What has just been announced by the MCH Group, the company behind the Basel watch fair, came as a surprise. We thought and even announced that Baselworld had gone, replaced by another show called Hour Universe. Baselworld was held for the last time in 2019. Seriously hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the departure of most of the large exhibiting brands, the organisation cancelled the 2020 and 2021 editions. However, the MCH Group has just officially announced that the show will be back with its historical name but makes clear that Baselworld 2022, expected in March/April next year, won’t be the same as past editions of the fair.
As Michel Loris-Melikoff, Managing Director of the show, explains, “the Baselworld brand must remain, but it must fundamentally change“. On both statements, we couldn’t agree more. While we’re quite happy to see the return of the emblematic watch fair, it has to change drastically… In fact, it is forced to change since most of the historic exhibiting brands won’t be participating. Indeed, as of 2018, many brands and watchmaking powerhouses left the show, pointing to an inadequate format, its lack of modernity and exorbitant costs. It all started with the entire Swatch Group announcing its departure in 2018, followed by other major brands such as Seiko and Breitling. In April 2020, after the cancellation of the 2020 edition of Baselworld due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tudor, Chanel and Chopard announced their departure and move to the Geneva-based fair, Watches & Wonders. A coup de grâce that sounded like the end of Baselworld – following the exit of most of the brands exhibiting in Hall 1.0 (where mainstream companies were located) – LVMH announced that it too was leaving. And the 2021 edition, which was scheduled for January 21, had to be cancelled because of the sanitary situation… and probably because of a lack of clients too.
In the meantime, being on the edge of the precipice meant that Baselworld and MCH had to react and announced that they were looking for new platforms. This first came under the name “Hour Universe”, a surprising choice that was not clearly defined. In any case, Baselworld, as we knew it in the past, is gone and it will certainly be difficult for the show to return to its former glory, except if powerhouses like Rolex, Patek Philippe and the Swatch Group decide to join again. But this is truly hypothetical.
For now, what used to be the most important annual meeting place for the luxury brands in the watch world has to change format and evolve. While the centre of attraction for the watchmaking industry is now Watches & Wonders Geneva, not all brands (in fact, hundreds of brands) will be exhibiting there. As such, “the new Baselworld will be a platform on which smaller watches and jewellery manufacturers and gemstone traders can present their products and retailers will have efficient and easy access to the diversity of manufacturers,” says MCH Group. But there’s something more regarding the format, as “Baselworld will become a digital platform, supplemented by live events, which will be available to the jewellery, watch and gems industry around the clock, 365 days a year, worldwide“.
“Everyone will meet on our platform. The brands, the manufacturers, the retailers, the fans and the media,” explains Michel Loris-Melikoff. The statement, “we will offer attractive conditions and prices for all brands that want to benefit from this unique platform,” addresses one of the main complaints levelled at the fair in the past.
The date of Baselworld 2022 will be scheduled with the trade fairs taking place in Geneva and is intended as a supplement and additional platform for the exchange of information.