Breitling, one of Switzerland's most popular fake watch brands, has decided not to return to Baselworld for the 2020 show. Instead, it will hold its own sales and communication event next year, called the Breitling Summit.
The company announced its decision on Sunday, April 14. In a statement, Breitling CEO Georges Kern praised Baselworld's new management and the show's new direction. The problem, he said, was the show's new dates. Baselworld is later next year; it will be held from April 30 to May 5.
"The decisive factor is the timing of Baselworld at the end of April," Kern said, "which cannot be reconciled with our scheduling."
Kern said Breitling had "a successful Baselworld in 2019? We would like to emphasize that the extensive innovations developed and implemented by Baselworld's management under Michel Loris-Melikoff in such a short time frame have had a positive impact and can lay the foundations to take Baselworld in a new direction in the future."
Breitling is choosing to show its replica watches at "Summits" instead of the usual shows.
However, he said, "The summit platform, which has already been introduced, allows us to be flexible regarding where and when we inform our target groups about brand developments and product launches. We will continue to focus on this platform as it enables us to respond personally to customers, media representatives, sales partners and collectors.
"We will decide whether we will return to Baselworld from 2021 onwards at a later date, and this will depend on the timing of the event and the possibility of holding the Breitling Summit."
Kern's decision to leave was not unexpected. Since joining Breitling as CEO in 2017, he has been outspoken about his preference for summits and road shows to once-a-year trade fairs. Last fall, he introduced the first Breitling Summit in London, a day of presentations to dealers and press about company plans and products. Earlier this year, he promoted the Navitimer 8 collection on a nine-city roadshow with stops in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the U.S.
Trade scuttlebutt had Breitling leaving Baselworld after last year's show; many were surprised when Kern signed up for Baselworld 2019. Rumors at this year's show, which closed on March 26, said Breitling would not be back.Not A Shock
Breitling's Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition (left) next to the vintage inspiration (right).
While not a shock, Breitling's departure is a blow for Baselworld, which has lost 1,000 exhibitors over the past three years. Its new management team is revamping the show for the digital era and hoped to keep big-name brands like Breitling on board for the unveiling of the new format in 2020.
"Of course, we are disappointed that Breitling dropped out," Baselworld managing director Loris-Melikoff told HODINKEE in a phone interview from Switzerland shortly after the Breitling announcement on Sunday.
Breitling held its summit during Baselworld this year. The two parties negotiated in an effort to incorporate the summit into the show period next year, but the date is too late for Breitling.
SIHH and Baselworld running back-to-back and later in the year was a big part of Breitling's decision.
Loris-Melikoff is hopeful that Baselworld and Breitling can resolve the scheduling conflict for Baselworld 2021. Breitling and Baselworld agree that emotional experiences are key to communicating in the digital age, Loris-Melikoff said. "Breitling's new concept is in many respects in line with our strategy of transforming Baselworld into an experience platform. Georges Kern appreciates that Baselworld is really changing. Now we have to keep in touch and make it convenient that Breitling will come back. I am sure we are going to find a solution," Loris-Melikoff said.ADVERTISEMENT A Scheduling Nightmare
Hall 1 will look very different next year, without Breitling as a major anchor.
Baselworld's later date is the result of the decision by it and SIHH to coordinate the show dates so that visitors can attend both shows on the same trip. Previously, with SIHH in January and Baselworld in March, many visitors had to come twice.
However, finding dates that worked for all involved -- the shows, the exhibitors and the visitors ?"was a nightmare," Loris-Melikoff said. The shows need two to three months to set up and dismantle the exhibits. Plus, the calendar for the first five months of the year is loaded with events in various countries that present scheduling conflicts: Chinese New Year, Golden Week in Japan, Ramadan, Easter, Pentecost, Passover, and more. "There is no perfect date for all participants," Loris-Melikoff said. The late April/early May period was the only opportunity available in the first half of the year.
The coordinated show dates for 2021 to 2024 have been set, but the shows have not announced them because they remain tentative. "If even more exhibitors say that the new date does not suit them, we will of course have to reopen the discussion," Loris-Melikoff said. However, he said, he has had few complaints about the later date. Exhibitors were informed of the 2020 dates in December, he said, and most have accepted them.Tudor On Its Own
Tudor's Black Bay P01 was one of the most talked about replica watches at Baselworld 2019.
Baselworld countered the Breitling news with some positive news on the exhibitor front for 2020. It announced that Replica Rolex, one of the show's two top anchor brands (with Patek Philippe) will have an even larger presence at the show. Next year Tudor will build its own stand in a new space in Hall 1.0, the main fake watch hall, separate from Replica Rolex, its sister brand. Replica Rolex and Tudor have exhibited side-by-side as part of the same giant exhibit. Replica Rolex will expand to take over the area Tudor occupied.
"This is a very strong signal," Loris-Melikoff told HODINKEE, "a demonstration of confidence in the successful future of Baselworld."
In 2020, the Replica Rolex booth will take over the space formerly allotted to Tudor, and Tudor will get its very own booth.
Another good sign: A number of exhibitors who left the show want to return. "We are talking to between 20 and 30 exhibitors that left in 2017 and 2018," Loris-Melikoff said. "They called us and told us, 'We heard what you are planning and we are very interested and we want to come back.'" He declined to name the brands since negotiations are ongoing.
Asked for a prediction about the number of exhibitors at Baselworld 2020, Loris-Melikoff said it was too soon to offer a specific number. "I would say next year we will have more exhibitors than this year, for sure." Baselworld 2019 had 520 exhibitors. His ambitions are very high, he says. "Realistically, if we come back at a number between 600 and 700, it would be lovely."Breitling Baselworld Breitling Premier Bentley Centenary Celebrating in Style 3363