CORDER’S COLUMN: How big is Rolex?

WatchPro managing editor Rob Corder.WatchPro managing editor Rob Corder.

Rolex does not disclose financial information. The world’s second biggest watch company (if Apple’s analysis is correct) is owned by Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a private family trust that never shares financial information.

Here in the UK we are fortunate enough to be able to see accounts filed at Companies House for every company registered for tax purposes in the country.

The 2016 accounts for The Rolex Watch Company Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rolex Holding SA in Switzerland, report turnover of £268 million. This includes sales for Rolex and Tudor watches in the UK and Ireland.

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If only we knew the percentage of global sales that Rolex’s UK operation accounts for, we would then be able to calculate its global turnover.

This is not possible, but we can at least get an estimate based on exports of all watches from Switzerland.

The total value of all watches exported from Switzerland in 2016 was CHF 19.406 billion, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

The UK accounted for exports worth CHF 1.206 billion. This put the UK’s share of global Swiss watch exports at 6.22% in 2016.

If sales of Rolex Watch Company Limited (Rolex and  Tudor’s turnover in the UK and Ireland) is 6.22% of Rolex Holding SA’s worldwide turnover, that would put global sales at £4.309 billion.

I have to say this figure comes with serious health warnings. First, it takes no account of currency exchange rate fluctuations. If it were converted to dollars at a rate of $1.6 to the pound that was the average before Brexit, it would make Rolex’s global turnover $6.9 billion; over 50% higher than the more widely quoted $4.5 billion.

If it were converted at the post-Brexit average of $1.25 to the pound, it would be a more plausible $5.4 billion in 2016.

I give you this calculation for your amusement, and invite alternative theories.

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