Baselworld hasn’t been doing too well in the past few years, and the prognosis looks grim. The world’s largest watch and jewelry fair saw its list of exhibitors drop 50 percent in 2018, and now Seiko has canceled their exhibition for Baselworld 2020, stating that it won’t continue to exhibit at the fair.
Baselworld has been held annually in Basel, Switzerland, for the last 102 years. The 2019 iteration saw the number of exhibitors drop another 20 percent, with only 520 showing up. Attendance was also down 22 percent, dropping the number of visitors to 81,200. The media also opted to not attend in large numbers, with only 3,300 showing up, a drop of 12 percent. The question on everyone’s mind is how, and even if, Baselworld will survive. A new management team has been put into place, but they have their work cut out for them. “We were in a downward spiral,” said Michel Loris-Melikoff, the show director. “The whole format of Baselworld has to be changed.” Many of those changes have already happened, but the biggest changes are set for next year. Even with Rolex and Patek Philippe confirming they will attend, the world is still wondering if Seiko knows something the rest of the world doesn’t know about the show.
Baselworld organizers will be spending the next year making the pitch to attend not only to current exhibitors, but to those that have left over the last three years. Part of that pitch is a new price structure that reduces fees by 10 to 30 percent. They’re also planning on several innovations like live streaming, seminars, conferences, new show areas for new products and exhibitors, and a digital exchange platform that will be available 365 days a year that offers “all participants a digital platform with numerous information, service and networking tools throughout the year.” Baselworld also plans on offering new services for visitors, including e-concierge service to help with booking travel, accommodation, and restaurants. Whether it’s enough remains to be seen.