Baselworld 2019

404 Baselworld Not Found – Website Outages, Brands Missing In Action, Flying Sausages, And Other Mysteries

I.e., What on earth are we getting ourselves into? #savebaselworld

By Josh Shanks

It happens every year, the instant the last guest departs from SIHH, the emails start rolling in. “Book your Baselworld appointment today!” or my personal favorite “Space is limited, contact me immediately to book a 1:1 appointment.” Seconds removed from SIHH, media are sent invitations, appointments requests, dinner invites, and repeated semi-personalized messages imploring us to come and view the various wares soon to be on display at Baselworld.

So, like every year, Watchonista's staff gathers to officially kick off our Basel adventure. Whiteboards are marked, spreadsheets are created, emails exchanged, and a schedule is formed. All of this is done in close coordination with brands and the show itself. Like any tradeshow, you rely heavily on the exhibitors and show organizers to ensure a smooth visit. Except this year, we ran into some turbulence….

First, the reality, less than 30 days from now, press and retailers from around the world will descend on Basel’s Messeplatz. We’re all well aware that we’re visiting one of the world’s most expensive sausage factories, but there are still so many unanswered questions.

404 – Website Not Found

Baselworld’s official website is usually packed full of useful information for the fair. Floor plans, exhibitors (brand) list, and even a complete database of contacts. Not this year! As of publishing, some visitors to are greeted with an ominous ‘404’ error. Just 20 days away from Baselworld 2019, and large troughs of information are missing or just plain erroring out. (UPDATE: Seconds after publishing, Baselworld finally released their exhibiting brands list).

What does it all mean? Are more brands plotting their exodus as we speak? I would expect this sort of technological malfeasance with a US Government agency, but surely not with one of the world’s foremost luxury goods fairs? After contacting show organizers MHC, we were told to “expect more information after March 1.” Fingers crossed.

What will Baselworld 2019’s floor plan look like?

In a word, grim. While the fair has released nothing official, we've taken the liberty of editing last year's floorplan (see photo). All brands with a red "X" are (to our knowledge) not participating in 2019. Then again, we won’t know the official plan until Baselworld releases it. We’re already taking bets on who’s IN and who’s OUT.

What will they do with all that extra room?

According to Baselworld’s half-online website, in the place of the empty void left by Swatch Group. Various “lounge areas” and a “catwalk show” will occupy the former space. On the website, show organizers are promising that the main hall's "Central Plaza" (aka the space left by departing brands) will provide, "An oasis for encounters and a place to pause, get to know one other (sic) and share ideas." The show is promising "a new concept," but in reality, that concept may be the very act of filling the empty space with luxurious new lounge chairs and a cappuccino bar.

This isn’t your grandfather’s Basel

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen turbulence in the Swiss watch fairs. In fact, this isn’t even the biggest story to come out of Basel. That would have to be back in 1991 when a portion of brands (Cartier, Baume & Mercier, Piaget, and more) broke away from the longstanding show to head to Geneva’s to form their own luxury show. Baselworld dates to 1917, so after a century of nearly continuous operation, change is always inevitable, but with today's digital age this feels… different.

Everyone is talking about the sausage

Press like to joke about the exorbitant prices charged by local vendors. This is perhaps best evidenced by Wei Koi's blistering takedown of the notorious sausage vendor outside of Baselworld’s press lounge (read HERE). While visitors (and residents of) Switzerland are accustomed to higher prices for everything from groceries to grog, the price gouging occurring during Baselworld is now the stuff of legend.

You can draw a direct link between the infamous 10 CHF sausage and the growing discontent with the amenities of Baselworld and the town that surrounds it. Typically, hotels are sold out a year in advance. But with the departure of Swatch Group and Movado Group, there are still plenty of available (albeit expensive) rooms. Let’s take a look at the pricing, shall we? During a typical Wednesday night in Baselworld, a 3.5 - 5-star hotel will set you back between $130-200/night max. During Baselworld? That same hotel will cost you over $750 per night.

Will The Three King's miss their revenue forecasts?

During Baselworld, Les Trois Rois (aka The Three Kings) transforms into THE place for post-show nightlife. The usually staid lobby bar turns into a scene straight from Caligula. People are lined wall to wall, industry executives network, collectors swap stories, and the media are usually left to fend for a table or even a chair that isn't occupied by someone with a seven-figure bank account. The bar staff does an extraordinary job of plying all of us with the finest (and most expensive) spirits this side of the Atlantic.

But without the deep pockets of Swatch Group, who will buy the infamous 32CHF 'Basel Smash' cocktail?

Predictions and tips!

There are a few absolutes for Baselworld 2019. Major brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tudor, TAG Heuer, Zenith, Hublot, and more will all be exhibiting at Basel. We know there will be a significant number of brands NOT showing at the fair and we feel that list is still being finalized. Media and retailers will certainly be present, although, it will be interesting to see how many make the trip knowing that the fair will be smaller. Hell, we can break the news to you now. Nearly all brands at Baselworld will be releasing NEW products!

We can also predict that Baselworld will be expensive. Expect to pay 9 CHF for a lukewarm semi-pint of German Hefeweizen. The sausage prices aren't going down, and the perfectly mediocre "Japanese Fusion" restaurant outside the main hall will still be charging 22 CHF for what tastes like microwaved instant noodles. It's certainly going to be a year to remember, maybe for the good times, perhaps for the feeling of bittersweet finality, or maybe just because we all love watches. Let's be honest, whether it's social media, digital publications, and yes, tradeshows, us watch fanatics will not stop paying attention. 

What advice can we give you? For starters, while Baselworld is shorter this year (Mar 21-26) you still may not need five days to see the significantly reduced brands exhibiting. We would recommend steering clear of The Three Kings after 2 am, as the saying goes "nothing good happens after 2 am." Stay plenty caffeinated and plan your restroom breaks 20 mins in advance due to the two available restrooms in a five-mile radius of the Messeplatz. Regardless, we have 2020 to look forward to! Since next year we'll see SIHH and Baselworld coordinate dates to April. Giving all of us a nice respite after the holidays, that is, if we are able to #savebaselworld before then.



This is where you come in – you –yes YOU! We want YOU to #savebaselworld . Should you find yourself at the Messeplatz this month and spot an awkward moment, a curiosity, or anything outrageous, use the hashtag #savebaselworld . We'll be sharing the very best #savebaselworld moments to our social media channels. We're counting on you!

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