Saturday, October 6, 2018

And Corum Clocks Out

So word has reached Tempus Fugit HQ that Corum has opted to take a pass on the upcoming BaselWorld leaving another space on the monopoly board that is Hall 1 empty.

The feedback from Corum HQ is somewhat consistent with what the other brands have been saying - more direct contact with retailers, journalists and customers with smaller, more localized events.

But what Corum (or any of the other brands, for that matter) have not been so forthright about is what that really means.  SWATCH Group, and Hayek the younger in particular, were in a position to say "my way or the highway", and the folks at the fair told them to "take it on the arches", so they did.  The other brands that have bowed out while significant, are ultimately replaceable.  No offense Corum and RW, but you are two brands that can be temporarily "covered".  I find Corum's logic for withdrawing a wee bit baffling.  The past two years there have been no shortage of journalists at their booth, and from the feedback I have received, sales are taking place.

The deeper question that I feel (and maybe I am wrong) that very few people have been asking is this - given the pricing of the fair, and the (sorry) extortionate rates for accommodation, meals, etc. ever really sustainable?  Just as the brands were slow to realize that there was actually not, in fact, a limitless supply of watch customers out there, there is also not a limitless supply of cash that your board will continue to authorize you to operate with.

From the journalist side we tend to get a gauge on how things are really going for a brand based on 2 things:
1.  Did the brand buy advertising from us (or others)?
2.  What was the swag like at their booth/event?

It sounds pretty tacky, and certainly cynical, but those are two very clear identifiers.  Rolex has come out and told at least a few outlets that they will not be spending any advertising money on "trade" publications in the US this year.  And another brand that used to give elaborate gifts every year presented a thumb drive.

I do not think that BaselWorld is going away this year.  While it is not "too big to fail", it is too big to disappear.  I will assume that they will take the hit, adjust their sense of reality, and finally come up with a realistic plan to move forward.  And for those who are saying that BaselWorld is dead and the SIHH has the right idea?  Well Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet might refute that notion.  

Again, I do not think that this is really being driven by any sudden realization that the earth is indeed round instead of flat, and that fairs have been doing it all wrong and are suddenly obsolete.  This year is certainly a reckoning, be in no doubt of that.  But at it's heart, the reckoning is about fiscal realities.

One final thing - the fairs have done this to themselves, but it has most definitely been a co-dependent relationship for some time now.  And like any co-dependent relationship, each partner suffers when the other suffers.  And on a subconscious level, I often wonder if this is exactly what each side has wanted, a reckoning.  A wake-up call that will reset the clocks and put things back to a more normal, realistic level. 

Or as that other great commentator on the watch industry (John Corbett playing Chris Stevens in Northern Exposures once 
mused -

Chris Stevens: I can see how that can be a problem. You know, it's like Jung says, "The unconscious is revealed through the imagery of our dreams, which express our innermost fears and our desires."

Bernard Stevens: Jung said that?

Chris Stevens: Yeah, I think it was Jung. Or maybe Vincent Price.

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