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What Rolex's Acquisition of Bucherer Might Mean for the Watch Industry

December 8, 2023

In a move that stunned the watch world, Rolex shrewdly solidified a profitable partnership while setting the stage for further expansion.

A Bucherer store in Lausanne, Switzerland prominently displaying the Rolex logo on its facade

On August 24, Rolex announced it would acquire Bucherer after third-generation leader 
Jörg Bucherer considered selling the family business due to a lack of heirs. By purchasing the retailer, Rolex future-proofs the lucrative partnership between the two companies which has endured since 1924.

Bucherer is one of the largest official retailers of luxury watches, distributing nearly 40 well regarded luxury brands like Cartier and Vacheron Constantin. The company has over 100 outlets across Europe and the United States, having expanded its presence in the latter market through the 2018 acquisition of Tourneau, the largest U.S. based luxury watch dealer. Of these 100 stores, 53 distribute Rolex and 48 distribute Tudor. Bucherer locations also serve as official Rolex service centers and the brand participates in the Rolex certified pre-owned program.

What the acquisition means for Rolex retailers is unclear. There is speculation that Rolex will sell its most in-demand models through Bucherer rather than other Rolex retailers. In its press release, Rolex attempted to assuage these concerns, stating that the "fruitful collaboration between Rolex and the other official retailers in its sales network will remain unchanged." However, the company could change its tune on preferential treatment in the future. Rolex is also expected to expand into the remaining 50 or so outlets which don't currently carry the brand.

The move marks yet another shrewd business decision from Rolex CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour following the introduction of the Certified Pre-Owned program last year. The two companies make a formidable pair–according to Morgan Stanley's annual reports, Rolex had a commanding 30.9% share of the Swiss watch market in 2022, up a significant 6% from 2020.

Bucherer will continue to operate independently with Jörg Bucherer as honorary president. Regardless of Rolex's assurances that the Bucherer acquisition will not change the operations of either brand, the announcement has been unwelcome for competitors. Other Rolex authorized retailers like Watches of Switzerland are worried. The day after Rolex made the acquisition, Watches of Switzerland shares fell by around 25% according to CNBC reporting. The brand's value has fallen even further as of October 14. Questions remain over whether Rolex's competitors, including Omega, might pull out of Bucherer stores.

The acquisition still awaits approval from Swiss competition authorities. The news's actual consequences on the luxury watch market are yet to be fully realized. What is certain is that the move, if completed, spells further growth for a brand that already has a stranglehold on the Swiss watch industry.

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