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Retailers question wisdom of reviving a watch and jewelry show in Basel

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Retailers have reacted with indifference to news that Baselworld’s organizer, MCH Group, will launch a new show in Basel called HourUniverse in April next year.

MCH says it took two months after the permanent closure of Baselworld to “listen, analyse, identify; and create an innovative platform to meet today’s needs”, but retailers responding to WatchPro said they were not part of the process.

“Weir and Sons were not consulted about Basel next April. We are only a minnow when it comes to such decisions,” says David Andrews, chief executive of Dublin’s Weir and Sons, by far the largest luxury watch retailer in Ireland.

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Weir and Sons is an authorized dealer for Rolex, Patek Philippe and all the major watch brands from LVMH, Richemont and Swatch Group, and sees Geneva as the place to be next April. It has not, however, ruled out a visit to Basel if required.

“Whether we attend will depend on who the exhibitors will be. Geneva is the must attend event,” Mr Andrews suggests.

John Shmerler, CEO of Radcliffe Jewelers, a two store multi-brand retailer in Baltimore anchored by Rolex, believes it will be tough to persuade people to visit Basel without any of the blockbuster brands.

“I wasn’t contacted at all during the planning process,” Mr Shmerler says. “In the end, any show without the big boys (Rolex, Patek, AP etc) will have appeal that is limited to the true enthusiast.  Perhaps the inclusion of pre-owned and jewelry will widen the appeal, but in the end I’m not really sure how this fills a great niche.  I look forward to learning more about it as maybe it will answer some of the questions swimming in my head.”

Berry’s Jewellers, one of England’s foremost luxury retailers with nine stores representing Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Omega, Breitling, Panerai, IWC Schaffhausen, Cartier, Chanel, Fope and Bulgari, says HourUniverse is is going to be a tough sell.

“It’s too little, too late, ” says the group’s managing director Simon Walton.

“The luxury watch brands will be in Geneva, why do we need to shlepp to Basel and who will be there worth seeing?” he asks. “If I was a luxury jewellery manufacturer I would want to be in Geneva not Basel.”

Hank Siegel, president of Hamilton, which has stores in Princeton, NJ, and Palm Beach, Fl, wants the industry to rally round a single show, but he is sufficiently open minded to wait for additional details of the Basel show.

“It would be beneficial, I believe, to retailers to make one single trip to Switzerland to see watch brands, technology, marketing ideas, stones and gems, and finished jewelry resources. That ‘single source’ still has viability, although Las Vegas and Hong Kong have filled the void vacated by Baselworld in the last years. I think that MCH has a single chance to get it right, as those visiting Geneva will certainly come to see what is in Basel out of curiosity once. But if not well executed with a wide enough variety of resources – both new and trusted, established ones – it will be very difficult to get us back,” Mr Siegel suggests.

 

1 Comment

  1. It shouldn’t be a painful decision. While the industry cannot find a one-size-fits-all, single stop-and-shop solution to the watch fairs, perhaps the easy answer is, if you’re in the pocket of the major brands, then you have no reason to come to Hour Universe, but if you are a retailer who supports smaller and/or independent brands (because you actually understand that your merchandise mix should be something to surprise and delight your customers who perhaps seek a timepiece that is not what everybody else has or aspires to) then the Basel event likely makes perfect sense, even is its a day trip from Geneva. I think Hank Siegel has it right: MCH has one shot to get it right and atone for past mistakes. Let’s hope the City of Basel is on the same page.

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Rob Corder

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