Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel, Chopard, And Tudor Leave Baselworld: History In The Making
Following on from Baselworld sending out a press release explaining that it was initiating “exceptional measures in support of exhibitors” for its postponed show on April 3, 2020, and Baselworld’s Swiss Exhibitors’ Committee headed up by Rolex employee Hubert J. du Plessix writing a polite but strong letter to the fair organizers on April 6 asking for a full refund for exhibitors, the remaining powerhouse Geneva-based brands still exhibiting at Baselworld have now taken matters into their own hands.
Baselworld announced a date of January 28-February 2, 2021 for the next fair due to cancellation of the 2020 edition because of the COVID-19 pandemic and has also garnered some criticism for how it is handling the transfer of exhibitors’ payments. As have the city of Basel’s premier hotels.
Here is the verbatim description of Baselworld’s proposed measures: “In this challenging environment, Baselworld is very conscious of the stakes for all exhibitors and is absorbing a significant portion of costs due to postponing the show by offering to carry forward 85% of the fees for Baselworld 2020 to Baselworld 2021 (the remaining 15% will serve to partially offset out-of-pocket costs already accrued). If needed, exhibitors can alternatively request a cash refund which will be of up to 30% of the fees, with 40% carried forward to Baselworld 2021.”
Apparently, though, the luxury watch industry’s big players have had enough, and at 14:00 CET on Tuesday, April 14, Rolex sent out a press release announcing the following:
“Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel, Chopard and Tudor leave Baselworld to create a new watch trade show in Geneva with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie. The show will be held early April 2021 at Palexpo, at the same time as Watches & Wonders. This departure follows several 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.
“The new show, which will be linked to Watches & Wonders, organized by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, is to take place at Palexpo. The aim is to offer partner brands the best possible professional platform, applying a shared vision to successfully meet future challenges in the watchmaking industry. It will also give crucial prominence to the sector’s expertise and innovations, both in Switzerland and internationally.
“Other brands may also be added, according to terms that have not yet been defined. This new event will be geared predominantly towards retailers, the press and VIP customers.”
What the brand CEOs now leaving Baselworld are saying
“We have taken part in Baselworld since 1939,” said Jean-Frédéric Dufour, CEO of Rolex and board member of Tudor. “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. 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.”
“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,” Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe, said. “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.”
“Chopard first exhibited at the Basel fair in 1964,” Karl-Friedrich Scheufle, co-president of Chopard, remembered. “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. Through the alliance, these grandes maisons will also be able to collaborate in promoting the values and best interests of Swiss watchmaking.”
More information is set to follow. This is going to be one heck of an interesting and historic year. Time to get out the popcorn.