Where Will Rolex Go Next? Time Will Tell

on June 24 2011 | in Jewelry & Watches Retail | by | with No Comments

Rolex, China

“…It is the watch of global power,” said Scriptorum Company consultant Michel Gutsatz.

Gutsatz is talking about Rolex—and recently, many others are, too. In a surprise change of command, Rolex has replaced CEO Bruno Meier with a new leadership team: company veteran Gian Riccardo Marini, 62, as CEO, and Daniel Neidhart, 49, as head of foreign subsidiaries.

“Taking into account the development of industrial and commercial activities of the group in Switzerland and abroad, the board has decided to update the structures of the business,” the company said in a statement.

This announcement has caused a buzz of speculation among analysts and consultants, but Rolex itself remains opaque. The company is one of the few luxury watch makers that is privately owned, and maintains an aura of almost secrecy.

Consequently, no one is quite sure where Rolex plans to go next. Marini, the newly-appointed CEO, has been with the company for 40 years, and before his promotion was head of Rolex Italy. Neidhart’s position, new to the company, will be based in Hong Kong. The new leading duo have strong backgrounds in marketing and sales, and many see this as a sign that Rolex is seeking an increased market share in luxury watches.

“The brand is far from being number one in the United States, and only four or five in China,” said Klaust Zorik, cofounder of the watch making institute at Switzerland’s ARC technical school. “Rolex’s ambitions have probably not been achieved in terms of market presence.”

The introduction of Neidhart’s position signals that Rolex is particularly interested in developing its presence in new markets.

“They didn’t know how to anticipate the development of the Chinese market in the way other brands did,” said Gutsatz. “So they found themselves, in global markets, but particularly in the Chinese market, in a fairly difficult position.”

Some analysts suggest that Neidhart’s position is a sign that Rolex is planning to open its own retail outlets; other analysts, however, predict that the company will instead focus on increasing collaboration with current retail partners.

Regardless of Rolex’s retail plans, one thing is clear: success in emerging markets is very important to the company.

“If you look at the overall watch industry, probably half the watches from Rolex are bought by emerging market clients now. It’s important that the shops and the brand are well-positioned in emerging market,” said Kepler Capital Markets analyst Jon Cox.

image credit: rolex

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