By now the topic of Rolex acquiring Bucherer is no secret (in case it is to you, read about it here). It was quite literally the sale heard around the world. Not a single person expected it or knew anything about it which when you think of it, really is a testament to how major this acquisition was. There’s arguably never been a better-kept secret in an industry full of leaked images and broken NDAs than this one here, a shock considering it involved one of the world’s most well-known luxury brands and one of the most well-known luxury retailers.
So what does it all mean? That answer is pretty simple - no one really knows yet. The press release was as vague as any other major announcement is and mentioned that Bucherer will keep its leadership and operations will stay the same with Rolex being a “silent” owner. While I’m a bit skeptical that things will remain exactly as they are with Bucherer (minus a major influx of capital), the reality is that this acquisition is sure to impact the way we as consumers are able to buy products in the future. And while it may take some time to see how exactly the watch consumer will be affected, let's explore a few possible outcomes.
Image Source Bloomberg
Distribution of Rolex Product?
Let’s be honest, buying a Rolex at retail is not easy . It’s the most popular watch brand in the world leading to a very high demand and limited production. As frustrating as this is, I don’t see things getting any better with this acquisition. While yes, Rolex is technically set up as a non-profit , there is still an underlying need to make money as a business of any type in order to survive. Adding to their current expenses, the brand will now need to be able to support things like the leases for each Bucherer store, operation costs, staffing, etc. One of the ways they may decide to do this is by controlling distribution more and allocating the majority of their product to Bucherer. By doing so, Rolex would be able to maintain a better profit by not having to sell their watches at wholesale cost for their other retail partners. This means that Rolex wait lists could grow much longer as fewer products could get funneled to your regular dealer in town in order to favor better profit margins.
Possible Closure of Additional Rolex Dealers?
Unfortunately, should Rolex begin favoring Bucherer for their distribution it could have an adverse effect on the already shrinking number of Rolex dealers worldwide. We already see a continuous flow of long-term Rolex dealers losing the brand seemingly out of nowhere after decades of a relationship with the brand, so could this lead to more closures? The answer here could be a bit mixed. As large of a retailer as Bucherer is, its global network is still quite small with only 36 locations. And unless Rolex were to go to an online platform (highly doubtful), they would still need these points of sale. However in cities that already have Bucherer locations, if those were to get the favorable distribution then Rolex could likely cut their relationship with other dealer to maximize their revenue and cut additional costs.
Image Source Fox Business
Other Brands Pulling Out of Bucherer?
Alongside Rolex and Tudor, Bucherer is an authorized retailer for more than thirty watch brands, including a heavy collection of Richemont and Swatch Group-owned brands. As we wait to see what the long-term ramifications of this acquisition are, the reactions of other major watch brands who are carried by Bucherer are sure to come into play here. While many of the independent brands greatly benefit from a global partner like Bucherer, the bigger conglomerates already have the benefit of global distribution. With Rolex being a major competitor to most Swiss watch luxury brands, it will be curious to see how brands like OMEGA react to this news in the long term and if they pull out of Bucherer locations worldwide. This would keep them from having to pay their competition or have internal high-level conversations with a retailer that is controlled by their competitor.
While the full extent of its impact remains to be seen, it is clear that the collaboration has the potential to reshape the watch-buying experience. As the watch industry continues to evolve, watch enthusiasts and collectors alike will be closely watching how this acquisition unfolds and its implications for the future of luxury watch buying.