Coronavirus fears are driving the cancellation of global luxury events — including two of the world's biggest watch shows

Denis Balibouse/ReutersVisitors are pictured at the A. Lange & Söhne stand at the SIHH watch fair in Geneva on January 14, 2019. This year’s edition of the event, which is now called Watches & Wonders, was cancelled due to coronavirus, along with Baselworld.
  • The coronavirus is impacting a number of industries, including the luxury sector.
  • Two of the largest watch events in the world were just cancelled due to the health crisis.
  • The luxury sector, which touts many large-scale global events and trade shows, may turn to digital spaces to temper coronavirus-related setbacks.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The effects of coronavirus are reverberating everywhere – even the luxury sector.

In its most recent forecast, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that the global economy is facing its biggest threat since the 2008 financial crisis. The same forecast recommended limiting travel, imposing quarantines, and cancelling events to contain the spread of the disease.

From boat shows to art festivals, in-person experiences and events are the hallmark of the luxury sector. But following widespread coronavirus recommendations, many of those global events have been cancelled.

The cancellations are particularly noticeable in the watch industry.

Baselworld, the largest watch and jewellery show in the world, just announced its cancellation, according to Quartz. The event, which was originally scheduled to take place in Basel, Switzerland, during the first week of May, has been postponed until January 2021. The 2019 version of the event saw over 81,000 visitors and over 500 exhibitors.

“For health safety reasons and in accordance with the precautionary principle issued today by the Swiss authorities, Baselworld announces that it has taken the decision to postpone the show,” read a statement announcing the news on Baselworld’s website.

Last week, Swiss authorities banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people until at least March 15.There are fewer than 20 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Switzerland, but as it borders northern Italy, the country with the most confirmed cases in Europe, Swiss authorities are taking extra precautions.

Watches & Wonders Geneva, a separate Swiss fair formerly known as SIHH, also cancelled its event, according to Watchonista. The event was originally scheduled to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, the last week of April. The next edition of the fair is expected to take place in 2021.

“In view of the latest developments concerning the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it is the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie’s duty, as organiser of Watches & Wonders Geneva, to anticipate the potential risks that travels and important international gatherings could entail. Therefore, in order to protect the health and well-being of all our guests, press, partners, and teams, the decision has been taken to cancel the upcoming edition of Watches & Wonders Geneva (formerly known as the SIHH) and its ‘In the City’ program,” read the Watches & Wonders press release regarding the news.

The cancellations of major events have already been shaking up the luxury sector

Art Basel Hong Kong was one of the first global luxury events to be cancelled due to coronavirus – but it didn’t get cancelled outright. The event, which was supposed to take place the third week of March, will still happen online. Art galleries will be presented digitally. The new online-gallery development has already proven successful elsewhere, with artists selling pieces worth $US2 million on similar platforms, according to ARTnews.

This digital fix could lend itself to other markets within the luxury sector, like the watch industry, which is currently considering how to overcome the economic downturn that will most likely follow the spread of the coronavirus.

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