Tiffany Looking at Swatch Alternatives

Legal battle continues on, but the two firms consider the joint business done.

Tiffany & CO. and The Swatch Group have gone their separate ways even as a three-member arbitration panel in the Netherlands continues to wade through their legal dispute.

This story first appeared in the October 14, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Tiffany, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, said it had “received numerous communications” indicating that Swatch views their watch agreement as “terminated as of October 1, 2013.”

Accordingly, the luxe jeweler said it is “proceeding on that basis with plans to design, produce, market and distribute Tiffany & Co. brand watches through alternative arrangements.”

The two companies formed a 20-year strategic alliance in 2007 that created a new Swiss-based firm to produce, design and market luxury watches under the Tiffany name.

But it ended up being an unhappy pairing.

In 2011, Swatch said it ended the partnership and blamed Tiffany for “systematic efforts to block and delay the development of the business.” Tiffany shot back and said, “Swatch has failed to provide appropriate distribution for Tiffany & Co. brand watches” and insisted that “Swatch honor its own obligations, particularly its obligation to respect Tiffany’s rights regarding brand management and product design.”

Swatch sued Tiffany late that year for as much as 3.8 billion Swiss francs, or $4.17 billion at current exchange — a sum greater than Tiffany’s sales of $3.79 billion last year. Tiffany countersued, claiming damages of up to 541.9 million Swiss francs, or $594.7 million.