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Swatch No More at Baselworld

“For 2019 we are definitely out,” Nick Hayek told CNBC. And with that, not a single Swatch Group brand will be at Baselworld 2019.

 

The move is stunning and unprecedented; the world’s biggest watch fair will now have to function without the world’s biggest watch group.

 

Mr. Hayek has simply had enough. No longer can he deal with what he perceives to be the arrogance and snobbery that plagues how MCH, the organizers of Baselworld, do business. “The old traditional watch fair doesn’t make sense anymore,” Hayek went on to tell CNBC, and “now is the time to make changes.”

 

This way of thinking underpins the Swatch MO. Along with Seiko, the company was one of the chief architects of the 1970s Quartz Crisis, a backlash against tradition in favour of innovation that isn’t all too dissimilar to the present day predicament. What all those connected with MCH will be hoping is that the consequences are not as fatal as they were 40 years ago.

 

The organizers have, in an act that perfectly illustrates Hayek’s point, refused to back down. “I note that our ideas for the fair were mostly received positively,” Baselworld managing director Michel Loris-Melikoff told Swiss newspaper Le Temps, before then conceding that “the announcement, of course, raises questions.”

 

It remains to be seen who blinks first, although it’s hard to imagine Baselworld continuing to be an event on the scale that it presently is without all 18 of Swatch’s brands. Even more damning is just how much sense Swatch’s grievances makes. “Today everything has become more transparent, fast-moving, and instantaneous. Accordingly, a different rhythm and approach is needed,” read the company’s official statement on the matter. And it’s hard to argue this isn’t the case.

 

MCH and Baselworld as a whole has to be wake up to this. Failure to do so could leave them as architects of their own downfall.