Rolex is a British-founded Swiss watch designer that has for over 100 years made exceptional timepieces with excellent performance and impeccable aesthetics.
The company, whose headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland, was founded by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London in 1905.
Rolex, the official trademark for Wilsford’s and Davis’ watch collection, was registered in 1908. Although the name source is surrounded by confusion, it is believed that Hans Wilsdorf combined the alphabetical letters in any manner he could think of and came up with hundreds of names. However, none moved his soul until one morning while riding on his horse when he heard a genie whisper the word Rolex into his ear.
Due to an unfavorable business environment resulting from World War I, Rolex moved its operation base to Geneva in 1919. Since then, the company has been a private family trust owned by Hans Wilsdorf. Moreover, the company continues to build a strong reputation as a status symbol despite controversies surrounding the company’s charitable donations.
Today, the brand is valued at $8.053 billion. Rolex produces more than 1,000,000 timepieces every year, way above some of its closest rivals. The company has a human resources base of over 30,000 people across the globe. According to the 2021 watch market, Rolex enjoys 29 percent of the Swiss watch industry’s market share and a turnover of 8 billion CHF.
The company also gives back to the community through programs such as Rolex Award Enterprise. The program supports courageous men and women who, through hard work, initiate special programs that advance human knowledge and well-being. The over 155 Award winners have created new technologies that have made the world a better place to live.
Renowned people who own Rolex timepieces include Barack Obama, Winston Churchill, Warren Buffett, Tiger Woods, Paul Newman, and thousands of other influential individuals.
The methodology with which competitors of Rolex are ranked is based on publicly available information. We will consider data points such as the number of timepieces produced, the number of employees, the number of countries where the stores are located, revenue generated, and anything else notable.
This analysis looks at competitors in the watch manufacturing industry. Potential competitors in the lines of jewelry making are not being taken into account. Lastly, this analysis does not include the indirect competitors of Rolex, such as Lange & Söhne, Bremont, or Grand Seiko, since they are non-swiss watch brands.
Notably, this analysis should not be seen as an endorsement of a particular brand. It is merely a summary of all the competition that Rolex faces as of today.
Now, let us dive right into the top 15 competitors as well as the competitive advantage of Rolex.
Headquarters: Paris, France Founder: Louis Francois Cartier Year founded: 1847
Cartier, a luxury watchmaker, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Swiss Richemont. The company has, since its inception, been associated with loyalty. Additionally, King VII referred to Cartier as the king of jewelers in 1904. He issued the company a royal warrant. The move opened the door, and soon more royal warrants from Russia, Serbia, the House of Orleans, and the Courts of Spain started trickling in.
Today, Cartier has a turnover estimate of 2.4 billion CHF, making it the most worthy competitor of Rolex. It has a wide geographical spread of about 125 countries and more than 200 stores, but
the most significant market targets are Japan, the Middle East, Europe, America, and Asia. As of 2016, the company’s net revenue was $6.1 billion. Over 7,500 employees take part in manufacturing about 700,000 watches every year.
Forbes Magazine, in 2020, ranked Cartier as the 56th most valuable brand in the world. The watches are of several minerals, such as sapphire crystal, and undergo a manual assembling process.
Headquarters: Bienne Switzerland Founder: Lois Brandt Year founded: 1848
Omega is a Swiss luxury watch manufacturer and a company of Swatch Group. Some of Omega’s brands, such as Speedmaster, are the first watches to be on the moon during NASA missions.
Since 1965, Omega has been the official timekeeper of the Olympic games and a partner in multiple golf, athletics, and sailing competitions. Omega is also one of James Bond’s favorite brands. Even Elvis and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy are renowned people who own the timepiece.
Omega has over the years been associated with perfection and goes head-to-head with Rolex in terms of accuracy. The company’s world’s first Master Chronometer represents the industry’s highest accuracy and chronometric performance standards.
Undoubtedly, Omega is the third most potent company after Rolex and Cartier. The company produces 500,000 watches per year, indicating solid and consistent sales, and records a turnover value of 2.2 billion CHF.
Omega has more than 60 stores in the world’s best retail locations and ambassadors such as Daniel Craig, Rory McIlroy, and Eddie Redmayne. They make the brand a worthy competitor of Rolex.
3. Audemars Piguet
Headquarters: Le Brassus, Le Chenet, Switzerland Founders: Julie Louis Audemars, Eduard Augste Piguet Year founded: 1875
Audemars Piguet is a Swiss luxury watch manufacturing company that has evolved from a handmade workshop in a small village in Le Brassus into a cultural icon.
The company makes high-quality designs with unique craftsmanship. They are different from Rolex in that Audemars Piguet specializes in exquisite and artful designs and watch styles, while Rolex is known for its luxury sports watches.
Although the company’s turnover had stagnated throughout 2019 at 1.18 billion and sank to 1.13 billion due to the pandemic, they have made great strides to become the world’s fourth-biggest Swiss watch-making company. The company’s turnover estimate increased by 0.03 percent to 1.6 billion CHF and anticipates increased production levels from 45,000 watches to 50,000 in 2022.
Although the company has 200 points of sale across the Middle East, North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, only 25 are wholly owned. At the same time, 60 are mono brands(stores that exclusively sell Audemars Piguet timepieces). However, the company plans to completely mono-brand the outlets to control its image.
Headquarters: St-Imier, Switzerland Founder: Auguste Agassiz Year founded: 1832
Longines is one of the oldest and most successful Swiss Luxury watch manufacturing companies. Since the 19th century, Longines watches have been associated with horse racing. However, they are now part of the Ski competitions and tennis matches.
The brand produces high-quality timepieces, categorized into five collections (Avigation, elegance, diving, performance, and watchmaking tradition).
Longines produced its 50 millionth watch under its production line in 2018. It has a revenue turnover of 1.5 billion CHF, slightly below Audemars Piguet. Although Longines prices are much lower than Lorex’s, the company produces 1.5 million timepieces every year, way above Rolex. A Rolex piece that costs $5,700 is seven times more costly than the cheapest Longines.
5. Patek Philippe
Headquarters: Geneva Switzerland Founders: Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe Year founded: 1839
Patek Philippe is a prestigious high-end Swiss watch and clockmaker globally. Patek Philippe pieces are finished and assembled by hand and do not rely on automated production processes like their competitors.
The craftsmanship is so detailed that it takes nine months to produce their most basic timepieces and up to two years for some complicated mechanical watches.
Although their manufacturing process takes time, the company manages to make enough timepieces for its broad customer base. For instance, they made 62,000 timepieces in 2018 with the help of over 2,000 employees.
Patek Philippe has an estimated turnover of about 1.5 billion CHF out of an estimated market share of 5.8 percent. Compared to Rolex, which makes 1 million pieces a year, the 62,000 watches produced by Patek Philippe seem fairly low. However, the company projects 3 percent growth annually.
The company has over 400 retail shops worldwide and more than a dozen distribution locations in Europe, Asia, Oceania, and North America. Notable people who own Patek Phillipe timepieces include Nelson Mandela, Pope Pius IX, Queen Elizabeth II, Marie Curie, and Queen Victoria.
6. Richard Mille
Headquarters: Les Breuleux, Switzerland Founders: Richard Mille and Dominique Guenat Year founded: 1999
Richard Mille is a Swiss high-end watch manufacturer. Before starting the company, Richard was a shareholder and general manager at Place Vendome. He left his job in 1998 after a disagreement and decided to start his collection of watches. He met Guenat a year later and defined their brand concept by combining resistant material, innovation, and accuracy.
After years of research, the brand presented its first piece, the RM 001 Tourbillon, in 2001. In 2002, Richard Mille launched RM002, the first watch with a titanium baseplate. The brand has gained recognition due to the technology and innovative materials used when making its timepieces.
The brand has a turnover value of 1,1 billion CHF and produces 4,800 pieces, and a human resource capacity of 148. Richard Mille operates 38 proprietary stores and 45 retail stores around the world.
Headquarters: Le Locle Switzerland Founders: Charles-Felicien Tissot, Charles-Emile Tissot Year founded: 1853
Tissot is a Swiss luxury brand that stands for quality, beauty, innovative technology, and style. Two men, Felicien and his son Emile, came together and started the Tissot factory in their hometown.
The company has grown into a powerhouse and produces some of the best luxury Swiss watches, such as Classic Dream, Automatics, Couturier, and Bridgeport. Tissot is a brand that creates affordable luxury timepieces.
As a result, the vast demand forces them to increase production to up to 4 million pieces per year, or 3% of the watches produced worldwide. The company employs over 1,500 people in more than 160 countries and has a turnover of 850 million CHF.
Headquarters:Schaffhausen, Switzerland Founder: Florentine Ariosto Jones Year founded: 1868
IWC is an established Swiss luxury watch-making company that produces beautifully finished mechanical movements. Their best pieces include; Big Pilot’s Watch 43, Big Pilot Watch TOP GUN, and Big Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber. The company enhances the outlook of its well-crafted timepieces by using transparent case backs.
IWC’s heritage is deeply founded on entrepreneurship and the pioneering American spirit. Despite mistrust from skilled workers, Florentine ventured into craftsmanship at the age of 27. He combined outstanding skills in Swiss crafting and engineering technology to start the company.
IWC continues to make watches ideal for sporting activity on land, sea, and in the air and is the only watch company officially licensed to work on US Navy watches. Its timepieces are a craft of luxury and precision and make a statement of sophistication and elegance.
IWC produces 70,000 watches per year and employs 650 employees. The company has a turnover of 800 million CHF.
9. Tag Heuer
Headquarters: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland Founder: Edouard Heuer Year founded: 1860
Tag Heuer is one of the leading high-end Swiss watch manufacturing companies that prides itself as a technological innovator of water-resistant stopwatches. The brand has been associated with the world’s most competitive international sporting events, such as FIA Formula 1 World Championship, Olympic Games, and FIS Ski World Cup.
The company has steadily built its reputation around sports enthusiasts around the world. As a result, it has produced some of the most prestigious sports timepieces, such as Formula 1, Acquaracer, and Carrera. The company has an estimated turnover of 680 million CHF, making it the tenth-largest Swiss watchmaking company.
Tag Heuer is an international brand linked to renowned celebrities such as Cameron Diaz, Ronaldo, and Shah Rukh Khan. The company has nearly 140 stores and 4,567 points of sale across the globe and plans to expand its direct distribution and gain visibility in targeted large cities globally.
10. Vacheron Constantin
Headquarters: Plan-Les-Oates, Canton of Geneva, Switzerland Founders: Jean-Marc Vacheron Year founded: 1755
Vacheron Constantin is one of the classical Swiss watch and clock manufacturing companies. The company manufactures recognizable Swiss brands such as FiftySix, and Patrimony Ultra-Thin through their value is estimated to be half of Patek Philippe’s brand. Since its inception, the luxury watch manufacturer has proudly recorded an uninterrupted watchmaking history and has never manufactured averagely-priced models, unlike Rolex.
Although the brand relied heavily on the Chinese market, the Chinese government’s move to ban high-end gifts for officials affected the export sales. The company implemented an in-house production of mechanical watches to face those challenges. The aim was to get certification to join the Swiss canton of Geneva and penetrate the United States, North America, Asia, Europe, and Asia markets.
On April 3, 2005, Vacheron Constantin sold one of the most exorbitant timepieces ever at an auction. King Fuad I of Egypt owned the pocket watch No. 402833, which fetched the company a whopping 42.77 million CHF.
Despite the industry’s economic challenges, such as global currency shifts, the company has two manufacturing plants in Vallée De Joux in Switzerland and Canton in Geneva. It employs 1,200 full-time employees and has an estimated turnover of $17 billion. It also aims at raising its mechanical timepieces from 20,000 to around 30,000 in the coming future.
Headquarters: Le Sentier, Le Chenet, Switzerland Founder(s): Antonie LeCoultre Year founded: 1833
Jaeger-LeCoultre is a leading Swiss luxury watch and clock manufacturer with hundreds of inventions and patents. Jaeger-LeCoultre also has the world’s most complicated wristwatches, such as the Jaeger-Lecoultre Master, Atmos, Duometre, and Polaris, among other timepieces of near-perpetual movement.
For the past 189 years, the company has maintained a rich history, making them uniquely stand out as one of the best timepiece manufacturers. From their retro-futuristic ’70s-era wristwatches to classic centuries-old pocket watches, they perfectly capture the style and tell their brand’s milestones and decades of excellent mechanical contributions.
Since it was founded, Jaeger-LeCoultre has invested heavily in innovation. By the time the company was marking its 77th anniversary, it had over 350 calibres. Today, Jaeger-LeCoultre has over 1,200 calibres, unlike many of its peers, such as Patek Phillipe, who have invented just a few.
Jaeger-LeCoultre generates sales worth $15.46 billion from around 100,000 pieces per year with the help of over 8,459 employees across all its locations. Europe and America are the company’s most extensive customer base. The firm leads other brands like Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin.
12. Breguet & Fils
Headquarters: L'Abbaye, Switzerland Founders: Abraham-Louis Breguet Year founded: 1775
Breguet & Fils, a subsidiary of Swiss Swatch Group, manufactures luxury watches, jewelry, and clocks. The company is among few watchmaking brands that pioneered the watchmaking technologies such as tourbillon. The timepieces are beautifully crafted into coin-edged cases, guilloche dials, and blue pomme hands, giving them an upper hand in the competitive market space.
The company has a turnover revenue of 400 million CFH and employs 1,000 people. It also produces around 22,000 timepieces per year, lower than most of its competitors, despite funding from Swatch Group.
Nonetheless, the brand has sold some of its pieces to notable people such as King George III, Sir Winston Churchill, and Arthur Rubinstein. Breguet & Fils presents a rich history, culture, and a strong presence worldwide, making it a worthy competitor of Rolex.
Headquarters: Nyon, Switzerland Founder: Carlos Crocco Year founded: 1980
Hublot is a Swiss watch manufacturer with an Italian heritage that has made its name by designing easily customizable watches with painless strap changes.
The wholly-owned French Luxury Conglomerate Subsidiary made headlines when its first piece featured the first natural rubber strap on its timepieces. It took three years to complete the strap, but the efforts were handsomely rewarded as the company made more than $2 million in the first year after its release.
Today, Hublot has ventured into the high-end watch industry after renowned designer Jean Claude Biver came on board in 2003. Biver released a new collection of luxury watches in 2005, marking the beginning of increased sales. The sales reached 100 million Swiss Francs in 2004.
Hublot produces 28,000 watches per year. However, dozens of limited editions are made each year. It also employs about 200 people and racks in about $262.6 million in net revenue.
Headquarters: Grenchen, Switzerland Founder: Leon Breitling Year founded: 1884
Breitling is one of the leading luxury watchmakers widely known for their carefully designed timepieces for aviators. Their watches are accurately designed for the marine and aviation industry, from where they enjoy a strong brand association.
Over the years, Breitling has kept up with the latest technological advancements to deliver some of the best precision watches. They have the B55 Connected smartwatch that’s specifically designed for pilots which has really contributed to the brand’s recognition.
The brand makes 150,000 timepieces and generates $443 million in sales every year. In 2017, all of its produced pieces received COSC certification(checks the accuracy of all Swiss watches), joining Rolex, the only other brand that recorded a 100% COSC certification.
Headquarters: Geneva Switzerland Founder: Georges Edouard Piaget Year founded: 1874
Piaget, a leading luxury watch manufacturer, combines excellent artistic works and technology to produce ultra-thin watches with awesome accessories, a leading luxury watch manufacturer. During production, the use of precious stones has earned Piagetian an excellent reputation and exceptional customer loyalty.
Piaget has over 130 stores that sell exclusive timepieces and jewelry. They also have 300 retail partners across the globe. Currently, the company is opening more stores to cater to the growing demand for high-end watches. They target cash-rich clientele, especially in the Middle East, Asia, and Russia.
Piaget has an annual revenue of $348 million and produces about 24,000 timepieces every year. The company has around 990 employees.
Rolex Competitive Advantage
Rolex continues to dominate the Swiss watchmaking industry and possesses numerous competitive advantages. For starters, the brand enjoys massive recognition across the globe. Even those who do not know much about watches know Rolex to be one of the most influential watch manufacturers.
On the other hand, those keen interest in quality, design, craftsmanship, and elegance view Rolex as the ultimate brand.
Secondly, the brand’s achievements in terms of financial independence are incomparable even to its closest rivals. Since its inception, Rolex has maintained an unshakable strategic position, as not even one of its shares has been sold. The sole owners, or Rolex since the beginning, remain Wilsdorf Trust. Being a family-owned company keeps it off from the burden of dealing with stakeholders.
Its founder, Hans Wilsdorf, laid a strong foundation that has seen the company excel because it controls its finances through internal mechanisms. The company utilizes its earnings to grow its brand, conducting an intensive market survey and conducting in-depth research that ensures new timepieces record-high sales immediately after they venture into the market.
Rolex produces the same number of watches (around one million), even with every year’s ever-growing demand. As a result, they create an artificial shortage and make the timepieces the most sought-after. This ultimately translates to an impression of quality, elegance, style, and technologically advanced designs in their customer’s minds.
Fourthly, the company’s distribution strategy is deliberately done in exclusive or company-owned stores. The move ensures they maintain a high-class standard and that the high-end timepieces are not found anywhere in the market, confirming the belief that the brand is only for high-end clientele.
Fifth, design consistency has given Rolex a competitive advantage, one of the reasons it has been on the throne for over 100 years. The company delivered a high-quality brand that stuck in its customer’s minds. For instance, Rolex Datejust 41 has been one of the best-selling pieces since 1945. Despite undergoing several upgrades, the timepiece has maintained a versatile style, quality, and style.
Sixth, Rolex has also produced timepieces with innovative features since its inception. For instance, they made their first water-resistant watches with automatic winding and chronograph certificates in 1927. Undoubtedly, they continue to produce pieces with everything a watch needs.
Seventh. Excellent customer analysis has enabled Rolex to make several strides ahead of its rivals. They know their customers lie in the high-income strata of society. They reach out to their specific target prospects through social media platforms and promote their pieces as a lifestyle necessity, not a brand. They also use their pricing as a marketing strategy. The brand does not offer discounts to its customers. They sell their pieces based on perfection, elegance, and the stones and metal used.
Come to think of it, have you ever seen a Rolex advert?