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Baselworld Tries to Revive Watch Fair After Rolex, Swatch Exit

A visitor walks past a Patek Philippe SA booth during day two of the 2019 Baselworld luxury watch and jewellery fair in Basel, Switzerland. Getty Images.
A visitor walks past a Patek Philippe SA booth during day two of the 2019 Baselworld luxury watch and jewellery fair in Basel, Switzerland. Getty Images.

Baselworld, the luxury watch trade show, is counting on smaller brands to revive the fair after giants like Rolex and Swatch Group AG pulled out in the past few years.

On a webcast with journalists on Wednesday, Managing Director Michel Loris-Melikoff confirmed Baselworld will take place next April for the first time since 2019, with a focus on the mid-range luxury segment. He said it was too early to know which brands will participate, and that Baselworld will start to schedule meetings with potential exhibitors in the coming weeks. There will be lower-priced labels represented among about 300 participants, he said.

“The Baselworld brand must remain, but it must fundamentally change,” Loris-Melikoff said in a statement.

The lack of confirmed labels may cast doubt on the significance of Baselworld, once the most important trade show in the watchmaking industry. It lost its biggest exhibitor, Swatch, which criticised the fair’s slowness in adapting to the digital era. Hermes was among companies that ditched Baselworld to join the rival Watches & Wonders fair in Geneva, while the pandemic then spurred the exodus of brands including TAG Heuer and Bulgari. Patek Philippe and Rolex said they were abandoning Baselworld to create their own event.

The show is scheduled to take place March 31 to April 4 in Basel and will encompass watchmaking, jewellery and gemstones. It is planned for the same week as Watches & Wonders, which mostly features Richemont brands.

Baselworld owner MCH Group has been battered by the pandemic, which led to the cancelation of some of its other big events, such as Art Basel.

By Corinne Gretler

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