Obituary: Jörg Bucherer, the King of European Watch Retail

He dies shortly after selling his empire to Rolex.

Jörg G. Bucherer, the third generation to run the Bucherer retail chain, passed away on Monday evening at age 87. The news was first reported by Swiss newspapers including Le Temps.

His death comes less than three months after agreeing to sell his family business to Rolex in a multi-billion franc move that shocked the entire industry, but secured the future of the company. He led an extraordinary life, being one of the last remaining people to have worked directly with Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, and building a reputation as a man about town. Known for his fast cars and beautiful women in his youth, he was always extremely closely guarded when it came to media appearances.

Bucherer took over the business in 1977, and had been at the centre of the industry ever since. Having navigated many turbulent periods in matchmaking, he not only kept the Lucerne-based retailer afloat, but steered it to the very top, with the business now counting over 100 points of sale across Europe and America, making it the biggest seller of Rolex watches anywhere.

The historic Bucherer store in Lucerne. Image – Bucherer

When Bucherer took the reins from his father, the industry was in turmoil in the aftermath of the Quartz Crisis. That didn’t stop him as he expanded the company from its Swiss base into new territories such as Austria and Germany in 1980s. He would go on to acquire other retailers as he pursued expansion, including Kurz Group in 1989 and Swiss Lion in 2001. The real breakthrough would come in 2018 when Bucherer acquired ailing American retailer Tourneau, gaining its 28 stores across the United States, a deal that made Bucherer the biggest watch retailer in the world.

The late retail titan left behind no children, and had been battling illness for some time now, which led to speculation about the future of the business. It has been widely known that the vast fortune he leaves behind will go to charity, mainly to support his home town of Lucerne, where Bucherer was originally founded in 1888.


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