Musings on watch novelties presentations for 2020

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2019 has been a tumultuous year in many ways. And as we stand today, just across the threshold of 2020, we look forward with great excitement on what it might have in store for us. And take this moment to muse over the watch novelties presentations for this year. Oh, what adventures are in store for us!

The last year was a big one. Tumultuous, we said in the opening paragraph. We started with what seems like the impending demise of the big shows. First changes in SIHH in Geneva, but more of note, Baselworld. The world’s biggest watch show, have been under pressure from the industry for years, accused of being arrogant, not being relevant, and having a cost structure which is out of control. Basel is an expensive city, but when Baselworld comes to town, everything seems to triple or quadruple in prices. In 2019, they finally suffered the first major blow – the withdrawal of The Swatch Group. This was followed by many other smaller brands like Maurice Lacroix who exited. As a result of this withdrawal, we noted in our Baselworld 2019 Report that the total number of exhibitors at Baselworld 2019 reduced. 520 brands exhibited at Baselworld 2019. 81,200 visitors attended this year’s edition of the show, 22% fewer than in 2018. At 3,300, the number of media representatives present was also slightly down on previous years. We live in interesting times indeed.

The SIHH (now Watches & Wonders Geneva)

As mentioned, SIHH was not spared. 2020 will see the departure of Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille. AP is a founding member of the FHH who runs the SIHH, and they cited reasons which point to the direction that the SIHH is not relevant to their current goals. They want to focus on the end customers, and will be spreading novelties announcement throughout the year. Richard Mille, being closely associated to AP, cited that their distribution strategy is to be more exclusive through mono-brand boutiques and this no longer align to big shows.

The 28th SIHH. Geneva, Feb 2018.

We will also see the timings of Baselworld and SIHH converge to the last week of April and first week of May, a phenomena (co-incidence of both shows) last seen in 2008. In 2009, SIHH moved its dates to Jan, leaving Baselworld in March. But for 2020, both shows will be delayed. We will also see SIHH changing its name to Watches & Wonders and will be presented with a new format. W&W is a show which debuted in Hong Kong in 2013 to showcase novelties to the China marketplace. The show then was like a min-SIHH, mainly Richemont brands exhibiting. And was held again in Hong Kong in September in 2014 and 2015. After the 2015 show, it was announced that it would be staged on an biennial basis, with the next show scheduled for 2017. That did not come to pass, and the show was subsequently cancelled. And re-appeared as W&W Miami in 2018. And returning to Miami in 2019. W&W will now be in Geneva in 2020 to replace SIHH, and as we understand it, will move to Miami in February 12-14, 2021. We speculate that 2021 will not see W&W return to Geneva but only in Miami, but at time of publication, we have no confirmation.


Time to Move: The Swatch Group

The Swatch Group showed their novelties in a new show, called Time To Move. This show was split into two – one for retailers which was held in Zurich during the Baselworld 2019 timeframe, and one for Media, which we attended in May.

Enjoying a cigar on board a boat during Time to Move. Lausanne, Switzerland, May 2019.

The Group invited some 190 of the world’s top media to Switzerland to present the novelties for their Luxury Brands – Breguet, Blancpain, Harry Winston, Jaquet Droz, Omega and Glashutte Original. The media was based in Lausanne. From there, the next three days was spent with half days at each of the 5 Manufactures, and 1 (Glashutte Original) in a hotel in Geneva. It was a hectic week, but this proved to be a valuable success for the group, in 3 fronts:

  1. during the week, we arrived on Mon, and left on Fri, the world’s most influential media talked about no other brand other than Swatch Group brands. This near 100% Share of Voice provides the group’s brands with unadulterated coverage, something not possible at Baselworld. At least for that week. We reported 6 Live Articles, and 6 more of the novelties during the 5 days we were in Switzerland.
  2. we spent quality time with the brand executives, with the brand CEOs hosting lunch and dinners to small groups of approx 30 journalists each time. In comparison, during Baselworld, we get perhaps a 20 minute interview time allocation with each CEO or technical rep, usually also in a group session. In practice, that frequently gets reduced even further as scheduling inevitably goes awry. The 2 hour lunch during TTM with the CEO and his management team allows for good interaction and insights into the brand. Big win for the brand and the media!
  3. the novelties were presented in a non-rushed way, and we had time to ask questions, explore details and handle the watches. We also had the opportunity to visit the brands in their home ground (except for Glashutte Original). For us, we have visited the manufactures at Blancpain, Jaquet Droz, Glashutte Original and Omega before and the visits were a good refresh. The TTM visits revealed further insights. And it was our first to Harry Winston in Plan-les Ouates, and also to Breguet. Manufacture Breguet have never opened its doors to media visits before. And the insights we gained is invaluable. Eyes were opened.

These benefit the brand, the media in attendance, as we are able to understand the manufacture, the management and novelties in more detail than possible during big shows. And most importantly, it benefits the readers as we are able to present a more complete picture, with better insights.

The brand further benefited from cost savings. Nicholas Hayek Jr was quoted that Baselworld cost the group some CHF 55 million a year to stage. A quick calculation (our estimation, as no figures are available from The Swatch Group) for TTM, using a ballpark estimate of CHF 10k/journalist for flights, accomodation, ground transport/transfers and meals, brings the spend for the 6 luxury Swatch Group brand to be under CHF 2 million.

Breitling and others

Recognizing these considerable benefits, some of the other smaller brands started testing the concept of doing their own shows. Corum introduced their novelties to the Asian Media in an event in Beijing in 8-10 April.

The famous Breitling aquarium photographed in 2018. The aquarium was cancelled in 2019, and Breitling will not be showing in Basel in 2020.

Breitling, under the steam driven by Georges Kern, also had multiple Summits around the world. Breitling began even earlier in 2018 – with a January Summit in Shanghai, and again in December in Beijing, while continuing to exhibit in Baselworld for both 2018 and 2019. This continued in Bali in March 2019, and on the first day of Baselworld in Basel. Breitling only confirmed withdrawal for 2020, leaving the possibility of a return in 2021.

“We decided to focus on our global Summit format in 2020 and the subsequent local road shows. “The decisive factor is first and foremost the new Baselworld date at the end of April, which cannot be reconciled with our planning.”

Breitling CEO Georges Kern

Following suit, Corum will leave Baselworld in 2020. We attended a special Media Briefing in November 2019 in La Chaux-de-Fonds on their new directions going forward, and while we are yet unable to reveal what was presented and discussed, we can say it is going to be interesting for Corum this year.

Japanese brands – Seiko, Grand Seiko and Casio

Also from the Japanese fronts, we will see Seiko and Casio leave. Both citing timing issues of the Baselworld being too late in their calendar, leaving open the possibility of returning in 2021.

Grand Seiko and Seiko will be showing novelties in Tokyo in March this year, which we will attend and we bring you Live reports. Casio has yet to communicate if they are doing their own show.

Only Citizen and associated brands – Bulova, Arnold & Son, Alpina, La Joux-Perret, Angelus and Frederique Constant remain committed to Baselworld.

The Citizen/Bulova booth in Baselworld 2019.

Concluding thoughts

Of course, the Baselworld anchors of Rolex, Patek Philippe and Chopard will continue to make Basel an essential calendar item, regardless. And thus far, the LVMH group is also committed to exhibiting. Baselworld 2020 will also see renewed affirmation of the Independents. But it remains to be seen if its too little too late.

“The areas of Hall 1 on the south side dedicated to the hosting of Les Ateliers, the Watch Gallery and the Incubator [all to serve a diverse variety of independents]have also been the focus of attention in recent months by Baselworld.”

Email communique from Baselworld received in December 2019.

De Bethune, Akrivia, Ateliers Louis Moinet, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, Claude Meylan, Czapek, Kari Voutilainen, L’Epée 1839, Reservoir, Romain Gauthier, Urwerk and many others will be in the show. While others like Gronefeld and Moser will stay at the Carre Horologers in W&W.

Going forward, this looks like an exciting year ahead. Already in our calendars, where noted we will be covering the event Live:

  • LVMH Brands – Bulgari, TAG Heuer, Zenith, Hublot – Jan 12-16, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (we will not attend as the brands will still be showing in Baselworld 2020). Some Independent brands like Moser, MB&F will also hold concurrent shows in Dubai.
  • Maurice Lacroix – February 26-28, Pattaya, Thailand. (Live coverage)
  • Grand Seiko and Seiko – Mar 3-6, Tokyo, Japan. (Live coverage)
  • Time to Move – Mar 3-6, Zurich, Switzerland (we will not be able to attend as we had already accepted the Grand Seiko/Seiko invitation earlier)
  • Watches & Wonders – April 25-29, Geneva, Switzerland. (Live coverage)
  • Baselworld 2020 – April 30 to May 5, Basel, Switzerland. (Live coverage)

We are anticipating smaller brands like Luminox, SevenFriday, Oris who have also withdrawn from Baselworld to be doing regional shows to introduce novelties throughout the year.


1 Comment

  1. Frank Mueller on

    Thank you for sharing, Pete. Very insightful overview.

    Obviously, the overall watch industry costs for travelling to this increasingly crazy number of glocal events will rise – unless retailers and media will pick a few shows only to spare time and money in avoiding voyages to the minor ones. Especially smaller brands not attending Baselworld or W&W anymore will soon feel a lack of attention that so far came for free in Basel and Geneva.

    In this new cacophony of all year around shows, launches etc. at different places at sometimes even same moments, a lot of brands will realise that scraping Baselworld or W&W comes at new cost that may even outweigh the intended gains in some cases.

    It is a pity to see how an industry virtually drifts apart in times of crisis with basically flat revenues sind 2012!