Swatch Says Baselworld Pullout Is Permanent as Watch Fairs Wilt

(Bloomberg) -- Swatch Group AG Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said Switzerland’s largest watchmaker 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 ahead of the company’s annual press conference in Biel. “The world has changed.”

Swatch Says Baselworld Pullout Is Permanent as Watch Fairs Wilt

Switzerland’s watch fairs, which include Baselworld and the Geneva watch salon, are trying to stay alive as big-name attendees such as Audemars Piguet pull out. As brands 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.

MCH Group AG, which organizes Baselworld, fell as much as 3 percent Thursday. The conference organizer came under massive pressure after Swatch and others decided to ditch this year’s fair, and has since been trying to win attendees back.

Hayek said in July Swatch wouldn’t attend Baselworld this year but it was unclear whether the decision meant the watchmaker would never return. Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille and Van Cleef & Arpels have decided to leave the Geneva show. Hong Kong in recent years stopped having an annual Watches & Wonders fair.

Watchmakers like Richemont have been trying to cut out the middleman and rely on their own distribution networks. The organizers of Baselworld and the Geneva salon have decided to coordinate the schedules of next year’s shows, previously held several months apart, to accommodate visitors who otherwise would have to have to fly to Switzerland twice.

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