Luxury watches have survived against the odds in the modern era. While many had predicted that luxury watches would go out of fashion, due to the invention and wide availability of less expensive timepieces, the opposite has occurred: luxury watches are more popular than ever. Luxury watches are thriving, thanks to consumer appreciation of their quality, craftsmanship, and style. However, while luxury watches themselves are going nowhere, it seems that watch shows are in jeopardy.
If you’re a watch aficionado, you’re surely familiar with the big watch shows, like Baselworld and SIHH. In the past, these major watch shows have been marketing mainstays for luxury watch brands. They’ve historically been a place where watch companies show off their big releases, creating fantastic displays that highlight their latest designs or newest technologies. Yet, it seems that some of the world’s top watch companies have begun to shy away from these watch shows.
In early 2018, the Swatch Group (which includes notable brands such as Omega, Harry Winston, and Breguet) announced that they were pulling out of Baselworld. The Swatch Group was Baselworld’s largest exhibitor and their exit amounted to a $50 million loss for the watch show. Unfortunately, Baselworld’s losses didn’t stop there. After the Swatch Group announced their departure from the show, Raymond Weil also pulled out of Baselworld for 2019.
Baselworld is not the only watch show to see departures. The other large watch show, SIHH, recently lost Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille, who announced they will no longer be attending as of 2020.
So, why are these major watch companies leaving the watch shows that used to be considered essential to marketing and networking? According to Nick Hayek Jr., the current CEO of Swatch, these shows are simply no longer relevant.
In today’s ever-changing market, it seems that big trade shows are going out of favor. Some companies have switched their marketing strategy to methods that give a better ROI, like local shows or exhibits that display only their products. More companies still have switched to digital promotions, which are far less costly for the brands but give excellent visibility among consumers. With the advance of the internet age, many companies are finding that launching, promoting, and marketing digitally is simply a more effective strategy than old-fashioned watch shows.
While Baselworld and SIHH haven’t made any announcements regarding the future of their events, their attendance losses certainly seem like a harbinger of things to come. Only time will tell if watch shows will find a way to stay relevant in the modern age or if they’ll soon be a thing of the past.