MCH Group, which had previously announced it was going to retire the Baselworld name, has decided to bring the century-old show back from the dead.
The next edition of the fair, once among the most important in the industry, will take place from March 31 to April 4, 2022, in Basel, Switzerland—the same time as the Watches and Wonders show, formerly known as SIHH, in Geneva. (Watches and Wonders runs March 30–April 5.) It will be the first Baselworld to be held since 2019.
Along with the new redesigned show, the new Baselworld will include a year-round B2B digital platform.
The April 2020 Baselworld was canceled due to COVID-19, and rescheduled to January 2021. Then that fair was called off when big companies balked due to a dispute over canceled fees—though COVID-19 likely would have prevented it from taking place.
At one point, MCH announced a new show concept called HourUniverse. But no show ever took place with that name, a spokesperson told JCK.
“The brand Baselworld was really established,” said fair managing director Michel Loris-Melikoff said in a video that accompanied the new announcement. “And the interest in HourUniverse was not so big.… The brand Baselworld is well-known everywhere on this planet.… It stands for one-century heritage that we have.”
While the old Baselworld used to be known for attracting the industry’s biggest names, the new fair aims to spotlight “smaller watches and jewelry manufacturers and gemstone traders,” a statement said.
The lineup will be about one-third watch exhibitors, one-third jewelry brands, and one-third gemstones. It hopes to attract 300 exhibitors in the final year, Loris-Melikoff said. The 2019 Baselworld attracted about 500 exhibitors, down from the nearly 2,000 it hosted nine years earlier.
In the video, Loris-Melikoff promised that the reborn Baselworld experience would be very different.
“We learned we have to be very close to the industry, we have to listen to the industry, maybe this has not been done in the past,” he said. “What are we launching now is the result of this listening.”
He said there will be a different booth concept that will lower exhibitor expenses.
“We are conscious in the past Baselworld was too expensive—not just for the clients, but for us,” he says. “That is why we changed the whole booth concept.… In the past, most [exhibitors] came with their own booth.… We were talking about costs that were over $1 million.… We had to reduce the booth concept to make it easier to come to Basel.”
Of course, many people were upset not just with the fair, but with the city itself, in particular the pricey hotels and meals.
“We invested in a lot of time with the hospitality [industry] in Basel,” he said. “Last year with the COVID crisis, it was maybe easier to make…all the stakeholders and the people in the tourism and the hotel industry [understand] how important it is to really change the mindset, the prices, the way we welcome people here in Basel.
“Nobody is going to pay five times the average price of a hotel room. Those times are over.”
After they left Baselworld, several major watch brands, including Rolex and Patek Philippe, announced they were forming their own event, Geneva Watch Days, under the auspices of the trade group Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, due to take place alongside Watches and Wonders.
With all these fairs and the reborn Baselworld, Loris-Melikoff admitted that the watch trade fair sphere was getting a little crowded.
“We are in a free market and everyone will choose and make his decision,” he said.
Loris-Melikoff said it was “too early” to say who would be at the 2022 show.
“We just announced we are back on the market,” he said. “We are at the starting point.”
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