Saturday, November 26, 2016


BaselWorld is shrinking.  Now to be clear, this is not akin to the polar ice caps melting, but rather what one of my favorite commentators on the watch industry Gordon Gekko mentioned in Wall Street - Money Never Sleeps:

"The mother of all evil is speculation."

I find it fascinating how difficult it is for a group of European MBAs to get their heads around the fairly simple laws of supply and demand.  Because we are now seeing a knock-on impact on not just the watch brands, their suppliers, their retailers, their marketing and advertising partners, but BaselWorld itself.  And it has been pretty much the same type of thinking that is doing in several watch brands that is now taking a bite out of the largest, most important fair in the world.  I mean, the watch business will keep growing and growing, right?

BaselWorld is a great experience for the journalists.  It is very professionally managed, a great deal of accommodations are made for us.  Even free food (and more importantly coffee) is available all day long.  Media packages, statuesque models dressed to the nines, no expense (seemingly) is spared.  But none of that comes for free.

The new construction which increased the hall space was welcome.  Hall 2 used to have all the charm of a Stalin era airport terminal, and now I no longer feel as if I am going through Check Point Charlie when I'm transiting between Hall 1 and Hall 2.  But if I am honest, I think that the fair organizers got a wee bit greedy.  Rental space prices went through the roof.  One brand was "frog marched" out of their booth on the second day of the fair in 2015 because the final part of their payment hadn't yet been received.  Think about that for a minute, the fair organizers decided that a PR black eye and guaranteeing that they wouldn't get the balance of payment made more sense than working with the brand owners to reach a solution.  Several brands that had been exhibiting for years decided that enough was enough and it was time to spend the money somewhere else.  In the past these had been smaller independent brands. 

But in this past year we have seen Ulysse Nardin and Girrard-Perregaux throw in the towel to head south to Geneva in January.  This opens up two rather enormous spaces.  Now if we are being honest, Girard-Peregaux made little to no effort to even participate in this past year's BaselWorld.  People trying to get an appointment were forced to just show up at the counter, deal with some rather sarcastic and clearly put-upon gate keepers, then continue to email and call throughout the fair in the hopes of getting even a shared appointment.  So it was clear that GP had given up not only on BaselWorld, but even putting forth a half effort while they were there.  Truth be told, it was a colossal waste of time and money.  So maybe SIHH is going to be more in their wheelhouse. 

Timex has called time on their participation for the upcoming fair, and offered some very sane, rational and wise reasons for not being a part of BaselWorld 2017.  And chances are good that there will be other dominoes to fall.  In related news, after they had "shoo-ed" all of the smaller independent brands out of the Palace, several of the more well-heeled space holders who they had cleared out the rabble to accommodate are also off to Geneva, and now with vacancies being a bit more pronounced, the Palace will not be open this coming year.

I love BaselWorld.  For me it is like Christmas, the World Cup, my Anniversary, the Tour de France and my Birthday all in one.  I hope that things stabilize.  I hope that the fair organizers will learn from the painful lessons that the brand owners are now grappling with and price the space more realistically.  And frankly, if that means no more free lunch, well I'm prepared to live with that ; )

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