For the last two or three years, there has been growing speculation about the future of watch industry trade shows. Luxury watch brands have continued to drop out, including Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille, and the entirety of the Swatch Group as the last members to join the mass exodus. In an announcement made on Tuesday, it seems both Baselworld and SIHH have a “solution” to dwindling fair attendance–an alignment of scheduling that turns the end of April into a 10-day spree of watch madness.
Baselworld and SIHH
Going back to the methods in place back through 2008 where the two fairs back to back does make some sense for retailers, many of whom struggle to justify the pair of buying trips required to attend both the big fairs. With the dates of the two fairs running April 26th to 29th, and the 30th to May 5th respectively, watch enthusiasts, public visitors, and retailers alike will be able to get their saturation (read oversaturation) of watchmaking all in one pass, connected via a quick train ride from Geneva to Basel. The time of year also makes SIHH miles more appealing when compared to the often chilly January days.
Is it Really Worth it?
Though to many there are a lot of positive takeaways from this new strategy, it does raise some concerns. First of all, though more retailers are now likely to be attending both shows in full force, there’s something to be said for the risk of too much choice leading to less objective decision making in the form of “analysis paralysis”. Brands have been consistently rolling out an innumerable number of SKUs each year in the form of new models, dial variants, and case metals, and when you roll into these trade shows eventually you can’t help but hit a wall. After 3 or 4 days of sleep deprivation and having your watch geek stimulus meter pinging off its rev limiter, rest assured that eyes start glazing over, memory starts getting fuzzy, and the ability to absorb information about what counts and what doesn’t rapidly begins to fade.
Good Move or Bad Move?
The bigger question at hand is whether or not this simple shift in schedule actually benefits the industry in the long run versus simply being a stop-gap. Brands still know there’s an exorbitant cost to displaying at these fairs, more and more media know that they can snag a press release and cover these fairs “well enough” to grab clicks from the mass watch enthusiast readers, and given how the retail game is changing with online sales, the old-school Swiss meet & greet method of watch buying and selling just seems archaic. Then again, the Swiss watch industry loves going “back in time” whenever presented with the opportunity (did you know you can smoke in the lounge of the Blancpain booth in Baselworld), so we can only expect variations of an old-school approach to maintain the fairs until they are forced to enact real change.
What are your thoughts on Baselworld and SIHH collaborating?