For more than a century, three generations of Bucherer have established one of the most exclusive watch and jewelry retailers in the world, selling expensive watches and sparkling gemstones to the rich and famous around the world.
Now, the enigmatic 87-year-old Swiss billionaire behind the luxury boutique of the same name – chairman Jörg G. Bucherer – has shocked the high-end watch retailing world by agreeing to sell Bucherer AG to Rolex.
The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal, and reaching an estimate was not easy because neither Swiss company has released financial results.
Jean-Philippe Bertschy, an analyst at Vontobel Holding AG, estimates that Bucherer generates around 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.3 billion) in annual sales at its more than 100 stores, giving the company an enterprise value of up to 4 billion Swiss francs. He estimated Bucherer accounted for about 5% of Rolex sales.
The octogenarian Bucherer’s decision to sell the minority-controlled family business has taken the industry by surprise, partly because his history with the two watchmakers has been closely linked for decades. In a statement about the agreement, Rolex said his choice was made “without direct descendants.”
Through the acquisition of Bucherer, Rolex has occupied an important position in the field of consumer sales for the first time, which is a strategic change in its dependence on external distributors. The only boutique currently owned and operated by Rolex in the world is located in its hometown of Geneva.
Read more: Rolex’s takeover of Bucherer disrupts luxury watch retailing
UBS is calling the deal the largest wealth transfer in its history over the next two decades as the founders and investors age, but the deal still needs to be approved by authorities. But it is unclear where Bucherer plans to use the proceeds from the sale. A company spokesman declined to provide any details beyond Rolex’s statement, adding that Bucherer “has always been a very cautious company.”
What is clear is that the move would end dynastic control over suppliers of expensive jewelry and watch brands such as Rolex, Bucherer, Chopard and Blancpain. According to the company website, the company’s history dates back to 1888, when entrepreneur Carl-Friedrich Bucherer and his wife Luise opened a shop in Lucerne.
Their sons Ernst and Carl Eduard joined the company in the early 1920s, and Ernst struck a deal with Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf in 1924 to add the brand to its product line. The third generation Jörg took over management in 1977 and expanded to Austria in the 1980s and Germany a decade later. Bucherer opened its flagship store in Paris in 2013 and has already entered London, Copenhagen and the United States.
Jörg Bucherer has never been interviewed by the media and is only briefly mentioned on the company website. A French company filing lists him as a Swiss citizen.
German-born Rolex founder Wilsdorf created a foundation in his own name in Geneva in 1945 that took over ownership of the company, according to the company website. He died in 1960, also without any direct descendants.
In a statement announcing the deal on Thursday, Rolex said, “Jörg Bucherer is the last active person who knew and worked with Hans Wilsdorf,” It added that Bucherer would remain on as the retailer’s honorary president.