Watches & Wonders (SIHH) 2020 Cancelled Due To Coronavirus, Baselworld Next? Here’s What Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe Thinks
The news broke like a hurricane this morning, February 27, 2020: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) has been canceled for 2020. The fair was scheduled to take place just ahead of Baselworld in a bid to facilitate and encourage more visitors to attend both Swiss watch fairs. The watch fairs – and, really, most big international exhibitions and trade fairs – have been experiencing severe drops in visitor and exhibitor numbers over the last few years.
The Coronavirus, which has been skirting around the world for several weeks now, has already caused fear, reduced commerce, and the been the reason for the cancellation of several major events – in the watch world notably the Grand Seiko Summit, the Baselworld replacement fair originally set to take place in Tokyo in the first week of March, and the second edition of the Swatch Group’s replacement fair Time to Move, which was scheduled for the same week. Both were invite-only events for select press and retailers.
So, now, amidst the already considerable challenges that the fair landscape faces, and that Baselworld in particular been facing for years, including the Coronavirus outbreak having already caused both Bulgari and Citizen to cancel their participation in 2020, Baselworld faces a huge, certainly historic decision on the heels of its compatriot: to cancel or not to cancel.
What Ricardo Guadalupe thinks about the cancellations
Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe thinks that a decision on the fate of Baselworld could be dropped as soon as tomorrow.
“The [advent of the] Coronavirus is a bit surprising, even shocking. I have to take measures at the company level; the health of our people is the most important,” he stressed, certainly insinuating that every company and organization feels the same way right now.
How would the cancellation of Baselworld affect Hublot this year? “We did our LVMH Week in Dubai in January, a good move from our side because we had key press and retailers there. So the impact would be less important [to us]. Going forward, of course, we would find other solutions to present the rest of our new products during the year,” Guadalupe said. “Not a huge difference for us, we can manage.”
Guadalupe went on to note, “Digital has transformed our world and the way we do business. When we launch a new watch, we can do it in a digital way and still receive many orders without actually showing the watch to every retailer at the fair as it used to be. The fairs need to evolve also in the experience we can give to the consumer. That’s the big challenge we are facing.”
“The future of the fairs is already [hanging] in the balance – to cancel them [this year] is really bad news for them, and for Baselworld in particular. For 2021, at LVMH, we had already said everything is on the table: we want a new product, an evolution of the fair, if we are going to participate. And, of course, the date is an issue as well at the end of April/beginning of May. We prefer the beginning of the year like Dubai, mid-January.”
Jean Christophe-Babin, CEO of Bulgari, had already expressed that very same sentiment to me during LVMH Week.
Guadalupe notes a drop in sales of 70 to 80 percent in China since the outbreak of the Coronavirus. “It’s a disaster. We had to close our boutiques in Macau for three weeks; there is no traffic, and when there is no traffic there are no sales.”
Guadalupe also notes that while China is an important market for Hublot, it is not the brand’s biggest one. “So globally we are still doing well.”