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.
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
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