Trade Fairs In The Digital Age: SIHH Becomes Watches & Wonders Geneva
By now we’ve become very used to hearing about Baselworld’s continuing woes and new attempts at transforming itself. We know that in 2020, Baselworld and SIHH have joined forces to make the dates of both fairs once again coincide.
But what I am sure you might not have seen coming is that SIHH is rebranding itself – though if you have visited the fair in the last two years, you might not be all that surprised to learn this: since the 2018 edition SIHH has had a whole different air about it, replete with influencer-friendly light booths, fun photo stations, and extended opening hours for the general public.
So when SIHH opens its doors on April 25, 2020 for the thirtieth edition of the fair, it will now be called Watches & Wonders Geneva and will have an extended program (extending all the way through the city!) meant to tie in the general watch-loving public more than ever.
In association with both the city and canton of Geneva, SIHH will no longer just be a place that industry professionals do business. It will in fact be a lot more like the fairs known as Watches & Wonders that have taken place in both Miami and Hong Kong: regional events that cater primarily to the consumer and might even dock into or alongside other existing events taking place in the area.
As Geneva has no other big events on those dates, the city, canton, and FHH have worked to make it its own “event,” one that brings “the entire international watch community together” as stated in a press release.
One part of the event will take place in Geneva city center – appropriately called “In the City” – and is set to engage every type of visitor (but in particular a younger subset) by offering a chance to experience watchmaking in different ways using exhibitions, walking tours, manufacture visits, boutique presentations, museum open houses, conferences, conversations, and more. It will be immersive and comprehensive of the entire city.
The “Salon” portion of the event will continue to take place at the Palexpo with about 30 brands, but in a more experiential and interactive way, according to the release. What will remain the same is the ability to provide professionals (journalists, VIP guests, retailers) with previews of the brand collections.
For more information on the first 25 years of the SIHH, please see Celebrating 25 Years Of SIHH.
Does this mean anything new for Baselworld?
The short answer to this question is no. The FHH (SIHH’s governing body) has a contract with Baselworld to set dates together for five years starting in 2020. As Baselworld has already communicated its dates for 2021, we can expect Watches & Wonders Geneva to precede it as the two bodies have agreed.
Baselworld in its attempts to modernize and adapt to the needs of today’s digital world continues to announce new elements such as an e-concierge service meant to streamline airline and hotel bookings (but unfortunately still does not address the exorbitant hotel pricing problem the city has).
Another new element will be the “Community District,” a new space in the prime real estate of Hall 1.0 (where the Swatch Group pavilion previously resided) comprising several large structures housing two to three brands each. The offer was apparently attractive as Maurice Lacroix, one of the larger brands absent from the 2019 edition, signed on as the first exhibitor for it in 2020.
“The new Baselworld team was able to listen to our needs by proposing a concept that respects our marketing and distribution strategy,” said Stéphane Waser, managing director of Maurice Lacroix. “This international event will be a key milestone in our global roadshow. We were also seduced by the Community District. This pavilion, designed by the organization, is modern and contemporary, in line with our vision of presenting the Maurice Lacroix brand at international watchmaking exhibitions.”
For more on the upcoming Baselworld strategy see Baselworld Becomes The Story: Baselworld 2020 And Beyond Will See Big (And Positive) Changes.
Watches & Wonders Geneva will take place April 25-29, 2020.
Baselworld is set to take place directly afterward, April 30-May 5, 2020.
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Baselworld Becomes The Story: Baselworld 2020 And Beyond Will See Big (And Positive) Changes
Breaking News: Baselworld 2018 Will Be Up To 50% Smaller! Up To Half The Exhibitors Gone And 3+ Halls Closed
1917-2017: A Brief Retrospective Of 100 Years Of Baselworld
Parting Thoughts (All 23 Of Them) From Baselworld 2019
Baselworld 2019 Round Table: What We Liked And What We Didn’t Like At The World’s Largest Watch Fair (Warning: Modem-Burning Photofest!)
SIHH 2019 Round Table: What We Liked, What We Didn’t Like, And What We Would Buy For Ourselves. Warning: Heavy Photo Fest And Sexually Graphic Images
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The fact that they are teaming up with the Geneva city and trying to associate the fair vith manufacture visits and so on means it is an obvious advantage for Genevan companies, compared to Baselworld. Lucky for Baselworld, Rolex and Patek are not really keen on organizing manufacture visits, but Patek still has its museum that they could want to advertise…
The hotel issue in Basel is a very difficult one actually. The problem is that, just because of Baselworld and Art Basel, the city needs to have a massive number of hotels which are basically empty the rest of the year, so they need to make all their earnings in just 2 weeks. Being at the border of 3 important coutries make it seem like it would be easy to have more of those events all along the year, but it is not just in watchmaking that those are falling out of fashion.
I think the Patek Philippe Museum will be on board with the “In the City” portion of Watches & Wonders Geneva.
As to the hotel situation, I understand exactly what you are talking about. But Basel is not overfilled with hotels; it has the right amount for the size city it is and number of events it has. But when a two-star hotel that charges about CHF 100 for a room suddenly jacks that price to CHF 450 during the fair, there is nothing about that I find fair.