UPDATE 1-Geneva watch fair cancelled due to coronavirus, Baselworld still on

(Adds Baselworld comment, background)

ZURICH, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The Watches & Wonders watch fair in Geneva will not take place this year given the spreading coronavirus outbreak, while managers of the rival Baselworld event in Basel are still evaluating the situation, organisers said on Thursday.

The Chinese, whose nation has been hardest hit so far by the fast-spreading virus, are also the biggest customers of Swiss watches. Many Chinese retailers and watch lovers would normally attend the shows.

“In view of the latest developments concerning the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it is the FHH’s duty ... to anticipate the potential risks that travel and important international gatherings could entail,” the Fine Watchmaking Foundation (FHH) which organises the Geneva show said.

Watches & Wonders, which is dominated by Richemont brands like Cartier and IWC, was initially supposed to take place from April 25-29, immediately followed by the other big watch industry gathering in Basel from April 30.

The Baselworld fair is still on, a spokeswoman told Reuters by phone. “We’re evaluating the situation, taking into account the Watches & Wonders decision, which we regret,” she said.

“We’ll take all the measures to protect exhibitors, visitors and employees,” she said.

Swatch Group, which left the Baselworld show last year, has already cancelled an event it wanted to hold with retailers in Zurich this week.

LVMH held a separate event for its Bulgari, TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith watch brands in Dubai in January. Bulgari announced its withdrawal from Baselworld this month, but the other three brands are also exhibiting in Basel.

Shares in Swatch Group were down 2.6%, while Richemont fell 2.2% at 0808 GMT, broadly in line with the overall market.

Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Michael Shields