CORDER’S COLUMN: Swiss cheese

Rob Corder, managing editor, WatchPro and managing director of Promedia. (Photo by Ausra Osipaviciute/ITP Images)

There were a number of huge holes in the main halls of Baselworld this year, the largest of which was close to the size of a football field where Omega, Longines and a dozen other Swatch Group stands used to be.

That was well-telegraphed ahead of the show, and the organizer attempted to turn it into a positive by moving a large press centre and a couple of over-priced restaurants into the gap.

More surprising were the yawning spaces up one floor in Hall 1.1 where, despite the whole of Hall 2 being closed this year, there were not enough exhibitors to fill it.


Why the fantastic independent watcmakers were collectively ejected across the outdoor plaza into an area they named Les Atelier is a mystery.

Presumably they could not pay the same price per square meter as Casio, Seiko and Nomos so had to be quarantined.

It is reasonable that organiser MCH Group is fair and consistent with pricing, but this was the sort of lose-lose outcome that needs a more creative solution.

My annual trip to Baselworld was not spoilt or diminished by its diminution, my four days were as productive and interesting as ever.

All the brands that showed in Davos, Zurich or Geneva are in constant contact with news, so WatchPro readers will not miss any of this year’s major launches.

This is the reality facing exhibitions today. Nobody needs to attend to see what’s new. They can follow all the news online.

However, I remain a strong supporter of Baselworld and SIHH and hope they find a formula for survival and future growth.

Their importance is not in the presentation of new product but in the sharing of ideas and the promotion of Swiss watchmaking as a global success story.

These two objectives are best-met when the biggest brands mix with the smallest; the industrialized share space with independents; the rich mingle with the cash-strapped; retailers and brands find common cause; press and the public are both welcome; the oldest companies share ideas with the newest.

The watch world needs diversity, fresh thinking and to be open to the most challenging ideas.

Nobody can be certain what threats and opportunities this industry will face in the future, but I believe we will profit most from disruption if the watch world comes together at fairs like Baselworld instead of fragmenting into self-interested tribes.

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  1. Rob. You hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph. What happens if the industry devolves into silos? I understand the cost effectiveness of Swatch Group running a separate event, and I understand the displeasure with the hospitality industry’s temporal price gouging of visitors at Basel, but I wonder if SG has thrown away the baby with the bathwater. Sure you can see a watch online, but its not the same as seeing it physically, touching it, trying it on. VR does not yet provide that opportunity in an easily accessible manner. Yes you can save money doing your own thing. Perhaps I’m being foolishly nostalgic or anachronistic, but is it worth it to jettison the BaselWorld reunion here you share ideas and experiences, and celebrate the heritage of a centuries-old industry? I think the burden lies largely on the MCH Group to find a relevant way to reconnect and strengthen the expo’s ties to all of the interested parties, in a way that compels attendees to come back year after year.

  2. Well written Rob. The presentation of the MCH group during the closing press conference was certainly promising and future orientated. We as trade (brands and retailers) should work together and exchange information in order to reach that common goal: surprise and entertain the consumer. BaselWorld and SIHH are ideal platforms to do so, in an ideal world both together in one building. It would be a pity if we as industry would waste such an opportunity


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