Swatch Group chief executive Nick Hayek has accused executives at MCH, the organiser of Baselworld, of arrogance and snobbery as he confirmed that all of the group’s brands have been withdrawn from the exhibition in 2019.
In explosive interview with American network CNBC, Mr Hayek challenges the fundamentals of giant trade shows like Baselworld at a time when there is year-round communication with retail partners and customers.
“The old traditional watch fair doesn’t make sense anymore. If you look around the world we are close to the consumer, close to the retailer,” he says.
Mr Hayek goes on to accuse Baselworld’s executive team of lacking the courage to make real progress.
“I invited the executives and told them they have a big opportunity to change. The Swiss watch industry is booming so now is the time to make changes. All of the Swiss watch industry is ready to help, not just Swatch Group. But you must open up. You must do something now,” he urges.
“We are ready to help, but for 2019 we are definitely out,” he concludes.
Michel Loris-Melikoff, who took over as managing director of Baselworld on July 1 this year concedes there is no chance of persuading Swatch Group to return in 2019, but has not given up hope of attracting the business back in the future.
“I do not think that such a decision can be communicated without being final. But we are of course in regular contact with this partner, as we are with all major Swiss watch groups, and we will strive to bring [Swatch Group] back,” he says in an interview with Swiss newspaper Le Temps.
He went on to defend the way Baselworld has communicated its ideas to develop the event.
“Some even claim that we have presented a fait accompli of Baselworld 2019, but I have trouble with this terminology. After the review of the 2018 edition, we presented new ideas for the first time May 3, then in the form of a summary concept in front of Swiss exhibitors gathered in Neuchâtel on May 29, and finally before the World Exhibit Committee on July 4th. We have incorporated the feedback into our plans and will present a detailed version on September 3rd. The design of our 2020 Vision is expected to be completed by November. But we had to launch without delay the sales process for 2019,” he explains.
Mr Loris-Melikoff goes on to state that the 2019 event already has 650 exhibitors confirmed, but could not rule out further departures.
“It is far too early to say. I note that our ideas for the fair were mostly received positively. This announcement, of course, raises questions. We will respond with transparency, letting you know in which direction we want to go. The press release that will be released Monday, as we had planned, was drafted in consultation with Swiss exhibitors,” he states.