Is Baselworld losing its luster? Here is what’s in store for the 2020 show

Sometime last year, we woke up to the news that in 2020, SIHH (Watches & Wonders ) and Baselworld would take place back to back. It was a significant announcement, given that the two most important events in the watchmaking industry, had agreed to synchronize their calendars.

The industry is now gearing up to an April-May commitment: SIHH (Watches & Wonders) is from 26 to 29 April in Geneva and Baselworld is from 30 April to 5 May in Basel. The news is that the calendars are synched till the year 2024, ensuring this helps visitors (and participants), manage their travel and stay, more efficiently.  

This coordination makes complete sense for the industry, and it also means that we can expect some refinements from the organizers as well. Today, we will focus on Baselworld only, because on one hand they have some improvements lined up for us, but on the other hand we have news that some key watchmakers are opting out of the event.

The Question: Baselworld losing its luster?

In a bid to adapt to the new market scenarios and offer more convenience and reasons-to-attend, for visitors, Baselworld, is in fact trying to improve the event by creating a new digital platform and also catering to new audiences.

Going digital is perhaps the biggest change that Baselworld is adopting. They are looking at creating a new digital platform that will cater to the diverse Baselworld community. If you look at the Vision 2020+ video, the event-makers actually state that they are “transforming the format. We’re building a brand-new platform for our industry, for our community,”

It is true that the world is shrinking. Influencers and reporters like me have been covering the event remotely, and so the goal to use digital as a medium to connect with the Baselworld global community, is a step in the right direction.

In their own words, Baselworld explains that the platform is “live, digital, relevant, all year round.”

Attracting New Audiences

Shrinking the boundaries through the digital medium, will have an impact on who the event reaches out to. Typically, we know Baselworld to be B2B exhibition, and watch, jewelry and gemstone exhibitors connect directly with retail clients and also seek new clientele.

While the core of the event still remains B2B, Baselworld is planning to introduce a strong affiliation of B2C, where consumers become a part of the focus. They hope to attract watch and jewelry enthusiasts and collectors along with the retailers.

Baselworld: The World Watch & Jewelry Community

With this new approach, the universe of Baselworld is opening up, and it includes producers, distributors, retailers, e-comm retailers, collectors, enthusiasts, end consumers, auction houses, and media (bloggers, influencers, mainstream etc.) – basically anyone and everyone associated with watch, jewelry and gemstone industries.

To ensure that the visitors are suitably engaged with the brands at a new level, the event hosts are going to create “new experience zones.” On the cards are planned Virtual Reality Zones that take advantage of the latest technologies like AR and VR. With the help of augmented reality simulators and holographic experiences, there is a promise of showcasing the brands in an innovative format.

Apart from the brand experiences and new launches, an educational approach is also being adopted with summits, workshops, debates and influencer events, being included as a part of the offerings.

A gala night and entertainment sponsored by the exhibitors, is also a part of the event production.

Baselworld with New Show Areas

For 2020, Baselworld plans on reopening Hall 2 that will include the Innovation Square. This space is dedicated to innovation and digital transformation and will host smartwatches and wearable devices. 

The Incubator concept – an area selected for starts-ups and other small or lesser known brands, will expand to include the jewelry and gemstone segments in 2020.

With so many positive changes being adopted, the question still remains unanswered – is Baselworld losing its luster? Perhaps yes!

The reason why I say this, is because there are major brands opting out of the show, despite being loyal to it for many years. Early this November, we had Seiko make an announcement that both Seiko and Grand Seiko are opting out of the 2020 Baselworld. The company states its own release schedule conflicting with the event, as the reason.

Following suit is Casio, with a similar reason, and it makes us wonder why a scheduling conflict is in place. Surely, the planning teams at both ends would have some inside information. For now, we can say that CITIZEN Watch Group is the only major Japanese player, confirming their presence at Baselworld 2020.

Swiss manufacturer Breitling, and Swatch Group and its 18 watch brands (the largest watch group in the world), are also giving the event a miss. We have the news that the Swatch Group will host its own launch in March 2020.

Casio and Seiko are opting for the Inhorgenta show in Munich, which is going to be held from February 14 to February 17, 2020.

At the same time, it is known that LVMH will be showcasing their watch brands as a 2020 centerpiece at an event in Dubai in January, however they have not backed out of the Baselworld 2020.

What Do You Think?

When we play out the facts – date change, MCH Group’s Managing Director, Sylvie Ritter, who ran the show for the past 15-years stepping down due to objections on the event’s efficacy and value, important exhibitors declining to participate – it only makes you think, why is there a decline in attendance.

For the Swatch Group, distancing from the Baselworld event, means re-allocating their $50 million budget, on effective initiatives and local events that are more targeted and of course, towards digital marketing.   

The silver lining for the event, is that Baselworld managed to get Maurice Lacroix back on the exhibitor list for 2020.

The world’s largest watch show continues to have Rolex, Patek Philippe, and LVMH on their rolls, so those of you attending, you can visit both Baselworld and Watches & Wonders, at one go. This gives you an opportunity to save time and money.