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With the recent departure of several long-standing exhibitors, including Rolex and Patek Philippe, the question begs to be asked: what will become of Baselworld?
With the recent departure of several long-standing exhibitors, including Rolex and Patek Philippe, the question begs to be asked: what will become of Baselworld?

The rise and fall of Baselworld: A complete timeline

UPDATED: Once touted as a ‘must-do’ pilgrimage for anyone in the luxury industry, Baselworld was renowned as the world’s premier watch and jewellery show. However, with recent announcements of high-profile brands withdrawing their support and the 2021 edition cancelled, the future of the 103-year-old show now appears bleak.

INDUSTRY STATS
QUICK
NUMBERS

 

74%

Decline in Baselworld exhibitors 2011 - 2019

_________
 

CHF430m

Estimated cost of renovation to Hall 1, completed in 2013

_________
 

46%

Decline in Baselworld visitor numbers 2014 - 2019

TIMELINE INDEX - CLICK ITEM TO JUMP TO RELEVANT SECTION


»  Timeline: The birth of Baselworld

»  Timeline: The rise and fall of Baselworld

»  Read eMag: Read April's Watch Feature
 

» IN-DEPTH: MCH Group and Baselworld; it's all in the numbers

» IN-DEPTH: Swiss watch exports and fashion watch challenges

 


Below is a timeline of developments in the management of the show by organisers MCH Group.

A number of external market factors, in addition to complacent decision-making (some suggest, arrogant), ‘too little, too late’ initiatives, and a disregard for the changing nature of communication, all combined to weaken the event over the past five years.

Notably, criticism has long centred on the inability of MCH Group to adapt to the needs of exhibitors – nor their budgets.

While MCH Group remained anchored to the city of Basel – which is also a 33 per cent shareholder in the Swiss stock exchange-listed company – and its ever-increasing costs, its smaller rival the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie pursued a global strategy.

Alongside the Geneva-based Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), it held Watches & Wonders Hong Kong from 2013–2015 and launched Watches & Wonders Miami in 2018.

It also developed a comprehensive watch retail app and had an ongoing presence at regional events including Dubai Watch Week.

In contrast, former Baselworld managing director Sylvie Ritter dismissed the idea of expanding the Baselworld brand worldwide in 2015 despite strong support from long-term exhibitors such as former TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver.

“We would love to have 20 Baselworlds around the world but the answer is quite simply: no. Our exhibitors say our impact will be greater if we concentrate on Baselworld once a year, instead of having various events all around the world,” she said.

Extensive renovations to the Baselworld venue were completed in 2013. The large losses in 2017 coincided with an exodus of exhibitors from the show; their numbers dropped from 1,300 to less than 700. Further losses in 2018 were attributed to significant depreciation in the value of the venue building.
Interactive Chart by Jeweller  |  Source: MCH Group Annual Reports, 2013–2019

In the ensuing years, several exhibitors – including Ulysse Nardin, Movado Group, and Breitling – left Baselworld for SIHH, or held independent product launch events in their local markets.

New management arrived at a critical time, yet with the latest announcements of high-profile luxury brands quitting, it appears  it may have to come too late; Baselworld managing director Michel Loris-Melikoff began his tenure on 1 July 2018, while Bernd Stadlwieser assumed the role of MCH Group CEO on 12 June 2019.

Unfortunately, despite encouraging announcements and initiatives, the cancellation of this year’s show due to the coronavirus pandemic appears to have been the final nail in the coffin.

Below is a cited timeline charting the course of Baselworld since 2007, when it reached a milestone 100,000 visitors. As is so often the case, the good times could not last.

 

A BRIEF HISTORY: The birth of baselworld

1917 The Swiss Design Fair Basel is established
The fair, organised by Mustermesse Basel (MUBA), showcases products across various industries. Of its 831 exhibitors, 29 belong to the watches and jewellery category; among them are watch brands Tissot, Longines, and Ulysse Nardin.
1931 Watch exhibitors set up separate pavilion at Design Fair
To cater to growing demand, watch manufacturers establish their own section at the Swiss Design Fair Basel, which they name the Swiss Watch Fair.
1973 European exhibitors invited to exhibit; fair name changed
The Swiss Watch Fair opens to manufacturers beyond Switzerland, with French, Italian, German and British companies exhibiting for the first time. To reflect the international nature, the show is renamed BASEL.
1984 BASEL splits from MUBA
The BASEL trade show separates from the broader MUBA organisation and begins organising the annual event independently.
1986
 
BASEL expands beyond Europe
The BASEL show allows exhibitors from outside Europe to present their collections for the first time. Among the new exhibitors are Japanese watch manufacturers Seiko and Citizen.
1991
 
Exhibitors split from Baselworld, launch independent show
Following conflict with Baselworld organisers, Richemont Group – whose brands included Cartier, Baume & Mercier and Piaget – and several other exhibitors leave to form their own show in the Swiss city of Geneva, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). 
2003 BASEL renamed Baselworld
To reflect its growing international focus and visitors, BASEL adopts the new moniker Baselworld: The Watch and Jewellery Show.

 

 

Timeline: the rise and fall of Baselworld

2007MARRECORD BREAKER
More than 100,000 attend Baselworld


Baselworld reaches a milestone when it records more than 100,000 visitors to the show for the first time. The attendees hail from more than 100 different countries.
2011MARRECORD BREAKER
A record number of exhibitors join Baselworld


Baselworld exhibitor numbers hit a peak, with nearly 2,000 brands at the show. Visitor numbers increase 2.5 per cent compared with 2010’s numbers, with MCH Group claiming the show will “go down in history as a spectacular highlight”.

» Optimism reigns at Baselworld 2011 Jeweller
2013MARINDUSTRY CRITICISM
Renovations on Hall 1 are completed


Baselworld exhibitors begin constructing completely new stands in the renovated central space, Hall 1, ahead of the delayed show which is scheduled to begin on 25 April.



“It’s an expensive show and not worth it. Europe is not a market and you can’t ‎compare this show to Hong Kong”‎ (2013)

Leibish Polnauer
President, Leibish & Co

The CHF430 million ($AU443 million) redevelopment project joined two previously separated halls into one overarching structure. The redesign reduces the overall floor space from 160,000 square meters to 141,000 square meters; meanwhile, MCH Group raises the cost of exhibiting from CHF350 to CHF420 per square meter.

The decision leaves some exhibitors – particularly diamond dealers, who were relocated from the main hall to a poorly-signposted Hall 3 – disgruntled.

Speaking to Rapaport News, one anonymous exhibitor says, “It’s almost impossible to cover our expenses. Basel is about seven times more expensive than other shows. Hong Kong and Las Vegas are not so expensive, and you get more for what you’re paying.”

However, Bernard Keller, communications director for Baselworld, dismissed concerns, telling Rapaport News that the renovation offered a better quality, multi-level space for larger watch and ‎jewellery exhibitors and a “more comfortable experience” for visitors.

Furthermore, Jacques Duchêne, president MCH Group, says in his opening address at Baselworld, “I am thinking in particular of René Kamm, the CEO, of Sylvie Ritter, the show director, and Martin Fergusson, the sales director. Thanks to their dedication, they have succeeded in making the apparently impossible possible, namely seeing a construction project on this scale through to its conclusion in such a short period of time. And, while doing so, they have at all times remained receptive for the wishes voiced by their exhibitors and partners.”

» Expensive Basel show frustrates diamond suppliers Rapaport
» A Baselworld that's looking to the future WatchPro
2014MARRECORD BREAKER
Baselworld records highest-ever attendance, raises prices


MCH Group reports 150,000 visitors to Baselworld – its highest-ever attendance. However, the number of industry buyers present at the show decreases by 4 per cent compared with 2013, to 117,000. Exhibitors number approximately 1,500, an increase of 40, or 2.7 per cent, from the previous year. Exhibitor prices also reportedly increase by 20 per cent.

» Buyers down quality up at Baselworld Jeweller
2016JUN
 
EXHIBITOR EXIT
Tools and equipment exhibitors exit Baselworld


Approximately 350 tools exhibitors forego Baselworld, many of them in favour of the EPHJ-EPMT-SMT supplier trade show in Geneva, which is held in June. Reports state the decision is based on the show’s focus on technical equipment and services, rather than finished products, as well as lower exhibiting costs. By 2018, no technical services exhibitors are present at Baselworld.
201722
MAR

 
STATEMENT RELEASED
Baselworld management refuses exhibitors


As the 2017 edition of the show begins, Sylvie Ritter, Baselworld managing director, reveals some brands have been blocked from exhibiting in order to preserve the reputation of the event.

“[We] favour quality over quantity. The result being that we chose to refuse some exhibitors for this year’s show, and this is a choice – this is our choice,” she said.

» Baselworld bosses block brands that don't meet quality criteria WatchPro 
 9
NOV

 
EXHIBITOR EXIT
Mass exodus of exhibitors, numbers fall to less than 700


MCH Group releases a newsletter confirming that the number of exhibitors for the upcoming 2018 edition of Baselworld has halved, from 1,300 in 2017 to between 600 and 700. The show will also be shortened to six days instead of eight, with a statement explaining, “The watch and jewellery market is undergoing a period of profound change.”

» Baselworld to reduce exhibitor numbers Jeweller
 21 NOV '17EXHIBITOR EXIT
Movado Group leaves Baselworld


Watch conglomerate Movado Group confirms it has withdrawn from Baselworld, citing costs and an increased focus on digital communication.

CEO Efraim Grinberg says, “The investments we have and continue to make in digital have elevated our brands with retailers and consumers alike and this, along with the changing retail landscape and the growing importance of online channels, has led us to make the decision to no longer exhibit at the Baselworld fair.

“We believe the move is the right choice for our company as it will yield annual expense savings in future years.”

The decision comes after a difficult year for the company, with profits falling 23 per cent in 2016.

» Full statement by Movado Group
2018MAR
 
COMPETITOR RISING
Movado Group holds inaugural Movado Summit


Movado Group invites 500 customers, distributors and media representatives to its inaugural three-day Movado Summit in Davos, just days before Baselworld is due to begin.
 
25 MAY '18
 

Sylvie Ritter
Former managing director

Michel Loris-Melikoff
New managing director
MANAGEMENT RESIGNATION
Baselworld managing director Sylvie Ritter resigns


Sylvie Ritter, who had been managing director of Baselworld for 15 years, resigns following the 2018 edition of the show.

Michel Loris-Melikoff is named as her successor and takes up the role of managing director on 1 July.

Sales director Martin Fergusson and marketing and communications director Loraine Stantzos also resign.

“We will be expanding the Baselworld team and further developing the event to continue along the path of quality enhancement and to meet the challenges of the future,” Loris-Melikoff says.

» Baselworld managing director resigns Jeweller
 30
JUL '18

 

Nicolas Hayek Jr
CEO, Swatch Group
EXHIBITOR EXIT
Swatch Group withdraws from Baselworld


Nicolas Hayek Jr, CEO Swatch Group, announces he is withdrawing its 18 brands from Baselworld in an interview with ZZ am Sonntag newspaper. He cites the hefty cost of the fair’s exhibition building as the reason.

“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 Jr says.

René Kamm, CEO MCH Group, says, “We extraordinarily regret Swatch Group’s decision. The cancellation is all the more surprising for us because this news reaches us at a point in time when new management has arrived with a new team, new esprit and many new ideas.”

» Swatch Group withdraws from Baselworld Jeweller
 3
AUG '18

 

René Kamm
Former group CEO
MANAGEMENT RESIGNATION
MCH Group CEO René Kamm resigns

René Kamm, CEO MCH Group and a former director of Baselworld, resigns following discussions with the board of directors. He had led the company since 2003 and spent almost 20 years with the group. 

» Baselworld CEO resigns as crisis deepens Jeweller
 10 AUG '18INDUSTRY CRITICISM 
Baselworld attendees outraged over cost of hotels


The cost of Baselworld
Swatch Group
17 Brands
CHF40 million
LVMH Group
4 Brands
CHF20 million
Movado Group
11 Brands
$US10 million
Medium-sized brand
Floor 2, Hall 1
CHF6 million

Booth space, construction fees, staffing, accommodation, food, and transport have made Baselworld an expensive exercise for exhibitors. 
Source: Hodinkee

JCK Online surveys US retailers for feedback on what Baselworld can do to improve its offering. Steven Kaiser, president Kaiser Time, says, “Basel has become the world’s most unhospitable city. The prices feel like you’re not just being gouged, but hit up by the Mob. A cup of coffee is $6. A three-star hotel is $600 a night. It’s not even fun eating out anymore. Not everything has to be a five-star meal.”

Michael Pollak, CEO Hyde Park Jewelers, adds, “[Baselworld was once a] great fair for looking at jewellery from all over the world. Now the jewellery hall has shrunk by 70 per cent. From a retail perspective, the added value is zero.”

» What the watch industry really thinks about Baselworld JCK
 1
NOV '18

 
SOLUTION OFFERED
Baselworld creates hotel program


JCK Online reports that Baselworld has developed a partner program with 40 Basel hotels – two-thirds of the hotel capacity in the city – to control prices and availability.

Of the participating hotels, 26 have been designated ‘official partners’ and will not impose a minimum length of stay, compel additional purchases, raise prices from those charged during Baselworld 2018, and cap nightly rates for double rooms. The other 14 hotels are ‘preferred partners’ and fulfil three of the four criteria.

Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director Baselworld, calls the program “a significant milestone that sustainably reduces lodging costs for the show’s exhibitors and visitors, while simultaneously establishing transparent conditions.”

However, UK publication WatchPro quickly reports that the program has done little to prevent unreasonable accommodation pricing. It notes that the only five-star ‘official partner’, Les Trois Rois hotel, has implemented a cap of £1,005 per night to book a double room during Baselworld – compared with £493 to book the week before the fair begins.

Meanwhile, three-star ‘official partner’ Hotel Wettstein has capped its double room rate at £463 per night during Baselworld, compared with £125 per night for a booking one week after the event concludes.

» Baselworld local hotel rates JCK
» Baselworld hotel prices still triple normal rates despite negotiated rate cap WatchPro
201914
JAN
EXHIBITOR EXIT
Baselworld exhibitors defect to SIHH


Several long-standing Baselworld exhibitors show their collections at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), including Ulysse Nardin. Visitor numbers to the SIHH increase by 15 per cent compared with 2018, to more than 23,000.
 5
FEB '19

 
SOLUTION OFFERED
Baselworld and SIHH synchronise dates


The two Swiss shows, Baselworld and the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), agree to co-ordinate the dates of the events to create the ‘Swiss Shows Week’. The united calendar is agreed to continue from 2020 until 2024.

In order to synchronise the shows, both are moved from their usual timeslots. SIHH, which previously took place in January, is rescheduled for 26–29 April 2020, while Baselworld shifts from March to 30 April–5 May.

» Baselworld & SIHH agree on back to back fair dates Jeweller
 20 MAR '19
 
SOLUTION OFFERED
Costs reduced for diamond exhibitors


Following a 10 per cent fall in the number exhibitors in the loose diamond and gemstone-focused Hall 3, Baselworld management reduces exhibiting fees by 10–15 per cent, to bring them into line with the GemGenève fair, according to a Rapaport News report.

» Trade braces for smaller and cheaper Baselworld stands Rapaport
 26 MAR '19EXHIBITOR EXIT
Baselworld management confirms further exhibitor contraction


The number of exhibitors at the 2019 edition of Baselworld decreases by 20 per cent; Swarovski is among the brands who decide not to exhibit at the show. However, ‘anchor’ brands Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chopard and the LVMH Group (Bulgari, TAG Heuer, Hublot, and Zenith) reaffirm their commitment to the show and express optimism for the future.

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, CEO Chopard, says, “Baselworld has done its homework. We are heading in the right direction.”

Industry publication Hodinkee notes that visitor numbers have fallen 22 per cent, to 81,200.

» A new direction for Baselworld Jeweller
» What's next for Baselworld 2019 Hodinkee 
 16 APR '19
 
EXHIBITOR EXIT
Breitling withdraws from Baselworld


The change in the Baselworld dates for the 2020 edition leads long-time exhibitor Breitling to withdraw from the show, though it leaves the door open to return in 2021.

Georges Kern, CEO Breitling, says, “We would like to emphasise that the extensive innovations developed and implemented by Baselworld’s management under Michel Loris-Melikoff in such a short timeframe have had a positive impact and can lay the foundations to take Baselworld in a new direction in the future.”

» Breitling exits Baselworld Jeweller
 17
MAY '19

 
INDUSTRY CRITICISM
New York Times: ‘Is it time up for the world’s largest watch and jewelry fair?’


Following the 2019 edition of Baselworld, US newspaper the New York Times publishes an article entitled, ‘Is it time up for the world’s largest watch and jewelry fair?’

It quotes Rolf Struder, joint executive officer Oris, as saying, “Baselworld celebrates a form of luxury rooted in the 1990s. It’s like a club you want to go to, but that will never let you in. Things have changed.”

Struder also dismisses the changes and new initiatives presented by MCH Group. “Here [at the 2019 show] were some craters that could have been filled with new and exciting ideas, but sadly they weren’t. The concept we have seen is not a concept, it’s just an allocation of a few colourful pictures.”

Brian Duffy, CEO of retail chain Watches of Switzerland Group, is quoted as saying, “There was a need for a wake-up call, and it should have changed sooner. But what gives me the greatest optimism is very clear support for Baselworld from Rolex and Patek [Philippe] that all but guarantees its future.”

» Is it time up for the world's largest watch and jewelry fair? New York Times
 OCT
'19
COMPETITION RISING
SIHH renamed Watches & Wonders Geneva

The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) is rebranded as Watches & Wonders Geneva and given a new consumer focus and format alongside its trade-only activities.

Fabienne Lupo, managing director of organiser the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, says, “It will be a completely different experience. It’s about bringing in a new audience, new content, new ways of talking about fine watchmaking.”

» New name and outlook for Swiss luxury watch show Jeweller
 1 NOV '19
 
SOLUTION OFFERED
Baselworld managing director touts “back to basics” approach


Speaking to Jeweller magazine, Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director Baselworld, gives a frank assessment of the show’s past mistakes and discusses plans for the future.

“The first time I met the Baselworld team, I asked them, ‘Who pays your salary?’ Why did I ask that question? Well, [the answer is] it’s the exhibitors,” he says, adding, “My job is to improve the quality of Baselworld and if we do that correctly, then the market will decide which show becomes strong and successful or not.”

» Back to basics: Baselworld confronts home truths Jeweller
  EXHIBITOR EXIT
Seiko pulls out of Baselworld


Japanese watch manufacturer Seiko confirms it will not exhibit its Seiko and Grand Seiko brands at Baselworld in 2020, with multiple media reports confirming the new April dates are not suitable for the brand. Seiko had exhibited at Baselworld for 33 years.

» Another Baselworld casualty - Seiko pulls out Jeweller
 DEC
'19
EXHIBITOR EXIT
Casio withdraws from Baselworld, joins Inhorgenta Munich

Casio becomes the second major Japanese watch manufacturer to pull out of the 2020 edition of Baselworld due to the April date change. The week of 30 April–5 May 2020 coincides with Golden Week, a Japanese holiday period. Casio later exhibits its brands Lorus and Pulsar at Inhorgenta Munich, held 14–17 February 2020, for the first time in five years.
202011 FEB EXHIBITOR EXIT
Bulgari withdraws from Baselworld

Italian watch and jewellery brand Bulgari, part of French luxury conglomerate Moët-Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE (LVMH), announces it will not take part in the 2020 edition of Baselworld due to coronavirus concerns and the success of the inaugural LVMH Watch Week in January.

However, LVMH brands TAG Heuer, Zenith, and Hublot confirm they will exhibit at Baselworld.
 13 FEB '20SOLUTION OFFERED
Baselworld welcomes 30 technical exhibitors


Following three years with a non-existent or negligible technical sector presence at Baselworld, Michel Loris-Melikoff confirms 30 machinery, tools, equipment and component manufacturers will return to the event in 2020.

“The technical sector is back at Baselworld. I am very pleased to rebuild bonds of trust with companies in a professional sector that is vital to watchmaking and jewellery… I intend to restore the technical sector to its rightful place, accompanied by a long-term vision of its presence and the promotion of its activities to the entire community,” he says.

The returning companies represent approximately 10 per cent of the technical exhibitors lost to other events in 2016 and 2017.

» 2020 Confidence in the technical sector Baselworld
 24 FEB '20EXHIBITOR EXIT
Citizen exits Baselworld


Baselworld 2020 is left without any major Japanese watch manufacturers for the 2020 show following Citizen’s withdrawal due to coronavirus concerns. However, the brand confirms it will return in 2021.

Norio Takeuchi, managing director of Citizen Watch Group, says, “The Citizen Watch Group strongly supports Baselworld in its project and transformation. We believe in the importance of a major event bringing together the entire watch industry.”

» Baselworld announces new program as Citizen and Bulgari withdraw Jeweller
» Full statement about Citizen from Baselworld 
 28 FEB '20STATEMENT RELEASED
Baselworld 2020 ‘postponed’


A day after Watches & Wonders Geneva is cancelled, Baselworld management announce that the 2020 edition of the show has been “postponed” to 28 January 2021. The decision was made due to strict Swiss government restrictions brought in to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director Baselworld, says, “By postponing the show to January 2021, we have found a solution that enables the industry and all our customers to avoid losing a full year – and at the same time, reset their calendars for the beginning of the year, a period that is conducive to the presentation of their new products, new trends and order taking.”

Industry commentators note that the use of the term “postponed” is likely inaccurate, and the event has been cancelled.

» Baselworld 2020 cancelled Jeweller
» Full statement from Baselworld
 2 MAR '20
 
COMPETITION RISING
Brands launch Geneva Watch Days event


Following the cancellation of Baselworld and Watches & Wonders Geneva, eight watch manufacturers announce an independent product launch event to be held in Geneva at the end of April. Bulgari, Breitling, Girard-Perregaux, Gérald Genta and Ulysse Nardin are among those taking part.

On 24 March, as the coronavirus crisis deepens, the event is postponed to late August.

» New Swiss watch event announced for April Jeweller
 3 APR '20
 
SOLUTION OFFERED
Baselworld announces partial refunds for 2020 exhibitors

Baselworld management offers to carry forward 85 per cent of exhibitors’ deposits to the 2021 show, with the remaining 15 per cent retained by MCH Group to cover costs incurred for the cancelled 2020 show. Alternatively, exhibitors can request a cash refund of up to 30 per cent, with 40 per cent carried forward and the remaining 30 per cent retained by MCH Group.

Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director Baselworld, says, “We are all in this together and that is why we are committed to supporting our exhibitors as best we can in these turbulent times. We are offering unprecedented conditions, which go far beyond contractual obligations (general terms and conditions) and are much more generous than the vast majority of similar European shows that had to be cancelled or postponed.”

» Baselworld calls on industry to work together Jeweller
» Full statement from Baselworld
 6 APR '20INDUSTRY CRITICISM
Rolex executive rejects new dates and refund policy


Hubert du Plessix
Director, Rolex; President,  Baselworld exhibitor's committee

Hubert du Plessix, president of the Baselworld exhibitor’s committee and a director of Rolex, writes to Baselworld management, criticising the refund policy given MCH Group’s ‘abundant liquidity’ and 49 per cent ownership by Swiss state bodies.

Du Plessix notes that exhibitors “feel like they have been trapped”, writing, “This lack of consideration on the part of the leaders of the MCH Group unfortunately recalls an era that we thought was over.”

Copies of the letter are forwarded to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), the Swiss jewellers and goldsmiths union (Ubos) and other organisations. Singaporean watch blog SJX obtains a copy of the letter and publishes an article describing its contents.

» Baselworld inches toward calamity Watches by SJX
 8 APR '20STATEMENT RELEASED
Michel Loris-Melikoff says Baselworld in “survival mode”


Speaking to Swiss newspaper Le Temps, Baselworld managing director Michel Loris-Melikoff says it will take “one to two years” for MCH Group to recover from the financial fallout of the coronavirus, describing Baselworld as “in survival mode”.

He confirms MCH Group received at least CHF20 million in deposits for the cancelled 2020 show. “It's not possible to refund the full amount. If I do, I jeopardise Baselworld,” he says.

» Baselworld exhibitors demand full refund Jeweller
 10 APR '20INDUSTRY CRITICISM
More exhibitors publicly criticise refunds and 2021 dates


A recent snapshot of MCH's stock from 2003 onwards.
Click image to view larger version.
US industry publication JCK Online reports that a letter has been sent to MCH Group on behalf of 68 Baselworld exhibitors claiming that they were not consulted regarding the 2021 dates. “The new show timing poses an immense conflict and stress for many Basel buyers and exhibitors,” the letter reportedly says.

JCK Online notes that the dates conflict with the Vicenzaoro January fair and the Tucson Gem Show.

The letter reportedly demands a full refund, concluding, “We all have our own businesses, which have taken losses during these times. We do not agree to sharing in your own losses.”

» Baselworld refund blowback JCK
 14 APR '20EXHIBITOR EXIT
Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chanel and Chopard withdraw from Baselworld


Five long-term exhibitors at Baselworld announce they will not exhibit at Baselworld in January 2021, confirming their intention to present upcoming collections at a new show in April to coincide with Watches & Wonders Geneva.

» Full statement from Rolex, Tutor, Patek Philippe, Chanel and Chopard
 14 APR '20
Click for larger version. The once-glamourous Hall 1 will be bare in 2021.
STATEMENT RELEASED
MCH Group expresses “shock” at exhibitor exodus


Baselworld organiser MCH Group publishes a statement on the unexpected exit of five ‘anchor’ exhibitors.

“It is with great surprise and equally great regret that the MCH Group takes note of the cancellation of major exhibitors at Baselworld.

The new date for the unavoidable postponement of Baselworld 2020 was defined jointly with leading exhibitors,” the statement reads.

It does not directly address concerns over its refund policy.

The statement leaves Baselworld’s future in doubt, concluding, “In the next few weeks, the MCH Group will be making a decision on the continuation of Baselworld and on investments in its further development, which is geared to the long term.”

» Full statement from MCH Group
» Baselworld responds as Rolex, Patek Phillippe, Chanel and Chopard abandon show Jeweller
 17 APR '20
EXHIBITOR EXIT
LVMH exits with brands TAG Heuer, Hublot, Bulgari and Zenith


Stéphane Bianchi
CEO LVMH
watchmaking division
"We are sorry to have to leave this over 100-year-old Baselworld event to which our maisons have been consistently loyal," says Stéphane Bianchi, CEO of LVMH watchmaking division.

Bulgari withdrew earlier this year on 11 February, and has since announced that it will join the Geneva shows in April 2021.

Between the loss of Swatch Group in 2018, and the mass exodus of long-time exhibitors Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel and Chopard only three days earlier, the withdrawal of LVMH raises the question: what will happen to Baselworld 2021?

» Last straw: LVMH withdraws Tag Heuer, Zenith and Hublot Jeweller
 7 MAY '20
CANCELLED
Baselworld 2021 cancelled


Michel Loris-Melikoff
Managing director, Baselworld
With high-profile brands and key supporters recently withdrawing their participation in the show, MCH Group's management has had to respond swiftly and has cancelled the 2021 Baselworld show.

The Comité Consultatif (Advisory Board) unanimously approved an ‘amicable’ refund solution submitted by MCH Group in collaboration with the Swiss Exhibitors' Committee and supported by other industry associations. 

On the day of the announcement, Baselworld managing director, Michel Loris-Melikoff told Jeweller: "Baselworld felt that the priority of the exhibitors was to have a maximum of cash-refund and immediate liquidity. The priority was to find a solution that would enable us to close 2020, reimburse exhibitors, pay suppliers, and then be able to think calmly and collegially about what to do next."

About the future of Baselworld, he said, "Things have turned out differently, I am now looking to the future, and highly motivated to progress in the transformation."

» Exclusive: Michel Loris-Melikoff answers some difficult questions Jeweller

 

MCH Group and Baselworld; it's all in the numbers


In 2001, Baselworld organiser Messe Schweiz was listed on the Swiss stock exchange. It was renamed MCH Group in 2009 and redefined itself as a 'global live marketing' company.

René Kamm, a former managing director of Baselworld, was appointed CEO in 2003. In the following years, MCH Group proceeded to acquire event companies in Zürich and Hong Kong, Germany and India.

In a recent financial report, MCH-operated exhibitions accounted for 55.6 per cent of revenue, ‘live marketing solutions’ (events and marketing consultancy) for 38.3 per cent, and the remaining 6.1 per cent from use of its venues by third parties.

However, its operating income has remained largely flat, declining 5.8 per cent between 2013 and 2019. Its largest year-to-year fall occurred between 2018 and 2019, when it lost CHF77.61 million ($AU127.8 million). Indeed, the consolidated operating income from 1 January–30 June 2019, the period in which Baselworld is held, was 23.7 per cent below the figure for the same period in 2018.

Furthermore, MCH Group recorded losses of CHF 110,000,000 and CHF 190,400,000 in 2017 and 2018, largely attributed to the “extraordinary depreciations” and “value adjustment” of its exhibition buildings as well as the “downscaling of Baselworld”.

MCH Group’s share price has fallen 82.45 per cent in three years, from CHF81.50 in May 2017 to CHF14.30 in April 2020. Its largest shareholder is Canton Basel-Stadt (the city of Basel), which owns 33.5 per cent.

Three other Swiss cantons control a further 15.5 per cent of the company, and Swiss government officials are represented on its board of directors.

René Kamm resigned as CEO on 3 August 2018, less than a week after Swatch Group withdrew from Baselworld.

 

Swiss watch exports and fashion watch challenges

The so-called ‘China watch boom’ occurred between 2000 and 2010. According to figures from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), exports to mainland China increased from CHF45 million in 2000 to CHF1.1 billion in 2010.

Over the same period, exports to Hong Kong – a separate export category in the FH’s reports due to its different customs system – doubled, from CHF1.4 billion to CHF3.2 billion.

According to watch industry blog FHH Journal, watch exports to China recorded a 63 per cent increase in the eight months to August 2020.

However, the unprecedented growth could not be sustained. While exports remained steady between 2010 and 2014, a revaluation of the Swiss currency rocked the industry in 2015 and forced many brands to increase prices. The introduction of the Apple Watch to the market also had a profound impact on fashion watch sales, in particular.

Speaking anonymously to the Singapore’s Financial Times newspaper, a senior Swiss watch executive said at the time, “We’ve had it so good for the past 10 years. But with the currency situation, and the smartwatch revolution, maybe now we will have to work a little harder for our money.”

According to Forbes, the global watch industry “suffered a record 25 months of decline previous to May 2017” and overall Swiss watch exports declined 9.88 per cent during 2016.

Exports to China and Hong Kong significantly declined in 2015 and have since increased at a far slower pace. Hong Kong – by far the largest export market for Swiss watches in the world – slipped again in 2019 as a result of widespread civil unrest. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Hong Kong market alone represents 15–20 per cent of sales at Swatch Group, LVMH, and Richemont.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arabella Roden • Assistant Editor

Arabella Roden is assistant editor of Jeweller. She has nine years media experience in Australia and the UK as journalist and sub-editor











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