Who Is The Richest Person In The Swiss Watchmaking Industry?

Every year, the Swiss financial magazine ‘Bilanz’ publishes a list of rich people in all sectors of the Swiss population. The latest list released in January 2017 is based on statistics from the previous year. Although compared with other industries, the watchmaking industry is smaller and has fewer people on the list, but they occupy a prominent position in the list.

   The ‘Bilanz’ list of rich people uses Swiss francs to estimate the net asset value. At the time of publication, one Swiss franc was equivalent to one US dollar. The following list is extracted from the ‘Bilanz’ rich list, and the wealth recorded is mainly from individuals and families who make watches. The Swiss watchmaking rich list is still dominated by familiar names, led by Rupert, Hayek and Stein.
1. John Rupert-4.75 billion Swiss francs (Rief Group, Tobacco)
   South African John Rupert was originally a commercial banker and later turned into a tobacco tycoon. He is the controlling shareholder of luxury goods giant Richemont, which owns brands such as Cartier and IWC. Affected by the sluggish sales of luxury goods and the decline of the group’s stock price, John Rupert’s personal assets fell from 5.5 billion Swiss francs in 2015 to 4.75 billion Swiss francs in 2016.
2. Hayek family-4.25 billion Swiss francs (Swatch Group)
   The Hayek family controls the Swatch Group, which is led by Nick Hayek, Naira Hayek, and Mark Hayek (son of Naira Hayek). Affected by the sharp decline in the Swatch Group’s share price, the assets of the Hayek family fell from 5.5 billion Swiss francs in 2015 to 4.25 billion Swiss francs in 2016. Although the Swatch Group’s 2016 financial report just released is not satisfactory, Nick Hayek believes that the group’s situation will be positively improved in 2017.
3. The Stern family-3.25 billion Swiss francs (Pattern Philippe)

   The Stern family has huge assets thanks to the control of Patek Philippe. It is estimated that Patek Philippe’s annual sales (wholesale price, not retail price) can reach 1.3 billion Swiss francs. In 2015, in order to expand the Geneva watchmaking workshop, Patek Philippe made 500 million Swiss francs, showing the extraordinary profitability of the brand. Patek Philippe is currently led by Teri Stein, who inherited his father, Philip Stein.
4. The Bucherer family-1.75 billion Swiss francs (Bucherer Group, watch retail)
   The Bucherer Group is Europe’s largest watch retailer with an estimated annual sales of 1.5 billion Swiss francs and is currently led by Jorg Bucherer, a third-generation family member. The group is still owned by the same name family, with more than 30 watch shops, more than 10 jewellery shops, and various single-brand boutiques in Europe.
5. Schafer family-1.75 billion Swiss francs (Chopin)
   The Schafer family was originally a jeweler from the German city of Pforzheim, and took over the Chopard brand in 1963. The company is headquartered in Geneva and is currently led by Carl Schaefer and his son (Carl-Frederick) (Caroline Schaefer), with annual watch and jewelry sales reaching 570 million Swiss francs.
6.Borer family-1.75 billion Swiss francs (Rolex)
   The Aegler-Borer family is led by Harry Borer, now 89 years old, who once owned Rolex Biel, the sole supplier of Rolex Geneva movements. In 2004, Rolex Geneva took over Rolex Biel, leaving huge wealth for the Aegler-Borer family.
7. Audemars and Piguet family-950 million Swiss francs (Audemars Piguet)
   It is estimated that Audemars Piguet has annual sales of 800 million Swiss francs. At the same time, with the industry downturn in the past two years, Audemars Piguet is also one of the few luxury watch brands that can maintain growth, which has brought endless wealth to the descendants of the brand founder. At present, Audemars Piguet is planning to control more distribution channels independently, and the brand profitability is expected to be further improved in the next few years.
8. Schneider family-750 million Swiss francs (Breitling)
   Breitling has been owned by the Schneider family since 1979. Although Breitling has slowed down compared to its competitors in recent years, annual sales are still 370 million Swiss francs. It has been recently reported that Breitling is considering selling, but so far no suitor has appeared publicly.
9. Jean-Pierre Slav-325 million Swiss francs (Waterproof crown)
   Jean-Pierre Slav’s wealth comes from Boninchi SA, the company’s main supplier of crowns in Rolex’s history. In 2001, Slav sold the company to Rolex. He is now known for his car collection, including a Ferrari 250GTO.
10.Bernheim and Weil family-275 million Swiss francs (Raymond Weil)
   Now, Raymond Weil is headed by the grandson of the same founder. It is estimated that Raymond Weil has an annual sales of 210 million Swiss francs, and this number has been stable for many years.
11. Vartan Sirmakes-225 million Swiss francs (Famulin)
   Vartan Sirmakes is the co-founder of Franck Muller Watchland. After buying out of his own pocket, the company is now almost owned by him. Most of the time, Vartan Sirmakes stays in Monaco and Thailand. The company sells 285 million Swiss francs in watches and jewellery each year, focusing on the brand Francois Mulan.
12. Jean-Claude Beaver-175 million Swiss francs

   Jean-Claude Beaver is 67 years old. Fuxing Blancpain was sold to the Swatch Group, earning the first bucket of gold, and then doing the same for Hublot (sold to LVMH Group). Currently, Jean-Claude Beaver is the head of the LVMH Group’s watch division and the CEO of TAG Heuer and Zenith.