Europa Star WorldWatchWeb, 26 June 2006    Español Pусский 繁體中文
Pierre M. Maillard Editor-in-Chief


For quite some time, the Swatch Group and Rolex have exchanged pleasantries. We are not yet to the point of name-calling, but a certain tension seems to be building up at our two watch giants, which have, up to now, been relatively courteous to each other.
The flames of hostility began to spark during an interview that Nick Hayek Jr. gave to the excellent newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “The growth of Rolex seems to be slowing down a little,” he declared, adding quickly, “Omega, on the other hand, is doing quite well.” And, laying his cards on the table, he went on to say, “Our ambition is clear. We want to equal, and then to surpass Rolex in three to four years.” This goal means that the sales of Omega alone would have to move above the bar of 2 billion Swiss francs, which, according to Nick Hayek, is the presumed turnover of Rolex. (According to other sources, Rolex's total sales vary between 2.2 and 2.5 billion Swiss francs, which includes its other brand Tudor.)
Rolex wasted no time in announcing that it had just acquired 46,000 square metres of land in Bienne, where the company has its movement manufacturing centres, integrated in 2004, and where it will create 1000 new jobs. Furthermore, Rolex has just terminated three gigantic building sites in Geneva – some say that the work cost one
billion Swiss francs – the construction of which is a veritable Fort Knox for watch assembly, one immense and
luxurious hi-tech black mass whose shadow falls at the foot of its
neighbour, the elegant Patek Philippe manufacture, as well as the integral renovation and enlargement of its headquarters.
Is Rolex’s announcement a sacrilege in Bienne, a city where Nicolas Hayek is king, and intends to remain so? Through the media, Hayek declared that “there is a lot of media noise” surrounding this expansion project, that he welcomes, moreover, as “positive”. He immediately announced that he also has plans for development in Bienne. “Omega is exploding in all directions. For months, the Swatch Group has been looking to acquire between 50,000 and 70,000 square metres.”
A few weeks earlier, during the middle of the SIHH festivities, it was also interesting to watch Nicolas Hayek and his son Nick flaunt their presence in the centre of Geneva at their City of Time inauguration, a cultural exhibition and group ‘ambassador’ located in the heart of ‘enemy’ territory. Greeted by “Welcome to Rolex City,” Nick Hayek did not appreciate this biting remark from a local journalist, and stated, “We are a Swiss company in a Swiss city.”
So, this is where the situation stands for the moment. But beyond these few public tensions, the stakes are colossal. For the brands, it is all about being able to strongly position themselves in the emerging markets – or those that have already emerged such as China, mainly, India and even Russia. “In China, Omega controls 20 percent of the market,” explains Nick Hayek, “while Rolex is satisfied with 4 percent.” And, he wants to increase sales even more in the Chinese market during the Olympic Games in Beijing. An anecdote sums up the battle. Omega is the only brand to be visible between the Forbidden City and the Mao Mausoleum on the famous kilometre long Tiananmen Square, the heart of Chinese power. How did Omega succeed in doing this? It offered China an immense countdown clock, bearing the Omega brand name and located in front of the National museum, that counts down the days until the inauguration of the Olympic Games in the Chinese capital. Each day thousands of Chinese people line up to be photographed in front of this new addition to their city.
While waiting to count down the manoeuvres and counter manoeuvres between our two watch giants, there are however those who are rubbing their hands together with glee, and why shouldn’t they? They manage the employment office in the city of Bienne.

Source: Europa Star June-July 2006 Magazine Issue


Montres Rolex SA
Rue François-Dussaud 3-5-7
Case postale 1755
CH 1211 Genève 26
Tel : +41 (0)22 302 22 00
Fax : +41 (0)22 300 22 55

More Info
Rolex Awards for Enterprise - Five Young Laureates video
1 July 2014

News - Rolex Awards for Enterprise - Five Young Laureates

Exciting projects such as employing technology to improve health diagnoses in the developing world, wildlife conservation in Africa and exploration in South America will receive support from (...)

Spotlights - Rolex

Established in 1920 in Geneva, Rolex has grown to become perhaps the most recognised watch brand in the world thanks to the canny marketing of its founder Hans Wilsdorf. Rolex is one of the few (...)
Jean-Frédéric Dufour Appointed New General Director of Rolex
14 April 2014

News - Jean-Frédéric Dufour Appointed New General Director of Rolex

Rolex has appointed Jean-Frédéric Dufour as General Director, putting him in charge of the world renown luxury watchmaker. Dufour, who currently runs watchmaking brand Zenith, will succeed to Gian (...)
Rolex's 2014 Young Laureates Jury announced
17 March 2014

News - Rolex’s 2014 Young Laureates Jury announced

A panel of prominent scientists, environmentalists, experts and entrepreneurs will select the five Young Laureates for the 2014 Rolex Awards for Enterprise. They will meet at Rolex headquarters (...)
Rolex video
24 February 2014

Videos - Rolex

Yacht-Master II by Rolex
Rolex Arts Initiative announces mentors for 2014-2015
24 October 2013

News - Rolex Arts Initiative announces mentors for 2014-2015

Olafur Eliasson, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Michael Ondaatje, Alexei Ratmansky, Kaija Saariaho, Jennifer Tipton and Peter Zumthor will be the mentors who will coach promising young artists on (...)
Venice to host Rolex Arts Initiative celebration
9 October 2013

News - Venice to host Rolex Arts Initiative celebration

Some of the world’s most prominent artists and international leaders in the arts will gather in Venice in October to celebrate the end of a year of rich creative exchange between the mentors and (...)
Rolex – Handing down talent and experience
19 December 2012

Features - Rolex – Handing down talent and experience

What a line-up! Just imagine, side-by-side, writers, filmmakers, actors, musicians, dancers and artists such as John Baldessari, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Trisha Brown, Sir Colin Davis, Anne Teresa De (...)

Europa Star is the premier provider of international watch industry news and information. For 85 years, we have supplied watch retailers, watch distributors, watch designers, watch agents and watch manufacturers with news from the international watch industry. Our web and print publications are of interest to the specialized watch trade and the world’s most knowledgeable aficionados, watch collectors and consumers. Our magazines and websites are available in several different languages, making them accessible to all international markets and an essential tool for anyone working in the watch business and all those passionate about watches.

© 2015 Europa Star - All rights reserved.