Opinion: Baselworld says it was surprised!

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Following the exodus started by the big players – Rolex/Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chanel and Chopard yesterday (click here to read our opinion piece), MCH who manages Baselworld claims they were surprised. Here is the Press Release, and our commentary.

Press Release with commentary

It is with great surprise and equally great regret that the MCH Group takes note of the cancellation of major exhibitors at Baselworld. The new date for the unavoidable postponement of Baselworld 2020 was defined jointly with leading exhibitors. The objective was to find the earliest and best possible date for the industry following the Covid-19 related measures. The companies now “migrating” – including Rolex – spoke out in favour of a postponement to January 2021. They are also represented on the Exhibitors’ Committee, where the future vision of Baselworld has been discussed on several occasions and has met with a positive response, as was also evidenced by countless individual discussions. The intention to move to Geneva has never been mentioned. The MCH Group must therefore conclude that the relevant plans have been in preparation for some time and that the discussions concerning the financial arrangements for the cancellation of Baselworld 2020 are now being put forward as an argument.

On the basis of the positive and supportive feedback received from exhibitors, especially the small and medium-sized exhibitors from the watch, jewellery, gemstone and supplier industries, the MCH Group decided last year to invest substantial sums in the further development of Baselworld and in the establishment of additional digital platforms. The MCH Group is convinced that, in addition to a physical platform, a connection with the community must be maintained throughout the year. More than ever before, it sees an opportunity to develop a modern platform in the watch and jewellery industry for brands that do not rely primarily on tradition, but above all on innovation. In the next few weeks, the MCH Group will be making a decision on the continuation of Baselworld and on investments in its further development, which is geared to the long term.

End of press release.


While we were also surprised with the news of this migration, frankly we cannot say that we did not see it coming. Not being able to see it suggests a myopic view. The pressure have been mounting for years, perhaps decades, and it was a matter of time that it breaks.

For decades, Baselworld have been gouging exhibitors, journalists and visitors alike with the elevated pricing encountered in the city (a village by global standards. Basel has a population of no more than 180,000) during the shows. That it took so long for the bubble to burst is remarkable, and due in no small part to the huge goodwill that is associated with the show. Many of us feel nostalgic as we had grew up in our careers there.

I certainly did. My first Baselworld was in 1998, and have attended all shows bar one since. Those were heady days. Getting excited like kids in a candy store with the novelties. Making life long friends whom we meet annually, and when we find occasions to do so, even when outside of Switzerland. Having wonderful experiences with brands and friends alike during the show. We loved it!

On the flip side, there were nightmares associated with finding a place to stay. Many choosing hour long commutes by staying in nearby towns in Germany, France or Zurich. And then the horror of having to pay the horrendous ransoms for it, the shock of the elevated pricing of everything from food in the sidewalk (the famous CHF8.50 sausage hot dog) to the restaurants (who may ask for 3 times normal prices).

We must admit, some of this pain has been reduced through the work of the current MCH management. But the pain is still there. The improvements have been perhaps too small, too few, and too slow in coming.

Perhaps in solidarity with MCH and many colleagues around the world, we feel more than a tinge of sadness with the exodus, and what looks like the beginning of the end for Baselworld. But it was inevitable. And this too, shall come to pass. We just hope the industry captains take heed of the words expressed by our Special Correspondent, Dr. Frank Muller in our earlier opinion piece: “I hope that the important decision makers of the major players will sit together to agree on joint short, mid and long-term actions to promote the industry as a team and not singular brands. Leverage on synergies to propel the industry to the next phase wouldn’t be a bad move for a change.“



  1. No surprise here. The watch brands in question, and generally speaking the watch industry itself, know a thing or two about gouging. Baselworld was doing to the brands and to other attendees pretty much what the “brands” themselves do to their customer base. There’s an old saying that seems appropriate here; “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” The “brands” could take a lesson here.