After news broke last night that big exhibitors like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tudor, Chopard and Chanel have decided to pull out of Baselworld 2021, the watch industry went into a frenzy. The news came at the heels of three major updates; firstly Baselworld announcing the show would be postponed until early next year (January 2021) , secondly Rolex and Patek Philippe announcing their decision to delay the release of its new products for 2020 and lastly with reports of disagreements between the exhibitors and the show management (MCH) about their refund policy and the announced dates for the 2021 edition. “We have taken part in Baselworld since 1939. Unfortunately, given the way the event has evolved and the recent decisions made by MCH Group, and in spite of the great attachment we had to this watch show, we have decided to withdraw,” said Jean Frédéric Dufour, CEO of Rolex and board member of Tudor in an official statement.
Baselworld has been one of the biggest platforms for watch brands to exhibit their latest launches. It is a one-stop shop for brands to meet the press, retailers and VIP clients from across the globe. So the news of its four biggest exhibitors dropping out of the show has hit Baselworld where it hurts the most. It is also understood from the statement that the four brands have dropped out of Baselworld to create a new Geneva-based event that will be held in conjunction with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) and is set to take place in April 2021 around the same time as Watches & Wonders Geneva.
Regarding the reports of tension between the Baselworld fair management (MCH Group) and the big brands concerning its refund policies and the new dates announced for Baselworld 2021, MCH released a press statement refuting these claims. “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.” - the release notes.
As Baselworld has been dealing with massive speculation regarding its longevity and importance for some time, it seems like heavyweights like Rolex and Patek Philippe dropping out could be the final nail in the coffin for Baselworld. "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." the statement also mentioned.
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