So I’ve taken some time to process the news that Baselworld has been rebranded to “HourUniverse”, and this comes with other small details that you can read in the press release from the MCH Group, that is reproduced in full below.

Everything moves a little slowly these days and with the world still under the fog of the COVID-19 pandemic that has no clear end in sight as of today, it’s worth moving a little more slowly and cautiously, since nothing can be set in stone. So if you read my points below and don’t know the context of what I’m saying, go to the press release at the end to get filled in.

The first thing to note is the surprising speed at which the news of change has come, a mere two months after it all went down with the departure of the five anchor brands from Hall 1 at Baselworld.

The Golden Goose (Baselworld) is finally dead

Certainly, this is a stark contrast to the glacially slow pace of change that characterised the management of Baselworld by the MCH Group previously that resulted in their near death experience this year. Though as ever there is nothing like being at death’s door to get the ultimate kick up the pants to do something right.

Following on from the recent injection of funds via an investment by James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch, the MCH Group might just have gotten a lifeline and it’s up to the new reorganised company to see how much they can reclaim their lost reputation.

The new name – HourUniverse –

Ok, so I’m not too keen on the name. First of all, like its predecessor name “Baselworld”, it is a compound word. For the first half of the name, instead of a place – “Basel”, it is a measure of time instead – “Hour”. Also, instead of “World”, it is now “Universe”.

A few things about this. I can understand why removing the word “Basel” from the name might be good, since it’s a decisive move to distance themselves from the old “Baselworld”. If that’s the motivation, I can stand by it, even if everyone will still have to go to Basel to attend HourUniverse.

But why “Hour”? I think that because it has something to do with horology and because it’s a homophone (that sounds the same but with a different meaning) with “Our”. So there is implied in this choice, a spirit of inclusion of togetherness.

It’s a little lame to be honest, but if “HourUniverse” turns out to be “(H)ours”, (meaning all us watch industry stakeholders such as the brands, the retailers, the press and collectors) then maybe it will be alright.

As for the second part. We all know that the Miss Universe beauty pageant still takes place on Earth with no aliens taking part, so the words are effectively synonyms in this context, with perhaps a greater ambition implied in the new name. It’s not especially creative, but fine.

 

The extended eco-system – A new digital platform –

As the owner of an online watch media platform, I know that it is not easy to produce quality content consistently. Quite a few watch media websites already do a good job as it is, along with their associated social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. In this context, I find it hard to believe that HourUniverse will be able to pivot successfully to producing content as good as, or even to start a community based digital platform that will gain traction.

Of course, I could be wrong and if the MCH Group is sufficiently motivated to do this, they will throw good money in this direction to make it happen.

So what this means is that whether it will work will depend on how well it is done. Essentially, it’s a wait and see type situation there, but I’m betting that I will be underwhelmed. Prove me wrong HourUniverse!

 

The Yearly Meeting – Baselworld with a new lick of paint

This is basically the new Baselworld event that will draw people from all over the world to see the new watches and to meet up. It helps that next year’s HourUniverse event is now aligned with Watches and Wonders 2021 in April, instead of the botched decision to postpone Baselworld 2020 to January 2021, a significant factor in causing the anchor brands to leave.

But then, with the anchor tenants already gone and having already committed to starting a new trade show, the question is if there is enough in the new HourUniverse to come back. It’s going to be difficult to reverse a decision like this, especially when it was made after serious consideration. And that’s not even counting the pain of the economic downturn this year, as well as the fact that the pandemic is still ongoing, with no end in sight.

Any plans for a physical event can only be tentative at this point, and no one will rush to invert the status quo already established, especially when the MCH Group are in the process of proving themselves again. If there’s anything I know about watch brands, they like to know that the foundation of their potential partners are solid before committing.

baselworld 2019; impression; hall 1.0; rolex; booth

It also begs the question of what the new trade show format instigated by Rolex and friends will be like, since the mandate for it was stated as being a for the good of the Swiss watch industry. That might mean that it will be created for all brands rather than a few, and if it is attractive enough for the smaller brands, there might not be enough left over to populate the HourUniverse next year.

It seems then that there will be quite a bit of backroom dealing and negotiation that will take place among the top management of all the stakeholders involved, and there is really no way to know how it will all play out.

More details will be released come August and I think that everyone will be interested in what they will be. I’m most certainly going to stay tuned to that.

 

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Press release
Basel, 23 July 2020
MCH is creating a new concept for a global platform for the watch, jewellery and gemstone industries: HOURUNIVERSE.

Two months to listen, analyse, identify; and create. An innovative platform to meet today’s needs. To unite and support a whole community that wants to regroup, make a new start and is receptive to change.

Open, modern, experimental, inclusive, user-friendly, interconnected, the MCH teams have put all their expertise and the feedback and input from customers and other stakeholders into giving birth to a new platform concept.

An extended ecosystem

Live and virtual, active all year round, benefiting from the latest technologies for content, and for networking, the new platform is dedicated to players in the watch, jewellery and gemstone industries, but not exclusively.

The new concept is a B2B2C meeting point that places the customer at the heart of its focus, reversing the order of the past. The entire platform is thought out and designed around the customer. This applies to all players of the distribution chain, traditional and online retailers, including those of the CPO (certified Pre-Owned).

Flanking them, the platform will build an extended ecosystem with watch, jewellery and gemstone brands, developers of new solutions in distribution, marketing and points of sale, and other players of the industry. A global, varied, interconnected, unified world.

A 365 platform, with an annual live meeting

Named HOURUNIVERSE, the platform will be digitally active throughout the year and will host an annual live show.

A community platform that creates bridges between buyers and sellers and all the players in the industry, it is also a place that encourages exchanges, information-sharing, content creation, reflection through talks and conferences that also provide visibility for brands and their products.

In April 2021, the community will meet at HOURUNIVERSE in Basel, Switzerland. The show will be aligned with the watchmaking events in Geneva, in the best interests of the international community which will only have to travel to Switzerland once a year.

The show will reinforce contacts thanks to new tools, the creation of content, a maximum of Touch & Feel experiences, as well as moments of conviviality, networking and fully integrated events. Along with this new customer oriented approach, a new competitive hospitality concept will also be an integral part of the packages proposed, and those associated players of Basel
life will not be exempt from this involvement.

The detailed concept of HOURUNIVERSE will be unveiled late August in combination with the start of marketing. HOURUNIVERSE: IT’S WE TIME!