Every year, the watch industry anticipates and plans extensively around the two major trade shows, Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld. Major and minor brands alike use these events to announce new watches, while journalists, buyers and the general public capitalize on the shows for all manner of business and horological celebration. But this year is markedly different. Watches & Wonders and Baselworld have been called off for the sake of public safety because of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Here’s everything you need to know about the situation as it stands.
Why were the shows canceled?
Baselworld was canceled after Swiss authorities banned public gatherings following Watches & Wonders’ similar announcement only a day earlier. In both cases, concerns over public safety and the Covid-19 coronavirus were cited.
What happens next?
It’s a developing situation. For the time being, Baselworld has been “postponed” until January 2021, according to its organizers. We can still expect announcements of at least some of this year’s new watches to be released digitally. Many brands will certainly organize events more locally and individually throughout the year after the danger has passed.
When will brands’ new watches be announced?
The second or third quarter of 2020 is most likely. However, as many brands like to make their releases memorable with flashy events, it’s possible that there will be some brands experimenting with different approaches such as staggering out their various new releases, rather than announcing them all at once.
Will the postponed Baselworld replace next year’s show?
Baselworld’s organizers haven’t explicitly stated so, but it would seem like a logical solution — it would be awkward to have two Baselworlds within a few months of each other. As the watch trade shows had been going through some upheaval recently anyway, we fully anticipate more changes and updates to follow.
Who is most affected?
The organizers of Baselworld. The announcement comes about a week before the physical preparations for the show were set to begin. While brands will also need to find another way to introduce their newest products, many had already been doing so as the relevance and role of these trade shows had been shifting drastically in recent months.
What about the watches?
The trade show cancelations are a symptom of factors that might affect the watch industry more broadly. The coronavirus is already affecting stock markets and the global economy. In China, the outbreak’s epicenter and a major player in the watch industry’s production and consumption, many things have ground to a halt, including manufacturing. General economic uncertainty and times of financial hardship are never good for luxury products like watches. These types of factors can affect everything from prices to the types of new watches brands want to focus on.
What does this mean for the watch industry moving forward?
There is no question: this news is bad for the industry in the short term. Looking further down the road, however, it might do the watch world good to reevaluate the relevance of its trade shows. Canceling Baselworld this year gives its organizers a chance to save face amid declining participation even before the coronavirus, as well as time to address the issues that caused brands to opt-out of attendance or switch over to Watches & Wonders.