Article : The Baselworld Crisis!

Having never been to BaselWorld I’m sure as with all of us mad watch community we can’t wait for the hype around each show. The question is though is it going to continue or fail?

My initial idea and thought to this article was based on reading various pieces and watching YouTube channels about the continued withdrawal of various brands from Baselworld and we all know who they are.  I couldn’t help but start to think are these particular influencers one of the contributing factors to the iconic watch fair starting to look a little slim.

I know this topic has been discussed so many times since the withdrawal of the Swatch Group from the 2019 BaselWorld and now the recent news of Breitling withdrawing from 2020 the stat of 850 exhibitors withdrawing in the last two years can’t help but make me think that Switzerland is possibly undergoing a new crisis. This time quartz isn’t the enemy but the new kid on the block is ‘the influencer’.

Is the takeover of the Urban Gentry YouTube channel by Watchfinder a sign of things to come?

I myself spend hours on YouTube and Instagram scouring watch content and have my favourites as I’m sure we all do but I can’t help but think that certain channels are beginning to control my thoughts and explorer clicks. The quality of the YouTube watch channels are now so sleek and professionally edited it is almost like the salesmen/saleswoman at the jewellery store or AD is in your own front room.

Don’t get me wrong not all YouTubers are influencers, but how much can we trust them? Are they being encouraged through means of free watches or kickbacks to convince us that what they are reviewing is the best and we need that piece in our life? I certainly  feel that some of these channels are trying hard to make us drop money on some particular model but lets face it what they are really doing is making that grail piece take that little longer to obtain, or even make the lucky few say “no thanks” should they  be lucky enough to receive the call from the Rolex AD saying the stainless  steel sports model you enquired about 18 months ago has arrived.

Is Archie right and it is all about Rolex?
Scottish Watches and Moritz Grossmann

Back to BaselWorld and the exhibitor withdrawals. There are now a number of brands increasingly reliant on the likes of Hodinkee / Revolution Watch that their relationships with these online media platforms now form a significant portion of their own media and promotional operations. Even companies the size of Seiko, are pushing entire limited editions through these channels as an easy source of quick sales, witness the Alpinist Blue Ltd Edition launch and immediate sell out via Hodinkee.

The Hodinkee Shop, Home Page.

(Editors note : Have a listen to the latest Scottish Watches podcast with A Blog To Watch founder Ariel Adams to find out his thinking on Media becoming retailers.)

Recent suggestions are that LVMH group may be exhibiting their other non-watch brands in 2020 is this to take control of the event or is it a form of loyalty to the industry and exhibition?

The coverage at the event from Revolution and Hodinkee is great but there is a huge element of symbiosis between media groups and brands and perhaps too much and too obvious agreement to everything the manufacturers say in their press releases for the online regurgitation of the various media groups.

However these guys I feel are controlling the luxury watch market now and may end up being the main advertisers for these luxury brands and even hosting there own form of exhibition.

One great example of the agreeing to everything the watch experts say is in a Hodinkee podcast with Philippe Dufour and Jack Forster (who don’t get me wrong writes and says some interesting things). Philippe Dufour says that tourbillions are a gimmick in wrist watches and as expected Jack Forster totally agrees.

Surprise surprise, come on Hodinkee you guys love complications just like the rest of us. It wasn’t long since Jean Claude Biver was with them and they were saying and agreeing that the split second chronograph is the amoung the best complication.

Baselworld needs to keep its eye open to these new influencers if they wish to remain a tradition within the industry. Perhaps as others have mentioned they should have a year-round release magazine style site and they control all of the main release news across the year to keep us all excited. Basel lets any watch enthusiast attend which is rare with trade shows and exhibitions this needs to be there and stronger than ever for us watch geeks.

Is it the YouTubers and luxury magazine sites creating these withdrawals from Basel or us enthusiasts demanding content on a daily basis, are we potentially destroying a tradition through the now modern ways of social media?

At least we all know one thing mechanical watches will never at least I believe have another crisis via quartz or the smart device which I feel doesn’t deserve the term watch being attached to it.

But could the new crisis be the industry enthusiasts this time?

Am I being old in my ways or could this be the slow demise of BaselWorld?


Andy Witney