Swiss watch manufacturer Breitling will not be returning to the Baselworld watch ad jewellery trade fair in 2020, and instead will focus on its own sales and communications platform, the Breitling Summit.

The announcement, made on Sunday, deals an additional blow to conference organiser MCH Group, which is dealing with declining numbers of exhibitors. Last year, Swatch Group pulled out all 18 of its watch brands, citing that traditional watch fairs no longer made sense for the group.

Read more: Swatch Group Quits Baselworld

No Bad Blood

Breitling’s exit is not all in bad blood. Kern and Michel Loris-Melikoff, Managing Director of Baselworld, share similar visions for the future of watch fairs. And Kern explicitly leaves open the possibility for Breitling’s return to Baselworld in 2021.

“We would like to emphasise that the extensive innovations developed and implemented by Baselworld’s management under Michel Loris-Melikoff in such a short time frame have had a positive impact and can lay the foundations to take Baselworld in a new direction in the future,” says Kern. “We will decide whether we will return to Baselworld from 2021 onward at a later date, and this will depend on the timing of the event and the possibility of holding the Breitling Summit.”

“The path Breitling is taking to present the brand as an experience is perfectly in line with our strategy of transforming Baselworld into an experience platform,” said Loris-Melikoff. “That’s why we jointly strove to integrate the Summit into Baselworld. In the end, no agreement was reached because the end of April date set for Baselworld 2020—from 30 April to 5 May—was too late for Breitling.”

Georges Kern at the Breitling Summit held during Baselworld 2019
Georges Kern at the Breitling Summit held during Baselworld 2019

On the other hand, Swatch CEO Nick Hayek said earlier last month that Swatch has no plans of returning for the next couple of years.

But while many have had their fair share of grumbles about the efficiency of Baselworld, there is no denying that MCH Group has put in a lot of efforts to keep up with the times and make the fair more manageable for all.

For a positive take on a fair, read our editor-at-large Ken Kessler’s opinion piece here.