PARIS — Is the watch industry entering another consolidation period?
After the acquisition in April of fast-growing Hublot by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and PPR's announcement Monday of its strategic alliance with Sowind, the Swiss company that owns Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard, industry observers are wondering which high-end Swiss watch brand could be the next target.
After all, LVMH chief Bernard Arnault has made no secret of his interest in buying more watch brands, saying his group needs to bolster its presence in the sector. "There may be a few acquisitions in the watch business," Arnault said at a shareholders' meeting last month. "We're not number one [in watches] yet."
Though there are several covetable independent high-end Swiss brands that remain unallied with one of the main groups — LVMH, Compagnie Financière Richemont, Swatch Group or PPR — industry watchers wonder if any remaining top brands are actually for sale.
"Very few brands want to sell," said Michel Dyens, who advised LVMH on the acquisition of Hublot. "It's a matter of horizon. But I wouldn't expect any deals in the watch sector very soon."
There are plenty of covetable targets. Independent, family-owned brands like Corum, Chopard, Ulysse Nardin, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet would be jewels to add to any luxury group's crown.
"Any of the companies that have profitable sales over $150 million [are targets]," admitted Severin Wunderman, the owner of Corum. "We are only very few independents left."
Wunderman, however, isn't really interested in selling. "If I got a crazy offer [I might consider it]," he said. "But under normal circumstances, no."
Sources said Audemars Piguet, which recently unveiled a watch with Chanel, isn't interested in selling either. Instead, the company is busy integrating all of its production in order to be able to operate more seamlessly in a landscape becoming dominated by luxury conglomerates. Audemars, still owned by members of the family that founded the manufacturer in 1875, is also building a new production facility that will help increase production and ensure its financial autonomy.
Patek Philippe, which is owned by Switzerland's Stern family, is another unlikely target, with family members repeating often the company isn't for sale.That would leave Ulysse Nardin, which is owned by Swiss entrepreneur Rolf Schnyder; Chopard, which is owned by Switzerland's Scheufele family, and Franck Muller, owned by Vartan Sirmakes and Muller — companies that aren't interested in selling either, according to sources.
That hasn't stopped speculation, however. To wit, rumors have been circulating that Breitling, owned by Switzerland's Schnieder family, has a potential suitor in American financier Warren Buffett, who is said to have met with the family during his recent trip to Europe looking for investment opportunities.
Breitling and Buffett did not respond to requests for comment.
Other attractive targets are scarce, insiders said. Niche brands like FP Journe and Richard Mille could be attractive, even if their businesses remain somewhat small. Mille said several suitors have approached him but that he is not interested in selling.
It's been almost a decade since the last wave of consolidation washed over the industry, when LVMH bought Tag Heuer, Zenith and Ebel, and Richemont won a fevered bidding battle to acquire Jaeger-LeCoultre, I.W.C. and A. Lange & Söhne. It was around the same time that Gucci Group bought Bedat & Co. and Swatch acquired Breguet and Jaquet Droz.
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye
Did you know: @carlychaikin of "Mr. Robot" has been painting for about a decade? The actress, who plays Darlene on the show, is a self-taught artist who lists Salvador Dalí and Chuck Close as some of her idols. Chaikin told WWD that painting is a form of meditation for her — A much-needed one given the intensity of "Mr. Robot." See a piece Chaikin is working on at WWD.com (📷: @jilliansollazzo) #wwdeye