Dear Baselworld…

An open letter about love, loss, and the future

An Opinion Piece by Katlen Schmidt

Dear Baselworld,

So we hear you got dumped, again. It would seem that the blows just keep coming at you, and to your credit, you just continue to take them and keep limping by. Not to bring up old wounds and past relationships, but first it was Swatch Group. Let’s be honest, that was a big hit. It seemed that after they left, you started to get your act together and realized that you had to work harder. You made a big to-do about changing the way you were going to handle attendees and media, being more friendly and even providing work space. You, like so many of us, decided 2020 was going to be your year, embracing new ideas like social media and trying to accommodate more people by changing your dates. But when you did so, did you think about how those changes would affect others?

What we are learning from your ever-evolving soap opera drama Baselworld, is that you seem to have an issue with communication. Did you consider that moving your event without consulting the brands involved would affect national holidays? No. As a result, you lost the love and adoration of Grand Seiko, Seiko, Citizen, and a few others whom you thought weren’t important. And now we discover that you didn’t learn from your mistakes. You made the right call to cancel this year’s event as we knew it, but then pushed it off to January of next year without talking to those impacted most, the brands.

Look at you, reeling from your very public breakup with Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chopard, and Chanel. Did you really think that you could postpone an event by 10 months and everyone was going to be okay with it? Did you think they wouldn’t want their money back? You even selfishly thought they would pay you more! To make matters worse, they left you for another. For someone you thought was a friend. They’ve moved on to partner with Watches and Wonders to create something new and exciting, leaving you to lick your wounds and figure out where to go next. The world is watching, laughing at you, saying “I told you so” and “this is the end”.

Listen to me Baselworld, this doesn’t have to be it. I beg you, don’t let this be it. You can be better; I know that you can. So I’m going to take the liberty here and give you some unsolicited advice…

Embrace these changes! Don’t let them be your demise. Change isn’t easy, especially for an event that is one hundred and three years old, but now is the time to grow. Don’t grovel at the feet of past loves. They’re gone and if you’re not careful, you will lose others. Embrace what you have. Baselworld, you are truly in a position to create something new and exciting. You still have the love of some amazing big brands like Oris, Hublot, TAG Heuer, etc. But do you know what else you have, an incredibly large selection of microbrands and independent brands that you’ve been dismissing for years.

Now, hear me out, and I know you aren’t going to like it…

Focus on those that you’ve been neglecting. We’ve all heard the stories so don’t try to deny it. This is the time to create an event like no other. The reality is that microbrands and independents are growing in popularity and market share like they have never before. And you know what, with the exception of smaller events like Wind Up Watch Fair in the United States and Watch It! Watch Fair in the U.K., there’s no one else doing it. You have the opportunity to etch out a new era of event, one that blends high horology, the up and coming micro brands, and the independents together. You could even welcome other types of exhibitors in the industry and embracing your roots as a trade show.

Here’s where it’s going to hurt. You’re going to have to accept that you are not your former glory. Baselworld, you need to let go of these notions that you are better than everyone else. Those grandiose requirements for multi-story exhibitions in the main hall are over. Hiding the micro brands and independents in an upstairs room, that’s over too. Charging ridiculous prices for both exhibitors and attendees…yea, that’s definitely gone. But if you did it, if you pulled this off, you would have an event like no other on this global scale. Oh, and did I forget to mention that you can’t be salty with Watches and Wonders. I know they conspired and took from you, but you’ll need them. You will need to piggyback off of their event much as you had planned on for 2020. After all, if press, media, and attendees are there for one, there’s no reason they won’t come for both.

Here’s the hard truth Baselworld. If you do not change something, you will become obsolete. You know it, I know it, and the world knows it. Honestly, I don’t think anyone wants to see that. While big exhibitions like yours are unnecessary with the evolution of watch media and social media, there is still and energy and excitement you provide that can’t be duplicated. So this is my plea and the ball is in your court. Don’t let us down.

Sincerely,

A Watch Enthusiast Who Hasn’t Given Up On You

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