Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Complete History Of Rolex Part 2: The André Heiniger Years

The Complete History Of Rolex Leadership

Part 2: The André J. Heiniger Years

...Second Director Of Rolex...

The André Heiniger Story

"Second Ghost In The Machine"


Rolex is an amazing company with an incredible history, coupled with an awe-inspiring legacy of success and achievement. In The Complete History Of Rolex Leadership Series on Jake's Rolex World I have been exploring the history of Rolex's internal leadership, beginning with the founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf.

Only 5 men have officially run Rolex in its illustrious history over the past 106 years. André Heiniger became the second CEO of Rolex in 1962, two years after the founder or Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf passed away at age 78. 

The photo below of André Heiniger was taken just after he took over as the official Managing Director of Rolex in 1963 when he was 42 years old. André J. Heiniger was born in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland in 1921, and he went to work for Rolex in 1948.

André Heiniger 1963

André Heiniger was a lawyer before he joined Rolex and prior to taking over Rolex, André Heiniger had been the head of Rolex South America, and was stationed in Beunos Aires, Argentina in South America. As a matter of fact, his son Patrick Heiniger was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on August 26, 1950.

1971 Rolex Explorer II
Reference 1655

Rolex introduced the Explorer II in 1971 under André Heiniger's leadership and it had an orange hand to keep track of the time in a second time zone. The current orange hand Rolex Explorer II  is based upon this cool retro-design.

Rolex Day-Date Ad
January 1973

This fascinating Rolex advertisement was published in a magazine in January of 1973, and it says "There's a private corridor outside the Managing Director's office in our Geneva headquarters which is lined with the signed portraits of most of the world's leading Heads of State. Obviously this is André Heiniger's office.

If Only These Walls Could Talk

Below is a higher-resolution photo of the executive offices at Rolex Headquarters in Geneva in 1973. It is clear, that at least back in 1973, Rolex was very proud and interested in their history. What I want to know, is where are all those photos today? I want to see them and learn more about the amazing history of Rolex. I imagine André Heiniger's office is the one at the end of the corridor?

1976 Rolex Awards For Enterprise Founded

In 1976 André Heiniger founded the Rolex Awards for Enterpise to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the waterproof Rolex Oyster watch.

There is a famous story where a friend of André Heiniger asked him "How's the watch business doing?" to which André Heiniger responded "I have no idea." His friend laughed, not realizing that André was being serious. André continued "Rolex is not in the watch business. We are a luxury business."

André Heiniger's son Patrick Heiniger became the Managing Director of Rolex in 1992 when the Rolex Board of Directors appointed him to replace his father. Patrick Heiniger stepped down as CEO of Rolex on December 17, 2008.

André Heiniger is pictured below with his son Patrick Heiniger who became the CEO of Rolex after him. Golf legend, Arnold Palmer is pictured on the left wearing a tuxedo jacket.

Arnold Palmer, André Heiniger and Patrick Heiniger pictured above

André Heiniger stayed on as the Chairman of Rolex until he retired from that role in 1997, and then became Chairman emeritus until he passed away three years later On January 3, 2000 at the age of 79. Over the 34 years André Heiniger ran Rolex he assisted in turning it into the ultra-succesful company it is today. I am looking forward to shedding much more light on this illustrious Rolex historical figure.

The reason the sub-title of this part of this story is "The Second Ghost In The Machine" is because so little has ever been published about André Heiniger. André Heiniger was a very private man who maintained a very low-key public presence.

To date, André Heiniger has remained an enigmatic figure, and one could argue that history–like with Hans Wilsdorf, founder of Rolex before I wrote Part 1 of this Rolex Leadership Series–almost seems to have forgotten him. I intend to change that in 2012 by walking you through his amazing career achievements and exploring what made him tick.

André Heiniger is pictured below with his wife, Odette Heiniger, Colonel Gerard Leigh and Price Charles of Wales at the Guards Polo Club in Windsor, U.K.

In this next photo, we see Gérard Souham, André Heiniger, Jan Nelson and Prince Charles.

In the next image we see André Heiniger with HIH The Princess Napoleon at a Polo match.