The impact COVID-19 has had on businesses and industries across the globe is monumental. This unpredicted pandemic has left many at loose ends and has shaken up the world as we know it. Despite the Swiss watch industry facing its fair share of struggles in the past, the coronavirus pandemic has led many businesses into the unknown and has caused problems that have never pre-existed. The industry leading watch brands are now faced with a massive economic hurdle to overcome as well as many more challenges.
This global disruption has caused shocks to the Swiss watch industry that have been unprecedented. With the rapid spread of COVID-19, governments across the globe have had no choice but to limit large gatherings, forcing some of the industry’s biggest events such as Baselworld and the Swatch group who were due to hold an event for their most prestigious brands to be pulled. As well as the cancellations of huge events in the industry, the governments lockdown implications in Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, the UK and many more countries has led to the closures of retailers all over the world including the United Kingdom’s largest watch retailer, Watches of Switzerland which also owns Mappin & Webb, Beaverbrooks and Goldsmiths. Not only have the retailers had to close, factories and manufacturers have also had to temporarily pause their production. This has thrown a spanner in the works, with stock being stuck behind closed doors and those long anticipated watch launches being delayed it leaves us customers waiting for watches and leaves brands with a lot of questions and very few certain answers.
So how are the leading watch brands dealing with this huge pandemic? Well, the major news was Rolex temporarily closing their production facilities in Geneva effective of Tuesday, March 17th to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Brands like TAG Heuer, Breitling and Patek Philippe soon followed suit. As well as that brands Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chopard and Chanel have announced they will not be returning to Baselworld in 2021 due to the shows failure to consult the major exhibitors about key decisions regarding the postponement of next year’s event. These brands are now establishing their own show in reaction to the way they have been treated by Baselworld. A quote from Rolex CEO Frédéric Dufour “We have taken part in Baselworld since 1939. Unfortunately, given the way the event has evolved and the recent decisions made by MCH Group, and in spite of the great attachment we had to this watch show, we have decided to withdraw. Following discussions initiated by Rolex, it seemed only natural to create a new event with partners that share our vision and our endless, unwavering support for the Swiss watchmaking sector. This will allow us to present our new watches in line with our needs and expectations, to join forces and better defend the interests of the industry.” Being Rolex being one of Baselworlds leading watch brands it holds question in the future of Baselworld and what will happen to the show as it enters survival mode.
Rolex and Tudor have also announced they will be postponing the launch of the new 2020 watches indefinitely. Initially Rolex and Tudor had plans to release their new watches on the date of what would have been day one of Baselworld this year. However, with the difficulties of face to face meetings and presentations this proved to be unachievable, the watches were to be unveiled online on both the Rolex and Tudor website, however that too has been scratched. Rolex and Tudor have stated that their priority is to stand by people and help bring support in the best way possible and they will release the new watches at a later date. Patek Philippe have also announced they will be postponing their 2020 watch launches until next year. Surprisingly enough, the bran has for the first time allowed their retailers to sell their watches online. It would seem the Coronavirus has effectively forced us into online society.
During these uneasy and unsettling times, both retailers and watch brands are coming together to help each other in the best way possible. With strict instructions from the government is important everyone abides in order to get through this crisis more efficiently. Hopefully those beloved brands will be able to resume production in good time and we can look forward to those anticipated timepieces we have been waiting for.