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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

Rolex shuts SA office after 76 years, are smartwatches to blame?

Rolex cited the change in “local markets and conjuncture" for closing its office in SA.

Luxury Swiss watch maker Rolex is closing its Sandton office citing the change in “local markets and conjuncture”.

The Rolex Watch Company South Africa opened its doors in 1948 in the centre of Johannesburg.

According to a statement from Rolex Geneva, issued to News24, Rolex explained that it would remain active in the region through its official retailer network, ensuring that customers can still purchase and service Rolex watches.

Rolex support

Rolex stockists and other general watch retailers told the publication that while the Rolex office closing its doors – after having a presence in SA for the past 76 years – was the end of an era, it was unlikely to have an impact on the premium brand’s products or customers in the local market.

A Google search for Rolex Watch Company SA’s contact details and address in Fredman Drive lists the office as permanently closed.

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Impact of smartwatches

It is possible that smartwatches are making an impact on the watch market.

While watch connoisseurs are mature buyers, and those who need to show off their wealth favour traditional watch brands, the tech savvy and younger generations are inclining towards smartwatches.

Smartphone brands have been highly successful in the smartwatch market although traditional watch brands have not made an impact on the market apart from Tag Heuer with its Connected series.

Luxury watches like sports cars

Speaking to The Citizen, tech expert Toby Shapshack said the smartwatches will have an impact, but not at the very high end.

“Luxury watches are kind of like sports cars. A lot of these watches are not bought to be worn every day on someone’s wrist. They are bought as part of a collection and the luxury market has proved very resilient in tough economic times. They are more of an investment purchase to an everyday wearable.”


Shapshack said smartwatches are fantastic.

“I wear one as opposed to a real analogue one and I always have an analogue face on my smartwatch. The main reason I wear it to tell the time, but there’s a connectivity that’s useful that you don’t get from analogue watches, like steps track or when your phone rings.”

Shapshack said it is unlikely the luxury brands will join the smartwatch market as there are not many operating systems for smartwatches unlike Samsung which has their Tison, Huawei with Harmony OS, Android and Apple with their iOS who have also collaborated with Hermes and Nike among others.

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