It was reported on May 28th in the Australian that – ROLEX has defended its ban on selling spare parts to independent watchmakers, who have alerted Australia’s consumer watchdog to an alleged Swiss “monopoly” over luxury watch repairs.
The general manager of Rolex in Australia, Patrick Boutellier, said the world’s biggest luxury watch brand simply wanted to control the quality of repairs.
“We are not looking to have a monopoly or anything like that at all,” he told The Australian. “For Rolex as a premium brand, we want to maintain the quality at the highest level. Our aim has always been that we can service the watches with acceptable delivery times and prices, so there is no need for us to further extend our network of watchmakers.”
But Rolex’s refusal to supply spare parts has ticked off Australia’s independent watch repairers, who have lodged a complaint with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.
Sydney watchmaker Thomas Czibula, of Expert Watch Repairs, said yesterday he had been unable to source Swiss watch parts for some brands for a decade.
“It is a problem because we have loyal customers coming back to us for 20 or 30 years,” he said. “They trust us because they’ve been dealing with us for decades and are happy with the job, but we can’t help them any more because the companies won’t supply parts.”
Mr Czibula, who trained as a master watchmaker in Hungary 39 years ago, said he was more than qualified to repair luxury brand watches. “I have close to 40 years’ experience and if that is not good enough, I don’t know what they want.”
Watch and Clock Makers of Australia president Trent Firth said yesterday TAG Heuer — owned by global luxury brand LVMH — was one of the few brands that still sold spare parts. He said Swatch had restricted sales of its electric-circuitry parts this year.
“Our days are numbered if we can’t get access to spare parts,” he said.
“It’s un-Australian to have a mentality of not letting people have a choice of where they get their watches repaired.”
Third-generation Sydney watchmaker Nicholas Hacko said an independent repairer who usually fixed five Swiss watches per week stood to lose $218,000 in revenue each year if they could not source parts.
“If you have access to spare parts, you can employ a full-time watchmaker and an apprentice,” he said. “In two or three years’ time we will all be battery fixers.”
The ACCC would not comment on the complaint lodged by the “Save the Time” coalition of watchmakers last week.
Mr Boutellier said Rolex used its 12 in-house repairers in Sydney and Melbourne to repair watches. “Our watchmakers need to be trained to keep the quality at the right level,” he said.
“We think our service is up to the standard and we are not at all looking to create a monopoly whatsoever.”