Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Swatch Group Leaves Baselworld – It’s The End Of An Era

With a good number of brands under its stable, Swatch Group’s departure from Baselworld portends the potential end of the watch fair itself

Jul 29, 2018 | By Jonathan Ho

Swatch Group has pulled out of Baselworld

Dating back to 1917, the Schweizer Mustermesse Basel had showcased a watch & jewellery exhibition, counting Tissot, Longines and Thommen among the first watch manufacturers to appear. That highly popular watch exhibition would soon become Basel and later on, Baselworld. Patek Philippe made their first appearance at Baselworld in 1932 and while they have become one of the main attractions over the years, the Swiss watch crisis and the genius amalgamation by Hayek Sr. of the majority of struggling watch brands into the auspices of Swatch Group, heralded one of the largest milestone developments for the now beleaguered watch fair – Tissot and Longines were joined by Omega, Rado, Breguet, Blancpain and over the years Mido and Hamilton.

Patek Philippe was among the first major brands to join the fair but Swatch Group’s exit, comprising the bulk of the industry’s brands leaves a lot of doubt for Baselworld’s future

Swatch Group Leaves Baselworld – It’s the End of an Era

“We are not there to amortise an expensive hall designed by (Swiss architects) Herzog & de Meuron,” – CEO Nick Hayek to NZZ am Sonntag

Now, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported this morning (29 Sunday 2018),  Swatch Group is quitting the annual Baselworld watch and jewelry trade fair citing high costs and insufficient returns. For the last two years, Baselworld has been bleeding exhibitors as the confluence of high costs and weaker sales figures impacted several brands.

Even brands like Hermes with sufficient revenues have departed Baselworld for rival, Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie or SIHH in Geneva. Of late, many high-end independents like MB&F, Greubel Forsey and HYT have also left Basel for the rival fair.

Swatch Group’s typical budget for each Baselworld, covering travel and assorted expenses for staff and guests average CHF50 million. The impact of Swatch Group’s withdrawal will have a large impact for the town where the watch fair resides and the potential loss of media expenditure when fewer journalists travel to Basel.

Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek told NZZ am Sonntag newspaper,  “today, everything has become more transparent, faster-paced and more spontaneous”, and that therefore, “traditional watch exhibitions are no longer useful for Swatch”.

In January this year, Swatch Group reported an increase in profit for the first time in four years thanks to aggressive growth in the ultra competitive low-end timepiece market encouraged largely by Tissot and media coup of Sistem 51 for its namesake plastic brand. Swatch Group attributes its gains to the entry and midrange segments.

Last March 2018 saw the 101st edition of the Basel-based fair with 650 exhibitors, half the number that participated in 2017. Swatch Group’s departure for the fair is not just the end of an era but potentially, with close to 70% of the industry’s revenue, also the end of Baselworld

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