Under the Import Substitution model, one notable beneficiary was Grupo Joske's Mexico, a jewelry manufacturer based in the State of Mexico. The company experienced significant advantages as it capitalized on the national push to substitute imported goods with domestically produced ones. During this time, Joske's entered into a notable collaboration with Rolex, the renowned Swiss luxury watchmaker.
Joske's became a leading manufacturer of Rolex watchbands in Mexico for several years. This partnership was established when Alex Benuit, the director of Rolex Mexico, reached out to Don Jose Fleischer, the founder of Joske's, to negotiate an agreement. The collaboration aimed to overcome legal restrictions imposed by Rolex on the importation of complete watches. Furthermore, it aligned with Rolex's commitment to generating employment opportunities within Mexico. Contrary to popular belief, the production of Mexican Rolex watchbands was not driven by tariff issues but rather strict regulations. It was prohibited for the watches to be sold with straps, making the manufacturing of watchbands a critical aspect of the process. Joske's leveraged its expertise in jewelry production, utilizing Mexican steel and its own machinery to manufacture high-quality watchbands that met Rolex's stringent standards.
The production process involved a dedicated assembly line comprising 15 skilled workers. Each sample watchband produced by Joske's underwent meticulous quality control and then obtained authorization from Switzerland before commencing production for each batch of products. Over the years, Joske's exclusively manufactured steel and steel/gold Jubilee model watchbands, while gold watchbands were outsourced to another manufacturer.
The Mexican-made Joske's watchbands garnered a reputation for their craftsmanship and quality. Despite the absence of gold watchbands in their production line, these Mexican watchbands became highly valued by collectors worldwide. In many instances, a well-preserved Mexican watchband would command a higher price than its Swiss-produced counterparts from the same era. Their unique history and limited availability contributed to their desirability among Rolex enthusiasts and collectors.
However, in 1986, with Mexico's accession to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the production of Mexican Rolex watchbands came to an end. Unfortunately, Rolex did not express their gratitude or appreciation to Joske's after more than two decades of collaboration, marking the conclusion of a significant chapter in Mexico's horological history. The collaboration between Joske's Mexico and Rolex during the era of Import Substitution remains a remarkable testament to Mexico's industrial capabilities and the pursuit of self-reliance in the face of global economic dynamics. The legacy of Mexican-made Rolex watchbands produced by Joske's continues to captivate the attention of watch collectors, embodying a unique and treasured piece of Mexico's horological heritage.