Bucherer is Rolex. Now What?

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Sorry I was out for a bit, chasing Substack glory. My absence left a LOT of comments in moderation, although most of them were immoderate. Passionate, you might say. All released. The delay won’t happen again. So, now that I have/had your attention, what are we to make of Rolex getting into retail by buying Bucherer?

The industry seems desperate to take Rolex’s purchase of Bucherer and its 36 stores in its stride. Over at WatchPro, an unhappy looking Tracey Llewellyn is hopefully non-plussed.

(courtesy watchpro.com)

“Perhaps if we notice Rolex’s involvement in frontline retail at all moving forward, it will simply be to maintain standards and to encourage others to do likewise?”

Pay no attention to that Swiss watch behemoth behind the curtain! Sure, but what does “maintaining standards” mean? Maintaining the fact you can’t buy a Rolex at retail unless you’re prepared to give the dealer a blowjob? Metaphorically speaking.

As Ms. Llewellyn rightly points out, the purchase completes Rolex’s vertical integration. Like this:

(courtesy bobswatches.com)

The Rolex shopping spree involved the brand buying case makers Genex and bracelet makers Gay Frères in 1998, followed by dial maker Beyeler, crown supplier Boninchi, and case and bracelet finishers Virex et Joli Poli. And, in 2004, the House of Wilsdorf became the proud owner of a movement maker once owned by the Borel family.

Well, not completely. Rolex needs to buy the steel and glass suppliers and maybe the trucking company delivering it. Anyway, their complete control of production cut costs, raising profit. Improving quality? That too. Good for them! Good for us.

And now that Rolex owns retail, they can de-franchise dealers and claw back a goodly portion of their estimated 40 percent markup. And not have to deal with dealers’ constant bitching and moaning about supply. Good for them!

Not so good for us? Again, what does this mean for a Rolex buyer?

In time, it means new Rolex buyers will have to deal with Bucherer and only Bucherer, which is Rolex. You’d hope that would continue to mean some kind of personal relationship with the seller, but no, it doesn’t. Bucherer’s sales policies will be Rolex’s sales policies. Period. Wiggle room gone.

Just so you know, Bucherer isn’t flavor of the month with some buyers.

tripadvisor.com has some reviews which bring the retailer no glory. Great selection customer service not good. Insanely crowded & overpriced. Terrible experience. The worst staff encountered. Rude employees.

What we can certainly expect: Rolex will mine data from Bucherer’s sales of other luxury watch brands they sell: specifically Patek Philippe, Cartier and OMEGA. And maybe rearrange Bucherer displays a bit.

Speaking of OMEGA…

You know that Rolex’s pre-owned, post-Pandemic prices are tanking (above). While the whole market is way down, compare Rolex’s decline with OMEGA’s. While both brands are sinking fast and hard, in the last month Rolex is down 29.6 percent while OMEGA is down 16.1 percent.

Rolex values are falling faster than OMEGA. Which has never happened. Rolex has ALWAYS been a better bet than OMEGA. What does that tell you?

Nothing? There are a lot of ways to interpret that data, and Rolex is hardly hurting. But this much is true: Rolex now controls the supply with an iron fist inside an iron glove.

If I were them, I’d use that data to make sure that there were always fewer Rolex than Rolex customers. Which removes the need to innovate, if indeed innovation counts.

In short, nothing will change about buying a new Rolex, except that there will be less places to buy one. Meanwhile, OMEGA is staying closerthanthis with its dealers.

Whatever else you can say about the Moonswatch – and I’ve said a lot (none of it good) – it shows that OMEGA is faster on its feet, and yes gentlemen you’re right: they’re bringing new, young buyers into the fold.

Not to mention that OMEGA makes a damn good watch. Oh yeah, it’s on!

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