Swiss watch fair struggles to remain relevant in digital age

With several high profile brands leaving, watch trade show Baselworld has had to adapt to a changing timepiece market. Key to its future success will be how it remains relevant to attract a global audience of brands and buyers. Luxury makers are pivoting their conversations to build direct to consumer relationships via their own stores and social media, a reason why many big name brands, including Swatch, have taken a hiatus from the show.

Other brands, including Gucci, Hublot, Bulgari and Rolex are hoping their booths at Baselworld were inspiring with unique designs.

Heritage watch brands have been slow to rethink their designs and embrace technology, as smartwatches could easily be just as collectible. One of the coolest watches at this week's show was not by Rolex or Hublot, but a rainbow timepiece by Casio from its G-Shock collection. The limited-edition MT-G premium range watch is solar-powered and won’t break the bank costing under 1,000 euros. The smart watch industry has revolutionised timepieces, and no longer is purchasing a luxury watch the epitome of showing one's wealth.

Baselworld has recognised its needs to move forward with digital times and launched a chatbot to act as a personal concierge for visitors at this year's event, yet some brands are questioning the relevance of the show.

Swatch Group AG Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek told Bloomberg the company has no plans to return to Baselworld in coming years, raising the risk that the industry’s largest annual fair may become obsolete.

“There’s no need for it anymore,” Hayek said in an interview, “he world has changed.”

Switzerland’s watch fairs are struggling as brands focus on their open more boutiques to get closer to clients while turning to Instagram for marketing and selling more online, they’re questioning the value of annual trade fairs because they already have many ways to contact clients, noted Bloomberg.

Photo credit: Baselworld, source Baselworld website

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