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EXCLUSIVE: Rolex prepares to reopen watchmaking facilities

ROLEX CHÊNE-BOURG SITE, GENEVA

Rolex has not been making watches since March 16, when the Coronavirus pandemic forced it to close its Swiss watchmaking factories.

It was hoped, at the time, that the closure would last only ten days, but 45 days later the manufacture remains mothballed.

There is, however, hope that a measure of normality is about return, with a statement from Rolex today saying it is taking steps to reopen.

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“Our production sites are still closed for the moment but all security measures recommended by the government are currently being put in place for a gradual opening in the near future,” Rolex says.

Patek Philippe partially reopened its watchmaking facility this week.

Breitling returned to work last week.

There has been no update from Richemont or LVMH brands, and Swatch Group’s maisons are thought to have continued production in a limited capacity throughout the lock down.

Rolex’s closure for 45 days already represents over 12% of the current year’s manufacturing time lost to Covid-19.

Reopening may be days away, but government-recommended security measures at the facilities will mean reduced production capacity for many more weeks; possibly months.

Analysts estimate that Rolex made just over 1 million watches in 2019, a figure likely to drop to well under 900,000 in 2020.

Rolex’s authorised dealers say they still have long waiting lists for the hottest steel sports models, and the lengthy production shut down will do nothing to ease that situation.

Rolex also responded to a question about when or whether there would be new watches launched this year and was told there had been no further update yet. They were due to be unveiled today because this would have been the preview day for the press at Baselworld 2020.

3 Comments

  1. Rolex do not make steel sports watches, they make a professional range of watches. Is this what you are referring to? I thought such a large online news producer would get something as simple as this right. Just saying! Great read btw.

  2. A figure of 1 million watches made in 2019 is grossly overstated. Insiders estimate is around 200,000

    1. None of the analysts I speak to gives a figure for Rolex’s annual production with complete certainty, but the consensus of one million units in 2019 is agreed by both Morgan Stanley and Vontobel.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder