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For those who are not familiar with the watch industry, the news below – as breaking as it may be – is probably of little interest.

But for those who keep abreast of the latest developments in the watchmaking world, this news is an earthquake. Which hits precisely in the area where one least expected it: Switzerland – a country renowned for its discretion and diplomacy. And it is generated exactly by the brands one would least expect – especially Rolex, the luxury watch brand which is a paragon of dignity, discretion, tact, diplomacy, decency. A brand which does not make public statements, nor does it create PR storms. They never did in over 100 years of existence.
Until now. When Rolex chooses to ignore their century-old rule and openly comments on a disturbing matter, you realize the limit has long been exceeded.
And here we come to the universal applicability of this news – greed is not good. Regardless of what Gordon Gekko said.
First, there were the disgruntled murmurs of the journalists, who were desperate that, with every Baselworld, the prices for accommodation and restaurants in Basel were soaring – they literally went through the ceiling.
Then, the brands started to complain – more or less openly, either officially or through intermediaries – that the prices Baselworld demanded from exhibitors were high. Very high. Downright exorbitant.
For a while, there was no reaction – neither from the hotel keepers, nor from the restaurants, not even from the Baselworld officials.

And then, the unimaginable happened: Swatch, the huge Swiss group that owns only relevant brands – from the ubiquitous, inexpensive Swatch to the top-of-the-line Breguet – decided enough is enough, they are tired of everything and they pulled out. And they made their own salon – Time to Move.
Baselworld claimed they had learned their lesson. The officials promised decent prices for both the salon and the accommodation.
Which never happened, though. I remember when I paid CHF 2,000 for a 4-day accommodation in a… hostel. Or when I stayed on the “death boat”.
And this year, in the heat of the COVID pandemic, Baselworld was cancelled. As were all the watchmaking salons, for that matter: Time to Move, Watches and Wonders.
But this was not the real problem. The real problem was that the organizers informed the brands they would retain 15% of the exhibition fees – which is a huge amount.
On top of that, Les Trois Rois, the only 5-star hotel in Basel, simply refused to refund the money to their customers who obviously had no reason to come to Basel since Baselworld had been cancelled. And we are talking thousands and tens of thousands of euros for one reservation. Because – Basel. Because – greed. Because #itwenttotheirheads.
So, I lived to see the day when, for the first time in their existence, Rolex openly state their feelings – of dissatisfaction, in this case.
And they decided to quit Baselworld. Together with other “small” brands such as Patek Philippe, Chopard and Chanel. Obviously, Tudor accompanies Rolex on the way out.

Therefore, as of today, the 14th of April, 2020, we can say Baselworld is dead. After a long and illustrious existence, it suddenly succumbed. That is to say, it was put to death. And it wasn’t because of the COVID. It wasn’t because of the economic crisis. Digitalization had nothing to do with it, either.
It was pure and simple greed. The eternal, perfidious greed.
For the five brands, the story goes on. They founded a new salon, which will take place at the same time and in the same place as Watches & Wonders, in Geneva.
For Basel, the story ends here.
Sic transit gloria Basel…

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