Friday, September 29, 2023

Maverick King of the Crown: Rolex CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour


Jean-Frédéric Dufour



By Danny Crivello

Rolex signaling its intention to buy for the first time a watch retailer is part of a larger management trend I've observed at Rolex whose young, maverick CEO continues to make more bold moves than any other CEO since Hans Wilsdorf.  
Under Jean-Frederic Dufour's tenure, Rolex has made unusual design changes for its most popular models. Just a year ago, it released a GMT-Master with the crown on the left, the first such model to be available to the public, a design instigated by Mr. Dufour himself, according to Rolex insiders. 

In March we saw the release of a Daytona with a see-through caseback, another first in the watchmaker's history. The Submariner broke tradition and was increased to 41mm, in 2020, to Rolex-diver fans' shock. Speaking of shock, the Sea-Dweller was given a Cyclops; the Explorer, the two-tone treatment — while the brand also walked back the (short-lived) case increase to 39mm. This might not mean much to non watch afficionados; but until then, we had never seen Rolex go from 36mm to 39mm back to 36mm in the span of a few years. 

Less than a year ago, we were treated to the unveil of Rolex's first Certified Pre-Owned program which shook the industry. Jake's Rolex World was first to reveal that the Crown was working on a watch built with something different than steel and gold: a prototype titanium Rolex had been spotted in the wild. Under Mr. Dufour, it's one of the most exciting time to be a Rolex writer. And speaking of titanium, Rolex gave the public the deepest-rated watch ever to be commercialized in the world with a historical engraving on its caseback, à la Moonwatch, also a break from tradition for the brand. 

Meanwhile, Rolex — more aware of its history than ever before — has secretly gone on a vintage shopping spree, another unusual move for one of the Swiss brands that has shown the least interest in recalling vintage design cues. Last spring alone, it spent close to $10 million on vintage pieces at Geneva auctions including the most famous Pan Am watch first uncovered in these pages. I asked a Rolex representative if a museum was in the plans. "We make no comments on potential future projects," she told me. Its newest Daytona, the 100-year-anniversary Le Mans edition has one of the greatest nod to vintage Rolex: Paul Newman exotic subdial markers.

Finally, it was Mr Dufour's decision to break away from the biggest watch trade show in the world, the nail in the coffin for century-old Baselworld. Mr Dufour now chairs a new tradeshow foundation — a first in the history of Rolex CEOs — the Watches & Wonders Geneva Foundation. More recently Mr. Dufour killed the fifty-year-old Cellini line, and these pages predicted (correctly) a new dress-watch line, the 1908, after we closely scrutinized Swiss trademark registrations.

Rolex’s next acquisition could be legendary Beyer Watches & Jewellery, in Zurich, the oldest watch retailer in the world, founded in 1760 and run by René Beyer, eighth generation Beyer. Like Jörg Bucherer, Mr. Beyer has a succession problem and could sell to Rolex.

Industry insiders also say Patek Philippe could sell itself to Rolex after the elder Stern passes away. Philippe Stern will be 85 in November. Thierry Stern, his son, has denied rumors Patek is currently for sale. But there is no rush for Mr. Dufour to make a move, as the Crown first has to clear regulatory hurdles for its Bucherer acquisition.

Will the Rolex-Bucherer tie-up pass muster with Swiss antitrust watchdogs? Rolex has an estimated annual sales of more than 9.3 billion Swiss francs, according to the Morgan Stanley-LuxeConsult annual survey. Adding Bucherer’s estimated 2.2 billion Swiss francs in annual revenue creates a hard luxury group with combined annual revenues of some 11.5 billion. That squarely pits Mr. Dufour against the Rupert family at Richemont and the Hayeks of the Swatch Group and potentially puts the Rolex-Bucherer group in the No. 2 position in the global ranking, but still behind Richemont, the watch-group industry leader.

To compare, LVMH, the world's leading luxury goods group, recorded annual revenue of 79.2 billion euros last year. Rolex could acquire Bucherer, Patek and Beyer and still not touch LVMH in terms of luxury group ranking. 

But what we know for sure is Rolex's CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour, an ambitious Jean-Claude Biver's protégé who was made King of the Crown at age 45, has a long career ahead of him. He also has a track record of making bold, unprecedented moves in the industry and think outside Rolex's traditional box. He is easily the most interesting Rolex CEO since Hans Wilsdorf.

Danny Crivello

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Rolex Crown Logo History

...2022 Story Preview...

Rolex Crown History

The famous Rolex Crown Logo, Also Known as The Rolex Coronet is one of the coolest and most recognizable iconic logos in the world. Ever wonder where it came from and what it stands for? Rolex trademarked and began using their five-point art-deco Rolex Crown logo in 1925, which was one year before the introduction of the Rolex Oyster. 

The image of the five fingers with a watch on the wrist offers an interesting clue from a 1978 Rolex magazine ad for the Rolex Awards for Enterprise.

I was just thinking about it and realized I need to do a story on the evolution of the Rolex crown logo in the future, so I thought I would get started by comparing the Rolex logo below from 1963 to the current Rolex logo which is pictured below it. It is amazing how little it has changed in 55 years! In the future, I plan to add many more dated images to this story, as well as a chronological evolution of the crown. In the meantime enjoy all these great Rolex Crown images...

The Rolex Crown logo seen above was first used in 1947, although the "ROLEX" text part of the logo used a different serif typeface.

Rolex Day-Date
Blue Lapis Lazuli Dial
[Reference 18238]

On the back of a Milgauss

[Rolex Reference 116520]

Rolex Coronets 

The applied 3-D Rolex Coronet logo is found on the dial of many Rolex Models, including the Rolex Day-Date as well as the Rolex Daytona. The photo below shows several of them on a table before they have been applied to a Rolex Dial. In my opinion, the Rolex Coronet is one of the coolest and most iconic logos in the world. Many people say the Rolex Coronet is a crown, while others believe the logo symbolizes a watch on a hand. 

Rolex Coronet

Rolex Crown Logo Collage

@Stockegsix from Instagram created this AMAZING Rolex Crown collage comprised of six Rolex models and I almost fell out of my chair when I first saw it!?!! I have to say in my opinion this is one of the coolest looking Rolex Studio Shots I have ever seen!!! Just AMAZING!!!! 

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The 2023 Submariner LV Brightens Up

...70-Year Anniversary...

Old vs. New LV. Photo Credit: Mr. Nice Watch.

THE NEW 2023




Captain Danny originally published this article back on June 6, 2023, and we were just talking about how we both noticed how remarkably popular it still is so I decided to share it again. —Jake

Ceramic bezels respond to light in a playful way, and sometimes it's hard to tell if the color of the ceramic itself has a brighter tone or whether it is the environment. Rolex hasn't mentioned any changes in the Submariner LV's bezel color on its website since the start of Watches & Wonders and the launch of the 2023 collection.

But a representative at Rolex in Geneva confirmed to Jake's Rolex World our suspicions: The 2023 Submariner 126610LV, known also as the Kermit or Starbucks, has a slightly brighter bezel. The change in color was first reported by Adrian Barker.

2023 Submariner LV. Photo Credit: Adrian Barker.

"Starting this year, it is another green that equips the green bezel of the Submariner," the Rolex rep told me. "A more yellow green in fact which is closer to the color we had on this model when it was introduced in 2003. The change will be effective in May." 

Rolex is bringing back the green of the original Kermit, the one released for the 50-year anniversary of the Submariner. The new ceramic bezel will mimic better the color of the aluminum bezel that was on the Kermit in 2003

In 2010, Rolex unveiled the Hulk, a Submariner with a green ceramic bezel and starburst green dial. The tone of the green on the bezel was different than the OG Kermit of 2003. In 2020, when Rolex released the Submariner 41 mm with the updated movement, it kept the Hulk's bezel for its 126610LV, or Starbucks.

Starting in May 2023, the Starbucks will sport a brighter green, a more "yellow-green" as the Rolex rep told me. The reference number will stay the same. The green will be different from the LHD GMT.

As the world got distracted by bubble OPs and emoji Day-Dates, I love when Rolex makes a subtle change without fanfare. The anniversary editions are so overdone, so trumpeted in the watch industry, it's a breath of fresh air to see Rolex make a change — albeit small — while remaining discreet about it.