Baselworld 2019 is now behind us. Some brands commented that – despite all the huff and puff – it was one of the most successful shows they’ve ever experienced. Others complained that it didn’t work out as well as they would have hoped. There are, however, other sides to the story. What do the press and everyday visitors/consumers think about Baselworld 2019 and the fair’s future? Is it going to continue shrinking to the point that it is no longer a significant event in the watch industry? Or was this year a wake-up call for management to change course drastically? Only time will tell, especially if more brands decide to pull out. I, for one, hope that the show can be saved, but it’s up to the powers at be to wake up and listen to brands – and consumers.
Baselworld is already much smaller than it was 4 years ago. The show used to occupy four buildings and a pop-up tent called the Palace. The tent was where all the independent haute horlogerie brands, such as MB&F and Ressence, had booths. This year, the event mainly took place in Hall 1, the only major building at Messe Platz in Basel. When Swatch Group pulled out of Baselworld, a huge chunk of real-estate in the middle of the ground floor opened up. This was a great opportunity for brands like Breitling (who had to “hide” behind Omega in previous years) to expand. This year, they had what was likely their largest booth ever. Also, the press center, which was in the building adjacent to Hall 1 in previous years, moved to the other part of this freed-up space, making it more convenient for members of the press to move around.
All in One
The central location of the press center was both a blessing and a curse, however. On the one hand, it was very easy for us to travel from one booth to the next. On the other hand, when you have one meeting after another, and you don’t even have to cross the Messe Platz to get from the press lounge to the exhibition hall, your body’s vitamin D intake (under the assumption that the sun is shining) reduces drastically. However, considering many brands that were not in the official Baselworld fair were close by at the Hyperion Hotel, there was an excuse to walk across the square and visit those exhibitors.
60 CHF Window Shopping
If you are neither an exhibitor nor a journalist, but want to visit the “Watch and Jewelery Community,” you can do so by purchasing a day ticket online or at the fair. The price was 45 CHF online and 60 CHF at the ticket office in Hall 1. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many visitors, who often travel hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometers just to spend one day at the fair. They are then faced with a bittersweet surprise: You can’t see any watches from major brands other than through a display window. If you visit smaller companies, they might be able to show you their latest and greatest, but the big names like Rolex, Tudor, or Seiko don’t do this. For them, Baselworld is still a trade show: an event to meet suppliers, partners, showcase their latest novelties to the media, and mingle with watch royalty.
What Needs to Change
All in all, Baselworld 2019 featured an interesting new concept for press, a sad experience for visitors (due to the lack of variety of big-name brands), but was perhaps still a success for certain brands, particularly those that would not get so much attention normally. Swatch Group not only took a large sum of money with them when they left, they also took a lot of headliners: Omega, Breguet, Blancpain, Glashütte Original, Tissot, Certina, Longines, Hamilton, and more. The time journalists would have spent with these names, was thus redistributed between other, smaller companies. Let it be known, Baselworld is still the largest and most influential watch show in the world (in terms of size, anyways), but if those in charge won’t listen to brands, journalists, and visitors, that may not be the case in 3 to 5 years. We are living in an age where people see through the basic marketing tricks that Baselworld tried to pull leading up to the show. Please be more genuine, see the other side of the story, and adapt to the times. Let’s save Baselworld.