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Rolex Has Quietly Appointed Swiss Businessman Nicolas Brunschwig as Chairman

Brunschwig takes the reins from Bertrand Gros, who resigned in July.

Rolex retail store display. John Greim

It appears it’s a time of change at Rolex.

The Swiss watchmaker has named Nicolas Brunschwig as chairman of Rolex SA in Geneva and its umbrella organization Rolex Holding SA, according to Bloomberg.

The appointment was actually made back in August but has been kept largely under wraps in typical Rolex fashion. Controlled by a private foundation created by late founder Hans Wilsdorf, the world’s best-known watch brand ironically often tends to be shrouded in secrecy from a business perspective. However, Rolex confirmed the switch-up and a corporate registry filing on Thursday. Swiss newspaper Handelszeitung earlier reported the move.

Brunschwig is the heir of the Geneva family that founded Bon Génie in Switzerland in 1891, which later evolved into the luxury department store chain Bongénie-Grieder. The 63-year-old exec has been on Rolex’s board since 2016 and was previously a trustee of the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation.

The new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King
The new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King. Rolex

Brunschwig takes the reins from Bertrand Gros. The 72-year-old former attorney resigned last July after a 15-year tenure and was instrumental in shaping Rolex into the multibillion-dollar juggernaut it is today. Most notably, Gros named Jean-Frédéric Dufour as CEO of Rolex in 2015.

Suffice it to say, Brunschwig has some pretty big shoes to fill. His long-standing relationship with Rolex should put him in good stead, though. He’s also a decade younger than his predecessor and may come with new ideas and revived energy.

Not that Rolex needs any help on that front, of course. The undisputed hing of horology has a market share of close to 30 percent. It produces roughly 1 million watches every year and generates about $8.4 billion in annual sales, according to Morgan Stanley. Its watches have been increasingly tough to snag at retail and secondary market prices are often off-the-charts, which only adds to the brand’s hype. The watchmaker’s marketing élan, design consistency, financial independence and selective scarcity continue to ensure its unrivaled success among watch brands.

Brunschwig’s biggest challenge may be fending off more requests from friends (and those eager to make his acquaintance) jockeying to get access to the latest Rolex release.

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