Why Rolex is still the king of the watch world: 'A hype doesn't last a hundred years'

Rolex is surrounded by a web of fables, almost mythical stories. Fans speculate, but experts can't confirm anything. How can a brand remain so mysterious and coveted when it actually delivers a mass product?

No figures to be found at Rolex, except for the price tags

One of the reasons that it remains a guess is that as a foundation in Switzerland you are not obliged to share anything that resembles an annual account. Of course there are stories doing the rounds when it comes to the turnover of the house. Under the headline 'Still wearing the crown', Rolex is named as the leader of the Swiss brands with a market share of 29 percent and a turnover of 8 billion euros in 2021. These estimates are in a report by the American bank Morgan Stanley based on export figures .

To outline the rest of the top 3: in second place is Cartier with a turnover of 2.39 billion euros. A significant increase of 40 percent compared to the previous year, which means that Omega, invariably the number 2, drops one spot with 2.2 billion. Rolex is not alone when it comes to secrecy of annual figures, but there are also CEOs who without batting an eyelid mention production numbers in interviews.

The production of Rolex vs Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet

Turnover is one side of the story, not the one that carriers, collectors and investors are waiting for. They want hard numbers, absolute numbers. How many Rolexes come out of that factory? If it is indeed a million a year, then Rolex is also at a lonely height compared to other top brands. Omega, with a factory a stone's throw away in Biel, is close behind Rolex with a production of 750,000 watches, Broer reports. But judging by the sales figures, this brand with its price tags does not come close to Rolex.

Broer: "Longines does 1.5 million, but that is a different price category." It only becomes interesting when we look at the independently operating brands.

Audemars Piguet makes 40,000 watches a year, CEO François-Henry Bennahmias revealed. Patek Philippe comes to 60,000, revealed President Thierry Stern. The highest segment contains brands that are even more exclusive. 'A. Lange & Söhne produces 5000 watches per year. You will only be put on the waiting list at the boutique if you already have a watch from them,' says Broer. It is one of many examples of an overheated market.

"The market is hot, so we want you to produce twice as much."

Despite the numbers, we cannot dismiss Rolex as a mass producer. "They are so good and consistent at what they do. It is very difficult to supply such quality watches in such large numbers,' says Broer. But when you enter the store, there is almost nothing to get. “It is speculated that Rolex is doing this to create artificial scarcity. People would rather have something that cannot be obtained. That's partly true, because that's how distributors respond to it.

It must remain an exclusive brand.”And that's where Rolex takes advantage as an independent brand. “Shareholders would say, “The market is hot, so we want you to produce twice as much. Doesn't matter if the quality deteriorates." But at Rolex they don't do it that way. They want to deliver quality, run a marathon instead of a sprint,' explains Lijfering.

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