A Bleak Outlook for Baselworld

A Bleak Outlook for Baselworld

The Watchmakers Club at Baselworld

The elderly and infirm at most at risk in the current Coronavirus – and that means Baselworld

The apocalypse is here! Despite the 3 to 1 odds on a nuclear Armageddon, it seems the outside chance of a global pandemic has beaten the big red button of doom to the planetwide punch. Well, that might be a few months away yet. The end is far closer nigh for Baselworld.

Last year was a huge blow for the international watch fair to supposedly end them all. It was their first year without Swatch Group anchoring the main hall and the void was tangible. Granted from my perspective it made things a little more bearable; the new press area was surprisingly comfortable. And had beer.

In fact, even without that missing piece the puzzle of Baselworld may well have survived. They still had the other big brands to keep them afloat, and with a renewed focus on the independent brands it actually felt pretty good. But that hasn’t lasted.

First LVMH announced their departure next year. At the time that was big news, leaving just Rolex and Patek flanking the entrance in the prime positions. It was also something that we could see coming, after TAG Heuer, Hublot, Zenith et al had their own little show in Dubai. But you know what? With two years to prep, that too was survivable.

Now though, who knows? After announcing their postponement – don’t call it a cancellation! It’s not a cancellation! Honestly! – it looks like Baselworld, like the elderly and infirm (you could honestly call it both) is one of those ‘at risk’ from Coronavirus, and there’s a good chance a vaccine won’t come in time.

The problem isn’t the postponement to January, ironically slipping into the slot that was once occupied by SIHH, the other victim of enclosed spaces, air con and a virus on its way. It’s that every other brand isn’t going to delay with them.

Watchmaking being the generally slow process it is, you can be sure that most of the brands showing at Baselworld this year had their timetables synced up with the show. They time releases to coincide with the show, but once in motion either need to hold back for most of a year or just release their new pieces outside of their Baselworld stand.

You can be pretty sure nobody will be waiting.

It’s not necessarily all doom and gloom of course. The bigger brands at least have new releases staggered throughout the year, and will probably still have stuff to show off. The new collections on the other hand, the new pieces unique and other email newsletter subject lines will be old news, already going through the wringer of hands-on reviews.

The show’s saving grace will be that it won’t be empty. The stands have already been paid for, so it’ll take a confident (or minimally-staffed) brand to pass up the opportunity to go, but consumers are another matter entirely. From my perspective, I always debate whether Baselworld’s worth the time, effort and cash to get there, stay there and afford to eat there. If the January show is as underwhelming as it promises to be, that’s an easy decision to make.

But what do you think? I know I’m painting the worst possible picture of the situation, well aware that this doesn’t sound the death toll for Baselworld, won’t destroy it in one global health warning. But can it recover? More importantly, will it recover? And if so, what does it need to do?

These questions and more answered in the next Baselworld press conference.

Yeah, right.