2020 has drawn a line in the sand across all aspects of modern living. Suffice to say, nothing will ever be the same again, after a year that was beset with COVID-19 right from its beginning, with the pandemic forever changing the way we work, play and interact. Indeed, it is impossible to reflect on 2020 without framing it against, or escaping, the spectre of the coronavirus.
For an industry known for its reverence to the past – as well as being notoriously slow to evolve – the watch trade is facing its sternest test yet. Coping with an unprecedented economic slowdown is one thing. Having little choice but to deal with the enforced changes and constant paradigm shifts is another.
But times of strife and challenges also bring out the best in people and the business. While there have been casualties, there are also combatants who, while recognising that watches will always take a backseat to family and health, are striving to protect and preserve a trade built not just on beauty and art, but also on the backs of countless workers from all over the world.
With that, and much respect to those working tirelessly to bring hope and optimism in these challenging times, here are the most profound horological events and developments that have been shaped by a year unlike any other.
The longstanding, annual watch fairs in Basel and Geneva, traditionally attended by retailers and press from all over the world to peruse the latest timepieces that will set the tone and pace for the entire year’s business, underwent seismic transformations in 2020.
Particularly momentous was the demise of the Baselworld exposition, a 103-year-old institution that had been, up until its final year in 2019, the world’s largest and longest-running watch exhibition. The writing had been on the wall, however, with consecutive years of dwindling attendances and, more pertinently, increasing dissatisfaction among exhibitors with the organiser’s alleged lack of ambition, inflexibility with costs, and aversion to dialogue. Eventually, decisions by anchor exhibitors like The Swatch Group in 2019, as well as major brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe in early 2020 to withdraw from the fair, proved too much for the Baselworld organisers, which announced in May 2020 that it would cease staging the show.
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