Watches & Wonders Geneva took the sensible decision today to cancel this year’s event.
It is a genuine shame, because its organizer, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, has interesting plans to turn a trade exhibition at the brutalist Palexpo center into a city-wide celebration of luxury watchmaking that would have made retailers in the city part of the entertainment.
Another year of developing that idea will do no harm.
As I write, Baselworld and its parent organization, the publicly traded MCH Group, are silent on how it will react to the rapidly growing Coronavirus threat.
Its most recent announcement was promoting a Forum that will have seating for 250 people to watch interesting executives from the watch industry speak about the market. Gatherings of 250 people, let alone tens of thousands that might once have been planning to attend Baselworld, now look improbable two months out from the event opening.
It is not just that people are more likely to catch Coronavirus if they attend a massive event like Baselworld, it is that they could be caught up in quarantine rules.
You only have to watch the news to know that if one person who has attended Baselworld tests positive for the virus, tens of thousands of people will be expected to self-isolate, which means two weeks twiddling their thumbs at home (or worse).
Nobody is going want to take that risk.
If Baselworld does not take the correct decision, Rolex/Tudor, LVMH and Patek Philippe — the remaining giant exhibitors — should. They can advise their authorized dealers not to attend, because they would not want to put them at risk of contracting the disease or being forced into quarantine.
I am not a health expert, but this is a business issue. The risk is simply too high for Baselworld to go ahead and it must be cancelled.