The United Kingdom is blessed with the sort of transparency for businesses that makes Swiss companies shudder. Nobody outside a family trust knows the financial performance of Rolex, but in the UK we have 20/20 vision on the company’s turnover and profit. We can track the performance of Rolex and measure it against all sizeable watch businesses operating in the UK. In a first ever report of such depth and detail, WatchPro has compiled figures for each of the top 10 watch businesses operating in the UK since 2010.
Every major watch business operating in the UK has now had its 2016/17 accounts published by Companies House. This allows us to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together to create a complete picture of how the ten largest watch businesses have performed in their most recent financial year, and compare that performance to previous years.
It is important to note that this is generally turnover from wholesale operations, but a percentage is derived from direct sales to consumers through brands’ own boutiques and ecommerce sites. Richemont and Swatch Group sell a higher percentage of their watches directly to consumers than other businesses.
The growth has been impressive, with sales of the top 10 overall rising 84% from £603 million in 2010/11 to £1,108 million in 2016/17. Operating profit of the top 10 has risen even more quickly, by 122% from £36.5 million in 2010/11 to £81 million last year. Inflation over the period added 15.8% over the same period using the CPI measurement.
Every company has grown considerably since the turn of the decade, but Rolex stands head and shoulders above the rest, with turnover increasing from £109 million in 2010 to £268 million in 2016. It has increased its share of the top 10’s total turnover from 18% to 24% since 2010. Over the same seven years, Patek Philippe’s share of the top 10 has risen from 11% to 13%; Seiko’s share has dropped from 11% to 7%.
Interestingly, the story of the past seven years has not always been about the luxury players trouncing mass market brands. Fossil Group UK’s turnover accounts for 11% of the top 10 now, the same share as in 2010. The exceptional period for Fossil Group, when its Michael Kors brand was on fire, was 2014, when it grabbed an 18% share of the top 10.
Operating profit has also more than doubled for the Top 10 as a whole since 2010 from £38 million to almost £81 million. In fact, the past three years have seen operating profits rise at their fastest rate this decade. As recently as 2014, the Top 10 generated only just over £50 million in operating profits.
WatchPro could pick out details from these accounts for hours, but we leave it to the market to choose its favourite accounts as, without further ado, we present this year’s top 10 watch businesses operating in the UK. Click on the company name to learn more.
- Rolex Watch Company Limited
- Rhone Products Limited (Patek Philippe)
- Cartier Limited
- Richemont UK Limited
- Fossil (UK) Limited
- LVMH Watch & Jewellery (UK) Limited
- Swatch Group UK Limited
- Seiko UK Limited
- Breitling UK Limited
- Time Products (UK) Limited
EDITOR’S NOTE: Accounts published at Companies House do not always tell the whole story of a company’s performance. Businesses legitimately organise their affairs for purposes of tax efficiency, and wholly-owned subsidiaries of global companies can make charges on their UK businesses that depress net profits. In this State of the Nation report, we show only annual turnover and annual operating profit for each company. These are the two most reliable indicators because there is very little creative accountancy that can affect these figures. We also show these figures over a period of seven years so that we get a reasonably accurate picture of improving or declining fortunes over time.