Rolex trolls Omega with deal to buy home of arch-rival's flagship store

Omega will now be paying rent to Rolex which will have a say in how the building operates

The Omega store on Rue du Rhone in Geneva. Photographer: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg

A Rolex SA subsidiary bought a building, which houses rival Omega’s flagship boutique, on Geneva’s priciest shopping street in the latest battle between between top Swiss watch brands for prime real estate.

Marconi Investment SA paid 120 million Swiss francs (€125 million) for the building on Rue du Rhone, according to a filing with Geneva’s land registry.

The property’s tenants include the biggest boutique for Swatch Group AG’s top brand Omega in the Swiss city, according to local newspaper Tribune de Geneve, which reported the news earlier.

The real estate deal underscores the intense competition between brands both for customers and the best located stores.

Omega will now be writing a sizable rent check to its biggest competitor each month and Rolex will have a say in how the building is maintained and operates. Under certain conditions, a new owner can more easily terminate an existing lease, the Tribune de Geneve reported.

Spokespeople for Rolex and Swatch Group declined to comment.

Rolex is the biggest Swiss brand with sales of 9.3 billion Swiss francs, according to Morgan Stanley estimates. Omega is the third largest with sales of about 2.5 billion francs. Geneva-based Richemont’s Cartier is the second biggest watch brand.

Rolex, which is controlled by a foundation named for its founder Hans Wilsdorf, is a major owner of real estate in its home city of Geneva.

Swatch Group is also a major investor in real estate. It said last month it bought a building on London’s New Bond Street, housing its jewelry brand Harry Winston for about 90 million francs.

Swatch has also bought other buildings on London’s Old Bond Street for about 120 million francs as well as a store on the Champs-Elysées in Paris.

In 2014, Swatch purchased a retail location on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich from Credit Suisse housing the Bongenie Grieder luxury clothing store for an undisclosed price.

Bongenie Grieder, which is controlled by the family of Rolex chairman Nicolas Brunschwig, will move its flagship Zurich store to a new location in 2024.

Rolex in August said it would acquire Swiss luxury watch retailer Bucherer AG and its 100 global boutiques. Bucherer sells several Swatch Group brands at some of its stores including Longines, Tissot and Omega.