Together AgainBy Ken Kessler
The heir to the Kessler debt tells his old man how pissed off he is that SIHH and Baselworld will be running sequentially in 2020. “First SIHH, then Basel? Eight days away from home?” His expletive was repeated by many others throughout the industry, horrified at the idea of travelling with a week’s worth of business attire, and of being away from their desks for an extended period. I reassured him that he will survive it.
Leaving aside the obvious solutions of travelling light and using the hotel laundry services — admittedly prohibitively expensive in Switzerland, where cleaning a shirt can cost more than the shirt itself — he wasn’t alone in demonstrating dismay at this monumental change in the watch fair calendar, with SIHH at the end of April and Baselworld the following week. Countless souls who have been in the business for less than a decade concur with him, as all are clearly unaware that it was this way before 2009. Veterans recall that you’d cover one show, then move on to the other. The Basel to Geneva train journey was a restful tonic in between.
Those who dread the daunting concept of a two-shows-in-a-row challenge constitute a disparate group that includes busy editors, retailers who’d rather not be away from their stores, new mums with toddlers-or-younger they’d rather not be away from, the inevitable snowflakes/slackers/millennials and others. But there’s an opposing view from a contingent that welcomes the move back to the old way.
Retailers, distributors, journalists and enthusiasts from Asia, Australia, South Africa, the Americas and other non-European markets or territories more than a two-hour flight away, as a rule, prefer the sequential shows. It’s a boon especially for those who are paying their own way, because it means one self-funded trip to Switzerland rather than two. Massive cost savings and the elimination of 12-hour-plus flights? Bring it on, they tell me. A round-trip ticket from L.A. or Beijing costs a lot more than washing a few shirts at Basel prices.
Because I live in the UK and recall the years before SIHH moved to January, I’m actually ambivalent. One trip or two? Doesn’t matter. Eight days away? My wife gets much-needed peace-and-quiet, however much I miss her. Luggage concerns? I am not so feeble that I can’t manage carrying eight shirts and sufficient underclothes; conversely, neither am I too mean to have clothes laundered. Getting it all over with in one fell swoop? Fine by me. As the Italians say, me ne frego. (Look it up.)
Because the watch world has united and the two shows are going to run in a series, one has the choice of accepting it or aggravating an ulcer. It is not the end of the world, and it is a truly proactive, positive gesture from an industry that manoeuvres with the speed and grace of an aircraft carrier. As the Eagles sang, “Get over it.” With that in mind, here is An Old Fart’s Guide To SIHH and Baselworld Running Consecutively:
1. If you’re a European visitor – trade or public – and you really don’t think you can handle two shows on the trot, you can always go to SIHH, fly home for the weekend, recharge your batteries and return for Baselworld. You’re already in favour of two round trips, so it won’t make any financial difference.
2. If you dread carrying a week’s worth of clothing, behave like a grown-up. Woolite will enable you to wash your clothes in the hotel sink. If your hotel doesn’t have an iron and ironing board in the room, then it serves you right for being stingy – if you’re that tight-fisted, you might reconsider working in or aspiring to the luxury sector.
3. Consider not going to either or both. If you’re a retailer or distributor, sales reps will see to it that you learn everything you need to know. If you’re a journalist of any worth, you’ll receive the press kits regardless. If you’re a private customer, all the news will be online in minutes. But it’s your loss because nothing equals face-time with the brands, or hands-on experience of the new pieces.
My last word on the subject? Any move that unites the watch business reinforces the notion of strength in numbers. As I wrote in Issue 20, no trade show or exhibition is too big to fail, and we live in parlous times for retail, the luxury marketplace, the watch business in general and other concerns that have nothing to do with Brexit. This is a wise move.
If you’re capable of stepping back and putting aside your concerns about fresh underwear, you should look at this as a Good Thing. So stop kvetching about it. You could be working in a fast-food joint.