This is not the first time Swatch Group withdrawing from a major trade and press event has caused waves across the entire industry.
The group’s decision to pull out of Baselworld in 2018 reshaped the exhibition landscape.
It ultimately led to the disastrous decision to move this year’s Baselworld and Watches & Wonders Geneva to the end of April / beginning of May that prompted Breitling to withdraw from Baselworld and pushed LVMH to hold its first major event of 2020 in Dubai.
Most importantly, Swatch Group’s decision took away the fear from other massive watchmaking companies that they had to exhibit at Baselworld or be seen as some sort of nobody on the brink of failure.
It was once considered the case that you exhibited at Baselworld or you were not thought to be a player at all.
Swatch Group cancelling its own 2020 launch events in Zurich this year may cause additional unintended consequences.
For example, if Swatch Group holds no global event at all for retailers and press, but merely invites them to local meetings (that happen routinely through the year anyway), might it conclude that the whole international gathering is of no value?
What might be next? Cut the entire event budget and just e-mail retail partners and press with new product news and allocations?
What I do know is that Swatch Group is in the luxury business, and does not sell a single product that anybody needs; even a plastic Swatch watch is obsolete in the smartphone era.
To continue its incredible success story, Swatch Group must create irrational desire for customers to buy its watches, and it must maintain strong relationships with retail partners that it needs to represent its brands on the ground.
We await news of how this will be achieved this year.