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Baselworld - Get ready for the Community District

Baselworld Get ready for the Community District

A new exhibition space will be inaugurated in 2020. Maurice Lacroix has already signed up, confirming its return to Baselworld.

Baselworld 2018 was the fair’s first year under the new Managing Director, Michel Loris-Melikoff. Inevitably, the event felt different, and for some exhibitors, retailers, visitors and media representatives, it was all a bit disconcerting. The fair had to cope with the exodus of several major brands – including the entire Swatch Group, a major upheaval – and there were empty spaces to be filled throughout the exhibition halls. In October 2018, after 30 years’ attendance at Baselworld, Maurice Lacroix announced it would decline the invitation for 2019; Breitling, who was there in 2019, and had plenty of positive things to say (see our interview with Georges Kern) nevertheless took the decision, less than a month after the fair closed its doors, that it would not be returning in 2020. The LVMH group, however, has confirmed it would be present in 2020, along with Rolex and Tudor. It’s a shifting scene of withdrawals and confirmations, with as yet few promises to return.

Several brands have praised the efforts made by Michel Loris-Melikoff and his team to listen to their concerns, and his commitment to revamping the Baselworld concept to give the brands more flexibility in how they present themselves. The 2019 fair saw the introduction of a “Watch Incubator” space, although it remained relatively low-profile. 2020 will mark the début of the Community Concept, which was announced last week. Will this be enough to attract new brands to Baselworld, or to bring back those (mainly mid-sized) brands who threw in the towel in the face of skyrocketing costs? The idea has already won over at least one brand: Maurice Lacroix. Twelve months after the decision to withdraw from Baselworld, the Jura watchmaker has announced its comeback for next year.

Place au Community District

Michel Loris-Melikoff, Managing Director de Baselworld © Baselworld

The Community District will be located in Hall 1.0. The space will be made up of several contemporary architectural constructions, all transparent. Each can accommodate two or three brands, and the two-storey interiors will be completely customisable, a recurring request from the brands, to which the Baselworld management has now responded. “We wanted to come with customisable turnkey solutions that met their demands and their needs, particularly for brands with extensive distribution networks, which means welcoming thousands of clients, while at the same time developing big experience zones for the general public,” explains Michel Loris-Melikoff.

He has promised “competitive pricing” for the areas available within the Community District. Its location right in the centre of Hall 1 guarantees high visibility for mid-sized brands that are often relegated to the second floor which, with its long branching aisles, receives far fewer visits and can be difficult to navigate without a map. Finally, the fact that the booths in the Community District will be built by Baselworld and made available to the brands, who will be free to customise them as they see fit, will be a boon for logistics.

Will Maurice Lacroix’s return be the first of many? The Community District has a lot to offer, and it could even persuade some brands that habitually set up shop in nearby hotels to relocate to the heart of the exhibition. 

In another logistical change, Baselworld has joined forces with the Basel Hoteliers’ Association to create a centralised e-concierge service for hotel and flight reservations for exhibitors and visitors, whether travelling as individuals or in groups. This welcome move might also help to put a cap on the inflated prices charged by some Basel hotels during the watch fair, which would certainly bring more exhibitors on side.

The coming months will determine whether the new approach being taken by the Baselworld organisers has borne fruit. If we see more announcements about old brands returning in 2020, or new brands taking the plunge, we’ll know it is working.

Keep an eye out for part II of this article, where we examine more responses from Baselworld organisers, exhibitors and the media.


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Based in the Jura region of Switzerland, Maurice Lacroix has been producing fine Swiss timepieces for over 40 years and has developed 14 in-house movements over the past ten years.

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