Rolex, Patek Philippe and other leading watch brands leave Baselworld for new trade show

Five of the biggest names in the industry have broken rank, citing the fair’s ‘inability to meet brands’ needs and expectations’

Five of the biggest names in watchmaking have announced their departure from Baselworld. Getty Images
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Five of the biggest names in the watchmaking world have announced an exodus from Baselworld, the industry’s biggest and most established trade fair.

Traditionally, Baselworld is where the watch world’s movers and shakers have convened to present new launches and broker big deals. But Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel, Chopard and Tudor have unceremoniously broken ranks, announcing that they will be launching their own watch trade show in Geneva with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie.

In spite of the great attachment we had to this watch show, we have decided to withdraw

Geared predominantly towards retailers, the press and VIP customers, the event has yet to be named. But the inaugural show will be held in early April 2021 at Palexpo convention centre in Geneva, and will be linked to Watches & Wonders, formerly known as the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie.

In an statement, the brands said: “This departure follows a number of unilateral decisions made without consultation by Baselworld management, including the postponement of the watch show until January 2021, as well as its inability to meet the brands’ needs and expectations.”

While Baselworld was long considered the signature event of the year for the watch industry, organisers have in recent years faced criticism including over high costs.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Weekly Calendar. Courtesy Patek Philippe
Baselworld has been the world’s biggest watch and jewellery fair for more than 100 years. Courtesy Patek Philippe

“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,” says Jean-Frederic Dufour, chief executive of Rolex Group and Montres Tudor board member.

“Following discussions initiated by Rolex, it seemed only natural to create a new event with partners that share our vision and our endless, unwavering support for the Swiss watchmaking sector. This will allow us to present our new watches in line with our needs and expectations, to join forces and better defend the interests of the industry.”

Baselworld appears to have been blindsided by the announcement, hinting on Twitter that this could be the final death knell for the historic event.

Organisers of the fair wrote of their “great surprise and regret” upon hearing the announcement.

Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe, said: “The decision to leave Baselworld was not an easy one to take for me, being the fourth generation of the Stern family to participate to this traditional yearly event.

“But life evolves constantly, things change and people change as well, whether it is at the level of those responsible for the watch fair organisation, the brands or the clients. We constantly have to adapt ourselves, question what we do, since what was right yesterday may not necessarily be valid today.

“Today Patek Philippe is not in line with Baselworld’s vision any more, there have been too many discussions and unsolved problems, trust is no longer present.”