanting to get their hands on next year’s Daytona or Nautilus better book their hotel in the Swiss city ASAP.