Baselworld 2018 watch exhibition in Basel, Switzerland on March 22, 2018. (Shutterstock/mmuenzl)
Five of the world's biggest luxury watchmakers, including Rolex, Patek Philippe and Chanel, announced Tuesday they would withdraw from Baselworld to create a new watch fair.
Also joined by jeweler Chopard and Rolex subsidiary Tudor, the brands that for decades were considered pillars of the iconic fair in the northern Swiss city of Basel have decided to leave and instead create an annual event in Geneva, starting in April 2021, the Foundation High Horology (FHH) said in a statement.
"This departure follows a number of unilateral decisions made without consultation by Baselworld management," the statement said.
It criticized the fair organizers for, among other things, unilaterally deciding to cancel the 2020 edition, which had been scheduled to kick off at the end of April, amid concerns over the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It also slammed the organizers' "inability to meet the brands' needs and expectations."
The new show, which will be organized in cooperation with FHH, will take place in early April 2021 at Palexpo in Geneva, it said.
"We have taken part in Baselworld since 1939," Rolex chief Jean-Frederic Dufour, who is also a board member of Montres Tudor, said in the statement.
"Unfortunately, given the way the event has evolved... and in spite of the great attachment we had to this watch show, we have decided to withdraw," he said.
The MCH Group which organizes Baselworld said in a statement that it had received the news of the exhibitors' departure with "great surprise and equally great regret."
It stressed that the decision to push the next edition of its show back to January had been decided "jointly with leading exhibitors", and that "the companies now 'migrating' -- including Rolex -- spoke out in favor of a postponement to January 2021."
The companies in question "are also represented on the Exhibitors' Committee, where the future vision of Baselworld has been discussed on several occasions and has met with a positive response," it said.
"The intention to move to Geneva has never been mentioned. The MCH Group must therefore conclude that the relevant plans have been in preparation for some time and that the discussions concerning the financial arrangements for the cancellation of Baselworld 2020 are now being put forward as an argument."
Baselworld was long considered the signature event of the year for the watch industry, but the organizers have in recent years faced a range of criticisms, including over high costs, prompting several large brands to bid it adieu.
Swatch Group, which includes brands like Omega, Longines and Tissot, slammed the door last year to create a new event in Zurich.
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