2020: The year of all uncertainties


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April 2019

2020: The year of all uncertainties

The “fragmentation” of the watch industry’s calendar continues: Breitling withdraws from Baselworld. The brand nevertheless welcomes the efforts made by the new management of the show. The planned date for the event, at the end of April 2020, is a stumbling block, as for a number of other brands.


he decisive factor is the timing of Baselworld at the end of April, which cannot be reconciled with our scheduling.” Breitling, which enjoyed unusual visibility at the show in 2019 with an “esplanade” leading to its booth, has announced its withdrawal from the fair.

The brand had been a pillar of the Basel fair for several generations. The giant aquarium that once adorned its booth had been a symbol of the event.

Breitling’s CEO, Georges Kern, decided to concentrate on the brand’s global Summit format with subsequent local roadshows in 2020. Baselworld had hoped to be a part of the roadshows.

"The Summit platform, which has already been introduced, allows us to be flexible regarding where and when we inform our target groups about new brand develop- ments and product launches. We will continue to focus on this platform as it enables us to respond personally to customers, media representatives, sales partners, and collectors. For this reason, we will not be exhibiting at Baselworld in 2020,” Georges Kern commented on the decision.

Real possibility or polite formula?

However, the manager leaves the door open for the future: “We will decide whether we will return to Baselworld from 2021 onward at a later date, and this will depend on the timing of the event and the possibility of holding the Breitling Summit.“He also welcomes the efforts made by the new management of the show:”We would like to emphasize that the extensive innovations developed and implemented by Baselworld’s management under Michel Loris-Melikoff in such a short time frame have had a positive impact and can lay the foundations to take Baselworld in a new direction in the future.”

Breitling's headquarters in Granges
Breitling’s headquarters in Granges

A polite formula or a real possibility? The 2019 edition was considered rather positive by many stakeholders. The synchronization of dates planned for 2020 with the SIHH as well. But the exhibition scheduled for April 30 to May 5 is considered far too late in the year by several brands.

This is the case, for example, of Jean-Christophe Babin at Bulgari, who could opt to take advantage of the multiplication of the brand’s hotels around the world. As he explained to the Swiss magazine Bilan, moving the fair to May is “a serious mistake”.

Tudor with its own booth in 2020

Baselworld had anticipated Breitling’s communication since, precisely one minute before the brand’s announcement, we received an email from the show highlighting the fact that it maintains «excellent rapport» with the Granges-based brand and that “a return in 2021 is expressly not excluded”. Michel Loris-Melikoff, Managing Director of Baselworld, also points this out: “In the end, no agreement was reached because the end of April date set for Baselworld 2020 – from 30 April to 5 May – was too late for Breitling.”

The manager also announces that Tudor, on the other hand, will have its own stand in Hall 1.0 at the next edition and that Rolex will expand its stand accordingly to include the previous Tudor area. If the “esplanade” concept is maintained next year, will Tudor take the site previously occupied by Breitling? It should be recalled that the two brands are close, since they have initiated a collaboration on the exchange of movements.

Tudor Black Bay P01
Tudor Black Bay P01

Michel Loris-Melikoff continues: "This is a strong demonstration of confidence in the successful future of Baselworld and gives us a boost for the tasks ahead. Our strategy has met with very strong approval from exhibitors, the media and visitors. We will drive change forward with great energy and passion.” The two heavyweights Rolex and Patek Philippe delivered several signs of their continued confidence at the show.

Is the watchmaking ecosystem in good shape?

The withdrawal of Breitling means that, despite the planned coordination of the SIHH and Baselworld, the “atomisation” of the annual watchmaking calendar is continuing.

Can an industry that is no longer able to find common solutions grow together? That is the question being asked. Beyond the battle for market share, let us remember here that the watch industry as a whole is experiencing weak growth compared to other luxury sectors that are taking full advantage of globalisation. The stock prices of the two leading watchmaking groups are not at their best, while dependence on the Chinese customer is increasing.

The “Basel equation”, and the answers to it, also reflects the health of an entire ecosystem.