Hold the Front Page! —
— In July, Swatch Group’s CEO Nick Hayek dropped a bombshell via an interview with the Sunday edition of Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZAS) that his group would no longer be exhibiting at Baselworld. In the interview, he criticized the show’s management over its unwillingness to accept feedback or direction from the exhibiting brands after having been presented with a finalized concept: “Unfortunately, we were, once again, presented with a fait accompli.” For a few hours, this unprecedented move left enough room for speculation that it may have been a bold tactic from Hayek to bring down cost significantly and, at the same time, emerge as the knight in shining armor who saved the struggling show after having reconsidered his decision. But then, Baselworld replied. The show immediately issued a press release that “contradicted the representation [...] which claimed that the exhibitors had not been notified about the new concept.” René Kamm, CEO of MCH Group (Baselworld’s parent company) stated, “The cancellation is all the more surprising for us because this news reaches us at a point in time when new management has arrived with a new team, new esprit and many new ideas.”
What an astounding revelation on how damaged the relationship between the show and Swatch must have been already (at least from Swatch’s perspective), if your largest client (the group’s annual exhibition budget was 50 million Swiss francs, according to Hayek) leaves “the world’s most important trade show for watches” without even bothering to tell you first. And, on the other side of the aisle, how tonedeaf do you have to be to contradict your client’s statement publically? Even if true, the client’s always right. This would have been the time to finally admit that mistakes were made. And, at the same time, initiate a dialogue and a change process that would actually involve all the stakeholders – especially since we are talking about a company based in a country that basically invented the Round Table, a country that is known for its neutrality, diplomatic skills and its people with an absolute dislike for confrontation. When humbleness was expected, it almost felt like the show continued to experience delusions of grandeur. Yes, Baselworld has been vital for the industry for over 100 years, but it is not irreplaceable, and if the show expects loyalty from its partners in desperate times, they should be treated as such.
Looking back at this year’s Baselworld, one of the most impressive stands at the trade show was undoubtedly the new booth from Citizen Watch Co. The Japanese group celebrated time and, more importantly, its 100th anniversary with an accessible “time theatre,” and proved to be a tour de force with new watches and the launch of an equally impressive marketing initiative. In this issue, Logan R. Baker takes a closer look at the group’s past, its future, “and why Citizen is bigger and more influential than ever.” He also talked with Meistersinger about the brand’s “single-handed approach to timekeeping.” Mark Bernardo, on the other hand, introduces you to a brand “only a relative handful of American collectors are aware of”: Swiss watchmaker Eberhard, which celebrated its 130th anniversary “of uninterrupted watch production” last year and is now eying the U.S. market. And having recently published a book about “[Roy] Lichtenstein’s life through the lens of New York City,” Bernardo was the perfect fit to write about the increasingly popular partnerships between watch brands and artists.
Last but not least, we tested watches from Rolex, Panerai, Anonimo, Montblanc, Seiko and Oris for this issue, and we introduce you to the thinnest automatic watch currently available, the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon. We also take a closer look at Baume & Mercier’s new Baumatic collection, talked with Vacheron Constant in about the retro contemporary Fifty six and partnered with Christie’ s Auction House for a deep dive into vintage watches.