This morning, it was announced that Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tudor, Chanel, and Chopard, will be leaving Baselworld, the world’s largest watch industry trade show, to start a new Geneva-based salon in conjunction with the FHH, the organizers of Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH). The new show is set to take place in early April 2021 at the Geneva Palexpo at the same time as Watches & Wonders Geneva.
The move follows two major bits of news to drop over the last few weeks. First was the announcements by Rolex, Tudor, and Patek Philippe that they would be postponing their 2020 launches until later this year or even early 2021. Then there was a letter penned by Rolex executive Hubert du Plessix to the Baselworld management that asked for refunds to be issued to the brands that were to have participated in Baselworld 2020, which had been canceled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. “Otherwise, we fear that this will be the end, pure and simple, of Baselworld, especially since the dates chosen in January 2021 are not suitable for the jewelry, gemstones and pearls sector, and that coordination with Watches & Wonders (SIHH) no longer exists,” Plessix’s letter continued.
The new show, which has not yet been named, was announced this morning in a joint statement from the five brands and the FHH, distributed by Rolex. It cites “a number of unilateral decisions made without consultation by Baselworld management, including the postponement of the watch show until January 2021, as well as its inability to meet the brands’ needs and expectations,” as reasons for the formation of a new Geneva-based salon.
“We have taken part in Baselworld since 1939. Unfortunately, given the way the event has evolved and the recent decisions made by MCH Group, and in spite of the great attachment we had to this watch show, we have decided to withdraw,” says Rolex CEO Jean-Frederic Dufour. “Following discussions initiated by Rolex, it seemed only natural to create a new event with partners that share our vision and our endless, unwavering support for the Swiss watchmaking sector. This will allow us to present our new watches in line with our needs and expectations, to join forces and better defend the interests of the industry.”
He’s not the only executive to weigh in directly either. “The decision to leave Baselworld was not an easy one to take for me, being the fourth generation of the Stern family to participate to this traditional yearly event,” says Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe. “But life evolves constantly, things change and people change as well, whether it is at the level of those responsible for the watch fair organization, the brands or the clients. We constantly have to adapt ourselves, question what we do, since what was right yesterday may not necessarily be valid today! Today Patek Philippe is not in line with Baselworld’s vision anymore, there have been too many discussions and unsolved problems, trust is no longer present. We need to answer the legitimate needs of our retailers, the clients and the press from around the world. They have to be able to discover the new models from Swiss watchmakers each year, at one time, in one place, and this in the most professional manner possible. That is why, following several discussions with Rolex and in agreement with other participating brands, we have decided to create, all together, a unique event in Geneva, representative of our savoir-faire.”
Frédéric Grangié, President of Chanel Watches & Fine Jewellery, remarked in part, “Like its partners, Chanel shares the same independence and the same desire to protect and promote the values, know-how, utmost quality and precision of Swiss Watchmaking. This initiative marks a key milestone in the history of Chanel watchmaking and is part of a long-term strategy, which began with the launch of this activity in 1987.” Chopard CEO Karl-Friedrich Scheufele said, “Chopard first exhibited at the Basel fair in 1964 with a stand of some 25 square metres. After careful consideration, our family decided to support the Rolex initiative and retire from Baselworld – a painful decision. The creation of this new watch show in Geneva, in parallel to Watches & Wonders, will allow us to better serve our watchmaking partners and our customers.”