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20th Anniversary
Rolex - Jean-Frédéric Dufour

Rolex Jean-Frédéric Dufour

CEO*

Jean-Frédéric Dufour is a skipper devoted to performance; he’d already sailed a straight course before taking the helm at watchmaking’s flagship company, drawing on his innate abilities to tack against the wind when required. In 1998, he had only just turned 30 when the Scheufele family gave him his first director’s position, heading up Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier that he had already helped establish, having worked for the brand since 1994. He implemented subcontracting to boost output, learning management skills and gaining more detailed product knowledge. Visionary Rolf Schnyder took him under his wing at Ulysse Nardin, where he was in charge of commercial development – and rubbed shoulders with Ludwig Oeschslin, whose watchmaking talent caught his attention. The turn of the millennium found him alongside Jean-Claude Biver, who made him the first-ever employee at Léon Hatot – but he preferred to contribute to the rise of Blancpain in the capacity of product manager. “Biver helped me to become more self-confident”, says the field man, still grateful towards his mentor for having awakened him to unsuspected talents of his own.

Jean-Frédéric Dufour

Jean-Frédéric Dufour © Rolex

In 2002, he was invited back to Chopard, where he gained more experience of products, as well as in communications, in particular by setting up the Chopard Grand Prix – a race involving high-tech catamarans. With the wind in his sails, as it were, he was appointed CEO of Zenith by LVMH in June 2009, right at the trough of the global slump – and managed to climb out of it in the space of just one year. The brand stayed profitable and turnover soared thanks to his tireless efforts; the impact of the major overhaul of the Manufacture and the collections remains clearly visible today, not least in the higher profile of the El Primero movement and its emblematic tri-colour identity. His reputation as a man of action grew – so much so that in 2014 he was called to be head of Rolex, a move that left the entire industry speechless. As he modestly puts it, he benefited from five years of a buoyant economic climate in which Rolex left the rest of the fleet far behind. The fact is that his actions brought real consistency to the collections and the message, provided discipline in retailing, stimulated synergies and a more dynamic mindset for staff – as well as driving digital strategy.

*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English, with a 10% discount if you use the following code: WT2021.

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