Like a villain in a terrible B-movie, Baselworld has once again returned as a show. You might have been expecting a new show from the MCH Group, the people who so fantastically ran Baselworld into the ground last year that they felt an entire new proposition was in order. Indeed, we too were expecting to hear some mentions of a show called Hour Universe. When the email from the MCH Group came through to my inbox the other day, I’ll admit I was surprised to see the name Baselworld being used once more.
To give you a recap on what this is all about (and why I’m not pulling punches today), Baselworld used to be the largest watch trade fair on the planet. Every year the biggest and best names in the watch and jewellery industries (together with smaller but no-less talented names) would descend on Basel in Switzerland to build enormous stands and show off their shiny new pieces. In 2018, the Swatch Group announced it would not be present at future trade shows, deciding to make its own. It took 18 individual watch brands with it as it left, as well as the plethora of component manufacturers it owns. The MCH Group seemingly wasn’t prepared for this, and friends who went to the 2019 show reported of a very different atmosphere than before.
2020’s cancelled show ticked off the remaining big names at the show. Without Omega present, only Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chopard and Chanel remained as the crowd-gatherers, but even these names eventually departed Baselworld after a major disagreement on how the MCH should handle the money the brands pay to exhibit at the show. Following this, the other major names fell like dominoes. Seiko and Grand Seiko came first, followed by Casio, Bulgari and then the rest of the LVMH Group’s watch brands left as well. You’ll need to go back and visit my reports from the time, but it should be fairly easy to see why I’m not attached in the slightest to Baselworld or the MCH Group. I feel that the MCH Group mishandled the brands’ funds and then tried to play the angry parent by scolding the brands for how they act, despite the fact the brands have nothing else to do with the MCH Group and probably make more money too.
The new concept for Baselworld is a tale of two halves. The MCH Group will still hold an annual show in the purpose-built expo centre in Basel, and it will be co-ordinated to coincide with Watches & Wonders Geneva, which makes little sense as the majority of press and retailers will be in Geneva not Basel (which is 158 miles from Geneva). Also, the MCH Group will be running an online platform year-round which will host live events from smaller manufacturers in the watch, jewellery and gemstone industries. Now all the big names have gone, the MCH Group is selling Baselworld as a place for small and medium-sized manufacturers to display a variety of different products.
Having spoken with Jovan several times about the differences in Baselworld and what used to be SIHH (which is now Watches & Wonders Geneva), it’ll be interesting to see if the MCH Group can pull this off. SIHH always used to be the more relaxed show as it only had the Richemont Group together with a few partner companies present, while Baselworld was described as a mania of people rushing to get to their next appointment. Now the tables have turned, it’s on the MCH Group to convince the world that Baselworld is a show worth saving.