Rolex opens first Australian store: The history behind the brand

Luxury watch brand Rolex has opened its first standalone Australian store in Sydney, as the luxury fashion market continues to boom.

The luxury retail market in Australia is growing by around 12% per annum, while globally it’s tracking at around 10% growth.

The Rolex store opened late last week in the Henry Davis heritage building in Sydney’s Martin Place.

According to InsideRetail the store features marble fixtures, bronze trimmings, polished walnut wood furnishings and cream-coloured leather.

Rolex opened in Sydney in conjunction with luxury retailer LK Boutique.

“LK Boutique is delighted to be opening the doors of a Rolex boutique in one of Sydney’s most prestigious locations,” LK Boutique chief executive James Kennedy said, as quoted by InsideRetail.

“Today marks a memorable milestone in the family business, and is a reflection upon our unwavering loyalty and commitment to the brand. LK Boutique looks forward to continuing to uphold the high standards of quality that are synonymous with Rolex, and that have been ingrained in our business for the last 35 years.”

The opening of the new store comes as Rolex is once again the “official timekeeper” and associate sponsor of the Australian Open, which kicks off today.

Retail Oasis director Nerida Jenkins told SmartCompany sponsorship of such events is “crucial to the overarching Rolex brand”.

“The brand is all about aligning itself with not only success but the whole myriad of imagery around sport and challenges,” she says.

“Its association with one of the four key tennis events of the year is critical. They’re also sponsors of the Sydney to Hobart and these partnerships are formed around building key relationships with highly aspirational and highly involved sporting events which reflect the brand.”

Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf at the age of 24. The name ‘Rolex’ was coined in 1908 as it was short, easy to say and memorable.

In 1910 a Rolex watch was the first ever wristwatch to be granted the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision, a huge feat for Wilsdorf who’d wanted his watches to be recognised for their precision.

A forward-thinking brand, in 1926 Rolex created the first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch named “Oyster”. One year later the brand’s association with sport became clear, as the Oyster watch was worn by young English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze when she crossed the English Channel.

In 1933 it was worn again on a sporting expedition, as members of the first crew to fly across Everest were equipped with the watches. The watches reached the summit of Everest two decades later, worn by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary.

Since its early days the brand has continued to prosper, remaining one of the world’s premier watch brands.

Jenkins says the brand is likely to be successful in Australia, as more and more luxury brands consider opening flagship stores.

“In Australia luxury retail is worth about $1.8 billion in annual revenue. It’s a very lucrative market generally and a lot of retailers are looking to enter because of our resilience and how well our economy has performed while their local economies are struggling to return to growth,” she says.

“It’s aspirational value and international European cache will enable Rolex’s success here. Thinking about how Aussies have been treated by local retail in the past decade, it hasn’t offered anything new or exciting.”

Jenkins says many international retailers have entered the Australian mid-market, but now brands are thinking about the more affluent consumers.

“As consumers push toward these brands, the brands are moving to be a bit more accessible. They’re doing it to tap what is a strong new market,” she says.

“These stores only need to make one or two sales a week to meet their costs. It’s as much about creating brand presence as it is building sales.”

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