CEO and chairman of the board of Swatch Group Nick Hayek. Picture: REUTERS
CEO and chairman of the board of Swatch Group Nick Hayek. Picture: REUTERS

Geneva — Swiss watchmaker Swatch is quitting the annual Baselworld watch and jewellery trade fair, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday, calling time on an event that has been a fixture of the luxury industry calendar for a century.

Omega maker Swatch is the most important exhibitor at Baselworld, which traces its history to 1917, but more and more brands are deserting the fair held every March, blaming high costs and insufficient returns.

"The Swatch Group has decided not to be present at Baselworld from 2019," the newspaper quoted Swatch CEO Nick Hayek as saying.

The portfolio of Swatch, based in Biel in western Switzerland, spans the expensive Breguet, more affordable Longines and plastic Swatch timepieces.

Some of Swatch’s high-end competitors have left Basel for a rival fair in Geneva, but Hayek said traditional annual watch fairs were no longer useful in a more transparent and fast-paced world. Major exhibitors such as Swatch budgeted about $50m for each Baselworld, to cover travel and hotel expenses for staff and guests, the paper said. "Annual watch fairs, as they exist today, no longer make much sense," Swatch Group said in its statement.

"This does not mean that they should disappear. But it is necessary that they reinvent themselves, responding appropriately to the current situation and demonstrating more dynamism and creativity. At the moment, [they] are failing to do so."

Hayek cited the cost of the fair’s exhibition building as a reason for the decision to withdraw.