By Michelle Graff
Breitling announced Monday that it won’t exhibit at Baselworld next year, focusing instead on a company-organized summit for retailers, customers and media. Pictured here is one of the watches the Swiss brand introduced before Basel this year, the Navitimer 1 B01 Chronograph Pan Am Edition.
Basel, Switzerland—Breitling announced Monday that it won’t return to Baselworld next year, making it the first—but possibly not last—big brand to back out of the show.

The watch and jewelry trade show traditionally has taken place in mid- to late March, but Baselworld 2020 is scheduled for April 30-May 5, immediately following SIHH in Geneva (April 26-29).

The shows agreed to synch their dates so retailers and the media, particularly from the United States and Asia, don’t have to travel to Switzerland twice in a few weeks’ span.

Breitling said Sunday that although it had a successful show this year, the 2020 dates don’t work for it.

So instead of exhibiting at Baselworld, where the brand’s massive fish tank was once the Instagram-ready centerpiece of Hall 1.0, the Swiss watch brand will invite retailers, media, customers and collectors to the second Breitling Summit.

The first summit took place in London in October 2018 to introduce the Premier collection. The brand hasn’t confirmed the dates for the second edition, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

See: 4 New Watches Breitling Introduced at Baselworld 2019

“We decided to focus on our global Summit format in 2020 and the subsequent local road shows,” CEO Georges Kern said in a company statement. “The decisive factor is first and foremost the new Baselworld date at the end of April, which cannot be reconciled with our planning.”

He said the company will decide later if it will return to the watch and jewelry trade show in 2021.

Breitling’s decision to leave Baselworld in favor of focusing on its own event underscores one of the major hurdles business-to-business trade shows face today: getting exhibitors to see the value in spending money on a trade show when technology has made it easier for them to organize their own events and reach customers with new product year-round.

Oris introduced a new Big Crown Pointer date in November, then followed up with the release of more new timepieces during a pre-Basel press trip to Vail, Colorado in January.

That same month, Breitling debuted its first capsule collection.

The Navitimer 1 Airline Editions is a series of three ‘60s- and ’70-style aviation watches that pay homage to three airlines from that era: Swissair, Pan Am and TWA.

Available beginning this month at Breitling boutiques and select retailers, the capsule collection watches are available in limited quantities for a limited period of time, mirroring what fashion brands such as Supreme do through their “drops” to drive demand.

They are priced between $8,000 and $9,000.

While Breitling won’t be at Baselworld 2020, show organizers said Monday that Rolex is staying and will be expanding into the space where sister brand Tudor was this year.

Tudor will have its own booth in Hall 1.0.

On Tuesday afternoon, National Jeweler reached out to other Baselworld exhibitors to ask about their plans for 2020: Patek Philippe, LVMH-owned brands TAG Heuer and Bulgari, Roberto Coin and Citizen, which also owns Frederique Constant, Alpina and Bulova.

Patek Philippe was the only brand to respond by deadline, stating: “As in previous years, Baselworld 2019 was a real success for Patek regarding the attendance not only in terms of quantity but also quality.

“We believe Baselworld remains a platform to meet our partners/retailers and journalists from all around the world. We hope the fair will continue to develop in the future.”

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