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Editorial - An ant among the giants shows the way forward

Editorial An ant among the giants shows the way forward

Freed from the constraints of Baselworld, brands both small and large are finding innovative ways to communicate.

Ever since last year’s mass exodus from Baselworld and the announcement that Baselworld would immediately succeed the SIHH next year I have wondered how brands would adapt their product cycles and communications strategies. These are, after all, what define our own editorial calendar and how we bring you news of the latest developments in the industry. With this year’s SIHH out of the way and Baselworld rapidly approaching, I am gradually starting to get some answers. While some brands who left Baselworld chose to exhibit in Geneva during the SIHH week, others will be in Basel but not at Baselworld and still others will be entirely absent from both. The luxury brands of the Swatch Group, for example, will present all their 2019 collections to their customers in March, while the press and the general public will not hear about them until May. 

Eberhard & Co. was one of the first brands to announce that it was leaving Baselworld. The brand’s Managing Director, Mario Peserico, took the difficult decision after exhibiting at the show for 70 years. We can consider him as a trend-setter, even though the trend was an unfortunate one. The brand has since organised its own roadshows that have been hugely successful, and reorganised its planning around four separate periods of the year. But Mario Peserico does not exclude returning to Baselworld if the conditions are right and will still be attending Baselworld this year as a visitor.

Having a product pipeline that is independent of Baselworld has given brands like Eberhard & Co. much greater flexibility. “Previously, we had to focus everything on the exhibition,” explains Mr Peserico. “And sometimes we had to postpone deliveries, meaning that the watches were not available until six months after they were first presented. This is not what customers want. Once you present something it needs to be ready as soon as possible. Now the period is much shorter.” 

The same flexibility also extends to communications, which is why, out of the blue in mid-February, Eberhard & Co. has been able to tease us with the launch of a new movement. Along the same lines as Omega, who announced the reproduction of the legendary calibre 321 at the start of the year without presenting a watch to go with it, Eberhard & Co. have announced a brand-new in-house movement that harks back to the era of pocket watches. The new calibre EB 140 is a hand-would movement that will have a unique architecture. It’s a significant milestone for Eberhard & Co., since the brand has just moved back to its historic premises in La Chaux-de-Fonds and is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its first chronograph. “We wanted to do something 100 years later,” explains Mr. Peserico, “but we are also communicating that we are investing in a development. This is not a vanity project and our price positioning will, as usual, be very fair.” The watch itself is less important in the discourse, at least at this stage. Eberhard & Co. is targeting April or May – without the pressure of Baselworld the brand can allow itself the luxury of vagueness. 

An ant among the giants shows the way forward

Calibre EB 140 © Eberhard & Co.

With these announcements, both Omega and Eberhard & Co. might well be showing us the shape of things to come as far as brand communications are concerned. Freed from the constraints of Baselworld, and knowing in advance when they will be shipping watches to stores, they can maximise the impact of their communications. They don’t need to clamour for attention over the same ten days as their competitors. Instead, they can tease their fans early in the year, then come back later for a second round when the watch is ready. For me personally, and professionally, this is a welcome development, since it spreads the news in more regular intervals throughout the year and helps to foster a lively interest in the industry throughout the year. Although brands won’t be launching movements like this every year, of course. 

What does this mean for the future of exhibitions like the SIHH and Baselworld, especially when they will be held back-to-back next year? I leave the last word to Mario Peserico: “I hope the best for Baselworld. I hope they will find a way to represent the industry as a whole. We need something now. When the SIHH comes closer to Baselworld next year, and Swatch Group organises its own event in the same period, things will become even more complicated for the customer. There should be just one fair. I have been saying this for 20 years, but I am just an ant walking among giants.”

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