Watches & Wonders Geneva, the annual trade show scheduled for April 7 to 13, 2021, will be a digital-only event, show organizers announced today.
“In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibitor committee has decided to cancel the physical Salon that would have been held at Palexpo,” the show said in a statement. “The decision is seen as the most responsible course of action, given the current health crisis and uncertainties as to how the situation may evolve.”
Instead, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, which owns and organizes the show, said it would hold a 100% digital edition of the show, in which all 34 brands scheduled to attend the physical show will participate.
This marks the second year that COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of the 29-year-old show, formerly known as SIHH. This year, with COVID raging, the show shifted to a digital format at www.watchesandwonders.com. It debuted on April 25 with around a dozen brands introducing new products. For 2021, the show says it will “roll out an upgraded version of the watchesandwonders platform… Additional services and features will be introduced, including live chats and streaming, so that the event can be enjoyed all over the world.”
The cancellation of the physical show in 2021 is the latest twist in a series of COVID-caused setbacks for Switzerland’s two major watch trade shows. Hardest hit was Baselworld, which also canceled its show scheduled for March this year. An attempt to reschedule the show for January 2021 turned into a fiasco when Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tudor, Chopard, and Chanel shocked show management by abruptly withdrawing from the show to join Watches & Wonders Geneva for 2021. That forced Baselworld’s owners, Basel’s MCH Group, to cancel the 2021 show and ultimately abandon the show entirely after 103 years, retiring the Baselworld brand.
The five “Rolexit” brands will participate in the digital Watches & Wonders salon. They join 10 Richemont Group brands, which have long anchored the show. Show organizers say they are continuing to recruit brands for the 2021 digital edition and hope to have as many as 50 brands participating.
Meanwhile, we’ll see what the impact of today’s announcement is on HourUniverse, the new watch and jewelry show MCH created to replace Baselworld. It is scheduled to be held in Basel at the former Baselworld venue April 8-12, 2021, at the same time as Watches & Wonders Geneva.