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The luxury watch market can't support competing trade shows

With new CEO Michel Loris-Melikoff set to the task of rebuilding Baselworld, now is the time for the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) to set aside petty historical differences and return under the umbrella of the Baselworld show.

In her opening address of the SIHH in January, Fabienne Lupo, CEO of organiser Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, announced a concession to industry solidarity by aligning the calendar dates of the two shows.

In forming the ‘Swiss Shows Week’ from 2020, she said their one objective was to serve the greater good of the industry.

‘Serving the greater good of the industry’ is indeed a noble sentiment, but might it not be truly and genuinely demonstrated by bringing the shows under the one umbrella – instead of just superficially fooling around with dates of the calendar?

Baselworld currently has unused halls, any one of which would easily adapt to the exclusive use of the SIHH.

This would enable the latter to make big cost savings in an environment of unity – a feature of the MCH Basel management that SIHH imprudently abandoned back in 1991.

It is critically important for Baselworld to focus and survive this cyclic crisis; many of the medium and smaller Baselworld exhibitors seriously rely on exhibiting for their annual production orders.

By comparison, the SIHH is a distraction pursuing a political existence whilst attracting less than 10 per cent of the exhibitor numbers of Baselworld.

Now that the two shows are together on the calendar, there will be a logical defection of the specialist exhibitors from the SIHH to Baselworld, even if simply on the basis of upfront rental costs.

"Of course there are always political problems. But this is an ideal, perhaps unique, opportunity to mend the politics and genuinely work towards positive gains for all stakeholders"

But there are more potent reasons than rent alone. Why, for example, would anyone stay in the SIHH’s Carré des Horlogers when the cost is significantly higher than a Baselworld exhibition space – and particularly where the cost of its press and publicity is artificially pumped up by its show-pony pretentiousness?

This SIHH film-set environment was originally a talking point, a focus of difference from Baselworld. Now, it is a millstone around the neck of the exhibitors as the cost of annual construction and deconstruction pushes their fees way above the equivalent exposure in Baselworld.

In Basel, the public relations policies do, at least, support the very reasons for exhibiting in the first place which is why the brands exhibit and it is why trade fairs exist at all.

To avoid its own irrelevancy, the SIHH can return under the umbrella of the Baselworld Show and be a part of openly reuniting the Swiss industry.

With his event implementation experience, Loris-Melikoff is probably a good choice to rebuild Baselworld loyalty.

At least he can ignore the recalcitrant Swatch Group and Nick Hayek can throw his toys out of the cot as far as he likes!

Breitling has appeared nervous and stressed for this last year or so; even as we go to print, it has announced a trial separation in 2020 but is keeping the option open to return.

In a further new development, Rolex sister brand Tudor will showcase at its own stand in Hall 1.0 in 2020 and Rolex will expand its stand to include the previous Tudor area.

Loris-Melikoff has proposed that three years are required for the restructure of the show. This will allow a deeper understanding of the structural issues – which will surely come into clearer focus with the passing of a little time.

As well, the cost of the planned changes will be very high if there is any correlation with the current spray of promo buzzwords and wordy platitudes.

And of course there are always political problems. But this is an ideal, perhaps unique, opportunity to mend the politics and genuinely work towards positive gains for all stakeholders.

SIHH could strongly support a single Baselworld Show otherwise ‘the greater good of the industry’ is simply empty chatter.

Name: Martin Foster FBHI
Position: Freelance journalist
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 61

Jesse-Leigh Elford Photography

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