Geneva-based Rolex SA is no longer a family affair.
The luxury watchmaker last week named Bruno Meier as head of management, replacing Patrick Heiniger, who retired from his position of managing director and chief executive officer last Tuesday. Heiniger had held the position since 1992, when he took the reins from his father, Andre. The younger Heiniger will continue to be associated with the company in a consulting capacity, but his retirement effectively ends 50 years of the brand being overseen by a member of the Heiniger family.
Press reports after Heiniger’s retirement announcement last week linked his stepping down to involvement with the Bernard L. Madoff affair, which the company denied.
Meier joined Rolex in 2005 as director of finance. He will be responsible for running the luxury Swiss watch firm’s business along with the board of directors and the management of Rolex SA.
The company said the brand saw record sales this year. In June, the company opened a 4,320-square-foot Milan flagship dedicated to the brand, designed by architect Claudio Monti and Rolex’s interior designers. The store houses 200 Rolex styles, plus the $630,000 GMT Ice men’s watch entirely covered in top-quality white diamonds.
But while Rolex remains the world’s largest luxury watch brand, it, like others in the sector, faces significant challenges in the year ahead. The global recession has seen the skyrocketing watch sector come firmly back to earth, even as the high-end segment continues to perform well. Exports of Swiss watches declined 15.3 percent in November, underscoring the vulnerability of the timepiece market to the economic crisis.
Total exports of Swiss watches last month reached 1.52 billion Swiss francs, or $1.43 billion at current exchange, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. The downturn most affected watches made of less expensive materials, including steel watches, which dove 22 percent in the month.
Exports of platinum watches jumped 28 percent, suggesting more expensive pieces continue to fare best in the downturn.
“We are cautious on watch players,” said HSBC analyst Antoine Belge in a note to investors. “We do not know how far consumer behavior in this downturn will resemble that seen on previous occasions, but historical evidence shows that the watch segment has been more vulnerable than other product categories to deterioration in the psychological component of the ‘feel-good’ factor.”
The federation said most markets registered double-digit declines in November, although France, Germany and the United Arab Emirates recorded increases. Watch exports to China remained stable, the federation said.
@juicebeauty, where @gwynethpaltrow holds the title of creative director of makeup, has become one of the foremost labels in the organic beauty category –– with sales on track to hit $100 million this year. What’s behind the rapid growth the brand is experiencing right now? It all started in 2005 when the wellness movement was just getting started. Read more on WWD.com. #wwdbeauty
Stay up to do date with breaking news and trending stories with WWD’s “The Essentialist.” Our newsletter delivers the top news in fashion right to your inbox. Want more info? Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
"I want to tell a story that inspires people to feel good about themselves, but also I'm making a commentary about the lack of female stories and female directors and saying this should change," said @imheathergraham on her latest project "Half Magic." The comedy feature, which the actress wrote and directed, is based on her own struggles as a woman in show business. Read @andrewnodell's full interview with Graham on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
@meltcosmetics cofounders @lora_arellano and @danabomar built their brand on a single idea: a true matte lipstick. To set the brand apart, they said they always put their customers first –– including a personalized note in each package. #wwdsummits #wwdbeauty
@moncler unveiled its latest project, #MonclerGenius, yesterday at Milan Fashion Week. The Italian outwear maker gave show-goers a preview of the monthly collections – which were created by eight designers and creative talents including Pierpaolo Piccioli, Simone Rocha, Craig Green and more – that will start rolling out in the summer.