In the last blog post we looked back over the most exciting wrist watches in the last 12 months. But with the new year only a matter of weeks away, it’s also time to start looking forward. There are a lot of great things planned by the top watch manufacturers in the next 12 months. Whether you like traditional watches or something a little bit more technologically advanced, there’s something exciting to look forward to next year. In today’s blog we’ll take an early look at what you can expect from Baselworld 2019.
Some Big Brands Aren’t Attending…
One of the biggest stories prior to Baselworld 2018 was the number of manufacturers declining to appear. The drop off of manufacturers was predicted back in 2013 by many people in and around the watch industry. People started questioning the need for manufacturers spending so much money on such a big watch exhibition with the emergence of online communication. Brands like Apple used online streaming to its full potential to get the word out about their new products without needing to show them off at exhibitions.
For the first time in years there was a lot of watch brands who chose not to attend Baselworld 2018. Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Movado are some of the brands who moved away from the event in 2018. And it’s expected that few, if any, of the brands who opted not to appear in 2018 will be attending Baselworld 2019. Rival watch exhibition SIHH, while still smaller than Baselworld, is one exhibition that many Swiss manufacturers are choosing to attend instead. This is a threat that Baselworld have become aware of and have recently come to a deal with SIHH for 2020.
But one blow that Baselworld is likely to feel is the decision for Swatch to pull out of the exhibition. The Swatch group own huge brands Omega and Longines – making them one of the most important manufactures on display each Baselworld. It’s almost impossible to imagine a Baselworld without Swatch brands on display, but that is exactly what we’re going to see in 2019. Swatch chief executive Nick Hayek explained that he doesn’t see annual watch fairs useful in the modern world – making it unlikely that they will be attending SIHH either.
It’s worthwhile noting that new Baselworld General Manager Michel Loris-Melikoff has indicated he will be speaking to the Swatch group. It’s possible that he may be able to bring them back on board prior to the start of the event – but as their departure was announced in October 2018 it isn’t looking too likely.
But Most Brands Will be There…
Baselworld 2018 was the smallest it has been in many years, with many of the halls being closed off. It’s expected that Baselworld 2019 will be around the same size as last year and will host 600-700 manufacturers. This number still makes it comfortably the largest watch exhibition in the world despire being down on 2016 and 2017.
The biggest names, such as Rolex and Patek Philippe will still be in attendance. As will the LVMH Group – so Hublot, TAG Hauer and Zenith will be showing off their new timepieces. While this won’t take away the disappointment of the Swatch groups decision, it does mean that Baselworld will still play host to some of the largest announcements in the watch industry.
It will be interesting to see whether the Swatch group loses out by not attending when compared to the other major brands. Swatch are gambling that they can get the word out in a more cost-effective manner, but if sales of new watches drop off in any way compared to competitors who do attend they may come running back in 2020!
Can Other Brands Fill The Gap?
Many smaller but very prestigious brands may capitalise on the disappearance of Omega and Zenith due to the reduced competition. Seiko are absolutely one of the largest brands on the planet, but are sometimes overlooked by the press due to being smaller in prestige than the likes of Omega. As the watch press are still going to flock to Baselworld in large numbers, Seiko may find themselves with even more coverage than usual!
Next year is already a big year for Seiko and it is almost certain that they will make the most of any increased coverage. 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the first Seiko Astron – the watch which caused a lot of pain to the Swiss watch industry. It’s very likely that the original Astron will be reissued to mark its 50th anniversary and it would be quite ironic if this was announced at the largest Swiss watch exhibition.
Independent watchmakers are also likely to benefit from the space left by the departing manufacturers. One of the halls will be set aside under the banner of “Trades of Horlogers” and will focus entirely on watchmaking craftsmanship and know-how. This will certainly be a good place for smaller watchmakers to network and build up their own reputation. There will also be a hall dedicated entirely to independent watchmaking art – so expect to see some unknown brands making a name for themselves at Baselworld 2019.
Is Baselworld 2019 Still As Important As Ever?
It’s fair to say that Baselworld’s demise has been predicted many times in the past but it’s still going strong. It may have been wounded by brands pulling out, but it is still a prestigious name which commands respect from industry insiders. You’re still going to see press and watch lovers from all over the world at the Messe Basel in March 2019. But it’s fair to say that attendances have been dropping and manufacturers are starting have started to desert the watch exhibition in recent years.
Many would say that significant changes are needed in the next few years for Baselworld to retain its influence. Recent announcements suggest that Baselworld chiefs know that as well as everyone else does. In 2020 Baselworld are going to coordinate their dates, which will make Baselworld 2019 the last event in the current format. First Class Watches will keep you fully up to date with Baselworld 2019 news and any new 2020 format changes.