SOURCE: Melrose Jewelers

December 24, 2008 03:30 ET

Rolex S.A.: Bruno Meier Is the New Head of Rolex S.A., Ending Heiniger Era

The Rolex Group Appointed ZKB Banker Bruno Meier as Head of Management After CEO Patrick Heiniger Resigns and so Ends the Era of Rolex by Patrick Heiniger

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - December 24, 2008) - Rolex S.A.: In an emailed statement on December 20, 2008, Rolex Group, the Swiss watchmaker, named Finance Director and respected ZKB baker Bruno Meier as head of Rolex management after Chief Executive Officer Patrick Heiniger resigned. As respected as the Rolex watches the company makes, the resignation of Patrick Heiniger came as a major surprise, ending almost half a century of leadership under the Heiniger family. Heiniger replaced his father Andre in 1992 who was the first executive to lead the Rolex corporation since the brand was created by Hans Wilsdorf in 1908. With Meier's ascension to the top post, it will be the first time in the history of Rolex that the company has not been run by either Wilsdorf or a member of the Heiniger family.

This article, by John Lavitt, can be viewed in its entirety at the MJ Rolex Watch Blog at: http://www.melrosejewelers.com/rolex-watch-blog/bruno-meier-is-the-new-head-of-rolex-ending-heiniger-era/ in the U.S. or at: http://www.melrosejewelers.co.uk/rolex-watch-blog/bruno-meier-is-the-new-head-of-rolex-ending-heiniger-era/ in the U.K.

Rolex invented the Rolex Oyster, the world's first waterproof watch, and the company is renowned for its consistent history of quality and precision. The Rolex Group makes more than 170 models of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, including the Rolex Day-Date and the Rolex Datejust Presidential models, now and employs 8,000 people. Under the leadership of Patrick Heiniger, Rolex took over the entire manufacturing process of its watches, avoiding any reliance on third-party suppliers. Interbrand Chief Executive Officer Jez Frampton said Rolex has maintained a focus on making the very best in luxury watches, while other brands have ventured have introduced cheaper versions of their products to attract new clientele. "They've stuck to their knitting," Frampton said. "This is the key for a luxury brand: you can't sell yourself cheap."

Although 2008 will have been a record year, according to the Rolex Group, under Heiniger's leadership, the departing CEO could not escape recent rumors that he had invested the company's profits in the worldwide ponzi scheme of Bernard Madoff, the American asset manager charged with $50 billion dollar fraud. With a rumored loss of over a billion dollars, Heiniger, 58, stepped down for "personal reasons" to pursue "personal projects." The company is privately owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, and, according to Interbrand, the Rolex brand is worth about $5 billion.

Bruno Meier will be responsible for running the company along with the board of directors and management, Geneva-based Rolex said in an e-mailed statement today. This year will have been a "record" under Heiniger's leadership, the watchmaker added that one of Meier's first tasks will be to protect Rolex's market share as the wealthy cut spending on luxury goods. The world's richest people are likely to see the value of their assets shrink for the first time in at least 12 years in 2008, according to a report by Capgemini SA. Weaker spending may cause a drop of as much as 15 percent in Swiss watch exports next year, John Guy, an analyst at MF Global Securities, estimated. "The pain will be shared by all," wrote Alessandro Migliorini, an analyst at Helvea SA in Geneva. "The shock wave from the financial crisis has finally hit all major markets." With the end of the Heiniger era coinciding with the worldwide recession, Rolex enters new dangerous waters, which they believe can be navigated precisely by Meier as he raises the sails of continued quality and success at the legendary company.

This article was published by the MJ Rolex Watch Blog, http://www.melrosejewelers.com/rolex-watch-blog/, or in the U.K. at http://www.melrosejewelers.co.uk/rolex-watch-blog/

The MJ Rolex Watch Blog is published by Melrose Jewelers, http://www.MelroseJewelers.com, USA's largest online Rolex retailer. Melrose Jewelers is a member of the NAWCC (National Association of Watch Collectors), the MJSA (Manufacturers & Jewelers Association of America) and the California Sheriff's Association. Melrose Jewelers is not an authorized agent or affiliated with Rolex USA, Rolex S.A., or Rolex International. All Rolex watches offered by Melrose Jewelers are Preowned; no new Rolex watches are available from Melrose Jewelers. Rolex Datejust, Rolex Oyster Perpetual, Rolex Day Date presidential and Rolex Oyster are trademarks of Rolex USA and a list of New Rolex Watch Dealers can be found at the Rolex website. Melrose Jewelers intends to complement the jewelry store offerings of Tiffany's (TIF), Zales (ZLC), Amazon.co.uk (AMZN), Blue Nile UK (NILE), and Signet (Kay Jewelers & Jared The Galleria) (SIG) with Rolex wristwatches.

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