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For several weeks now, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have led to significant restrictions in public life. While virologists are arguing to maintain the lockdown for some time, the economy is struggling to cope with the effects of the crisis. The watch industry is also facing the consequences of the corona crisis and is constantly confronted with new challenges that need to be dealt with. Currently, we receive updates from the watch industry every minute, which is why we would like to keep you informed about the latest developments in the watch world and share some interesting news about the Baselworld with you.

Is this the end of the Baselworld?

Baselworld organisers and exhibitors come to an agreement

A statement made by the Baselworld organisers (MCH Group) on Thursday, 7 May 2020, caught our attention. After many watch manufacturers had announced their final withdrawal from the Baselworld, it seemed that fronts between the Baselworld operators and some exhibitors had hardened. However, in the news section of their website, the Baselworld organisers now stated that they had come to an agreement with the Swiss Exhibitors’ Committee regarding the cancelled Baselworld 2020.

In an announcement, Rolex's Head of Investments and Logistics and Chairman of the Baselworld Exhibitors' Commission, Hubert J. du Plessix, not only announces that he "[...] welcome[s] the constructive attitude of the representatives of the MCH Group [...]", but also thanks "[...] Patek Philippe, Rolex, Tudor, Chanel, Chopard, Hublot, Zenith and Tag Heuer, who, in a spirit of solidarity with the sector as a whole, have agreed to a lower refund so that the other exhibitors can benefit from better conditions".

However, he is not the only one with conciliatory words. Bernd Stadlwieser, Chairman of the MCH Group's Board of Directors, is also addressing the press with an optimistic view of the future. He draws a positive conclusion "with the amicable settlement for Baselworld 2020" and now wants to "concentrate fully on the future".

How does the future of the Baselworld look like?

It is still to be seen, however, whether the view into the future is really as bright as Stadlwieser claims. After all, at the end of the same press release, the MCH Group announced the cancellation of the Baselworld 2021 which was planned for 28 January to 02 February. According to Baselworld's Managing Director Michel Loris-Melikoff, the company is now "[...] working intensively on clarifying and discussing the requirements and options for new platforms" together with exhibitors and visitors. Decisions on follow-up formats are to be made by summer, so that information about the new concept and future planning can be provided promptly afterwards. Can we expect a concept similar to the Watches & Wonders online event for the future Baselworld? Allegedly, the fair will be given a new name and take place at a new location. Further details are not yet known, however.

The Baselworld as we have known and appreciated it will probably no longer exist in the future. Nevertheless, we remain excited and are very much looking forward to the fair's new concept.

Breitling's one-man show

But there are not only negative headlines. Apart from the latest presentations at this year's Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH), which is taking place online for the first time, the watch manufacturer Breitling has now independently presented new models and concepts through its own webcast. In the roughly 19-minute video, Breitling CEO Georges Kern himself leads through the latest Breitling creations, including the Superocean Heritage '57 as a tribute to the surfing lifestyle of the 50s and 60s, a new edition of the legendary Breitling Chronomat, and the first feminine version of the Breitling Navitimer, the Navitimer '35. Kern talks enthusiastically about the processes behind the scenes and presents the highlights of each model.

In addition to a whole range of new models and reinterpreted classics, the company surprises with another innovation: digital watch passes by the end of 2020. These are designed to make it easier for the owner of the watch to check the status of his or her watch and, if the watch is sold, to verify its authenticity quickly and easily. Furthermore, it is supposed to be possible to change ownership easily via the online platform protected by the highly secure Bitcoin approved Blockchain technology. This will make things much more difficult for forgers and thieves in the future. Soon, the haptic warranty cards and certificates of authenticity will be history at Breitling.

At the same time, Breitling is also planning to change the presentation of its watches. The large, elaborate and popular presentation boxes will soon give way to smaller cases. It remains to be seen whether Breitling will sell its watches only in their travel cases without the boxes, or whether the company will replace them with a whole new packaging design. In terms of sustainability, this is definitely a very positive development.

Rolex and Co. in a deep sleep

This year, friends of fine timepieces will probably have to search the second-hand market for new pieces for their watch collections. Due to the ongoing production stops, the waiting lists for individual watch models will most likely not be processed as planned.

Industry giant Rolex, for example, stopped production on 17 March 2020 and has been in a deep sleep ever since, with no one yet knowing how long it will last. So you might want to prepare yourself for another year of waiting for your next Submariner or GMT Master II.

Patek Philippe, on the other hand, closed all its factories on 21 March 2020 and only recently, on 27 April, reopened all areas of the company - however strictly following hygienic regulations. Employees, for example, are now working fewer hours and in reduced numbers on site.

What does the future hold for the watch industry?

Since the Swiss watch industry is one of the strongest industries of the country, it can be assumed that the government will not allow individual watch manufacturers to have to close down due to the impact of the corona crisis. At least that is what we hope for, because then friends of smaller brands will be relieved and won't have to worry about the survival of their favourite manufacturer.

We will have to wait and see how the situation develops, but we will keep you updated with the latest news from the world of Haute Horlogerie. Stay healthy!