Rolex rumoured to be considering buying Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern.

At the risk of propagating fake news based on nothing more than gossip at SIHH, WatchPro cannot resist sharing the gossip that a Swiss banking analyst thinks that Patek Philippe is up for sale.

The industry has had 24 hours to come up with concrete evidence of the news since Bloomberg broke the story, but the only additional speculation that seems to be gaining currency is that the best buyer for Patek Philippe would be Rolex.


Whether it is this reasonably obvious suitability for a marriage that has seen Rolex inserted into the story (which may be groundless in the first place), or whether it has any basis in truth is pure speculation.

The original story is attributed to investment bank Berenberg analyst Zuzanna Pusz, who published a research note following a few days at SIHH and attributed the rumor that Patek Philippe is for sale to “industry talk”.

“It was interesting to hear in the corridors of the Geneva watch salon that a potential sale of the high-end watch brand Patek Philippe could be approaching soon,” the analysts wrote, adding that it could be just a rumor.

The Rolex link is not in the Berenberg report, and comes under the same “industry talk” caveat; this time conversations from informed sources in the watch industry talking to WatchPro, none of which said they had any direct knowledge of negotiations.

Patek Philippe, run by president Thierry Stern (pictured top), is the biggest family-owned independent watchmaker in the world, a status that allows it to operate in virtual secrecy without prying shareholders.

The company manufactures around 70,000 watches per year, commands 3.6% of the global market by turnover, according to 2017 data from Vontobel, a Swiss investment bank, and generated sales worth CHF 1.35 billion that year.

Rolex, owned by a family trust, is estimated to have sold watches worth CHF 5.2 billion in 2017.

Both Patek Philippe and Rolex are fiercely independent and publicity shy, so conversations relating to a deal between the two would be less likely to leak than if a major group like Richemont, Swatch Group of LVMH was in the frame.

Rolex would also be expected to have the financial muscle for a purchase even if, as Bloomberg speculates, a sale could be worth €7 billion to €9 billion.

A well-placed analyst speaking to WatchPro today poured cold water on the story. “This rumor comes up every one or two years and I believe this is clearly not true – I do not know the analyst who came up with this story, but Patek will open up its new building this year and I am sure the family is still strongly behind Patek,” the source said.


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