Economic downturns come and go, but Rolex rarely loses any of its sparkle. More than 100 years after its creation, the Swiss company is still arguably the world's best-known manufacturer of luxury timepieces. It was responsible for introducing many of the functions we now take for granted in a watch, including waterproofing, a self-winding mechanism, and even the day and date dial. The brand retains its position as one of the world's most prestigious status symbols, its cachet protected by a price range that now starts at around $5,000 and can reach more than $175,000 for the company's most gold and diamond-encrusted models. (Even more for important vintage watches). The main brand is partnered by "entry level" Tudor, first introduced in 1926 for less wealthy customers. "Entry level" it may be but prices still start at just under $1,500. Although it has been largely unaffected by previous recessions, there were signs that Montres Rolex felt the impact of the 2009 downturn more severely, not least because of an unprecedented slump in its core US market. Despite its reputation, Rolex is by no means the most expensive watch brand. In fact it is positioned in the second rank of the luxury segment, alongside brands such as Breitling, Cartier, Ebel and Omega. This is below "high-end luxury" brands such as A Lange & Sohne, Breguet, Patek Phillipe and Vacheron Constantin, but above "pseudo luxury" brands such as Baume & Mercier, Raymond Weil and Tag Heuer. Montres Rolex does not publish its financial results, but Morgan Stanley estimated global volumes of 1m Rolex watches at a value of approx $5.2bn and 210,000 Tudor watches at $320k. In the UK alone, where the company is obliged to file company accounts, revenues for 2019 were £415m. The group suffered a succession of different leaders following the shock departure in 2008 of long-serving chief executive Patrick Heiniger. Jean-Frederic Dufour, appointed in 2015, was the fourth CEO in six years. The company is jointly controlled by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation and the Borer family of Geneva, descendants of the Aegler family who first developed the company's movements.
Capsule checked 5th November 2020
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