Rolex: Tarnishing the crown Pt1

The marketing Holy Grail

It always feels good to put a Rolex on your wrist.

Put simply, the combination of its physical high quality, its perceived value and status significance fulfils all the right parts in our consumerist minds and hearts.

It’s almost impossible to argue that buying a Rolex is ever the wrong choice.

In the marketing context, this is like finding the holy grail. Guaranteeing your customers a high market value and an emotional confidence that they can expect by buying into your brand leaves no doubt that Rolex has achieved something extraordinary in their marketing.

That success has led them to increasing market share and power. Rolex is the undisputed sun in our watchmaking solar system, but they’ve begun taking over.

The big fish

At the time of writing, Google is being sued again in 38 US states for anti-competitive practices, having aggressively pushed the use of their search engine to software developers (eg. inside cars, TVs, browsers etc.) Google says people just like their product, prosecutors say they were able to out-bid the competition. LINK

Amazon too, is being sued in 17 states over antitrust practices, being accused of illegally disadvantaging rival brands who offer lower prices, and additionally, bullying businesses into using their fulfilment services. LINK

While Rolex isn’t as big as the tech giants above, (£9b turnover vs Google's £280b), they are the biggest fish in the watchmaking pond, and have a similar power ratio to their fellow competitors.

Crossing the line

Since taking over Bucherer, watch industry press have applauded Rolex’s acquisition as a brilliant business move, which is expected, because based on using metrics of turnover and profit, they’ve clearly captured an astonishing market percentage.

Rolex already owns around 28% of the watch market (31% if you include Tudor’s sales) compared to the next largest brands, OMEGA and Cartier, who claim about 8% and 7% respectively. The acquisition bumps Rolex's advantage up substantially further.

Astonishingly however, Rolex have also gained control over the sales of their competitor’s timepieces sold from within Bucherer’s retail environment, in terms of sales profit and quantity.

So, Rolex have infused themselves deeper into the market and created a blurry area within the industry similar to Google’s, making it difficult to clearly pinpoint if their market influence is intentional or not.

That blurriness is what Google’s legal defence currently rests on, and it’s what clearly indicates they've clearly crossed a line.

Ultimately, I believe this takeover will further push a trend towards known brands, with recognisable models, which will not benefit customers or watch enthusiasts in the future.

All about one’s POV

Of course, opinions are always based on one’s point of view, and mine is squarely from the aspect of being a customer and watch enthusiast. Not an industry player.

Of course, I’d like to see business moves which benefit the people that buy watches because, and don’t ever forget, that is what keeps this industry, that I admire, alive.

I’m not saying that watchmaking is only for people like me, who have a particular fancy for interesting timepieces, butit should appeal to everyone.

In conclusion

Google and Amazon are in this legal predicament because they own so many key parts of the purchasing ecosystem that they were able to hide how they influenced the retail landscape and ultimately, the choices customers have.

More than operational concerns though, the deeper effect of one entity’s influence is how it causes a chain reaction within other brands to taper creative risks, and rely more on their tried and tested models to stay competitive.

Being a storyteller, I believe that in order to grow and thrive, we need a watchmaking environment that is innovative and experimental to keep people interested.

Movement generates stories, especially when mistakes can be made, and keeps a wider audience engaged.