Pulling out of Baselworld and SIHH has saved organisations like Swatch Group, Festina, Swarovski and Movado millions of dollars.
The question remains, however, what has it cost?
We are now — finally — through the exhibition season, with journalists returning from a grueling four days touring factories and sitting through product presentations from Swatch Group’s luxury watch houses.
Retailers and press attending every watch brand event will have traveled to SIHH in Geneva, Movado in the Swiss Alps town of Davos, Festina in Lisbon, Fossil Group in Basel and Swatch Group in Zurich.
Next year, we assume, there will be a Breitling summit elsewhere as well, which will come on top of JCK and CoutureTime in Las Vegas and myriad smaller presentations in local markets by individual watch brands.
Retailers and journalists are a chatty bunch, and I can tell you, not only anecdotally but also empirically, that the splintering of the product launch season has not been welcomed. A common opinion is that this year’s caravan of events has been an expensive, unwelcome and unproductive time for those attending.
The brands and major groups may have saved a bit of time and money for themselves, but they effectively pushed the burden onto their partners.
Oh well. We are likely to see in the coming quarterly financial reports from the major groups that sales are roughly where they should be and so are profits. No harm done, they are likely to conclude.
But damage is being done to relationships that date back generations between brands and their retail partners. It may be a thrilling challenge to sell the finest watches in the world to affluent and excited customers, but it should not be a chore to work with the watchmakers.
I have stated repeatedly that I want Baselworld and SIHH to survive and thrive. They certainly need to adapt to what is happening in the modern world, and the first thing to look at is how to make it less expensive for exhibitors and visitors to come together.
Reduce this base cost, and you create headroom for innovation that can turn the shows into the global celebration the Swiss watch industry needs.
It is foolish to expect shareholders of massive, publicly listed companies to look beyond the bottom lines of their respective organisations, but decisions made in haste and for short term gain can have unintended consequences and costs down the line.