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Uncertain future Baselworld attracting exhibitors despite Swatch Group exit

omega booth

Swatch Group brands like Omega will not be present at the 2019 edition of Baselworld. 

(© KEYSTONE / GEORGIOS KEFALAS)

The managing director of world’s biggest watch and jewellery fair says registrations by exhibitors for the 2019 event are taking place at a faster pace than the previous year. The future of the fair was in doubt following the recent decision of the Swatch Group to leave. 

The new managing director of Baselworld Michel Loris-Melikoff, also confirmed that the fair will take place in 2019 and 2020. A new exhibition strategy will be presented at the 2019 edition scheduled for March 21-26. 

The announcement by the Swatch Group at the end of July that it was withdrawing all 18 of its brands from the fair created a sense of uncertainty around the sustainability of the event. Until then, the group was the fair’s biggest exhibitor. 

Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek said the withdrawal was because “traditional watch exhibitions are no longer useful for Swatch”. The group includes such brands as Breguet, Omega, Harry Winston, Longines and Rado. 

Tough times

In an interview published in Watch Around magazine, Loris-Melikoff did not wish to reveal the financial loss to the fair due to the absence of the Swatch Group. However, he refuted the sum of CHF50 million mentioned in recent media reports. 

"It's possible [that the Swatch Group spends CHF50 million during the show] but we don't get 50 million," said Loris-Melikoff. 

At the beginning of August, the company behind the exhibition, MCH, announced the resignation of its CEO René Kamm “in view of the fundamental transformation phase in business operations”. President of the MCH board of directors Ulrich Vischer, will assume Kamm’s role in the interim. 

The departure of the Swatch Group was a serious blow to Baselworld, which has already suffered the defection of many exhibitors. In 2018, the number of exhibitors fell by more than half in one year to around 650, leading MCH to write off some CHF100 million in its 2017 financial year accounts.


Keystone STA/ac

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