By and  on September 18, 2006

PARIS — Gucci Group could be faced with the exit of Christian Bedat, a key figure in its watch division, WWD has learned.

According to sources, the dynamo behind Geneva-based Bedat & Co., who also recently designed timepieces for Gucci and Boucheron, has differences with the conglomerate over the development of the firm that bears his name and where he and his company fit within its management structure.

It is understood talks are ongoing between the two parties, but the sources suggested Bedat could resign as chief executive officer and creative director of Bedat & Co.

Reached late Friday, a Bedat & Co. spokeswoman declined to comment.

Meanwhile, a Gucci Group spokeswoman said: “We never comment on rumors or issues related to our people.”

Bedat and his mother, Simone, one of the founders of Raymond Weil, introduced their brand in 1996. The collection earned quick acclaim for its creative and elegant high-end watches.

Its model No. 3 — a tonneau-shaped women’s style with straps of grosgrain or metal — was a breakthrough, particularly in the U.S., a key market for the brand.

Bedat sold an 85 percent stake in his firm to Gucci Group in 2000 at the height of the luxury acquisition spree. Today, it is one of the smaller and less visible companies in the luxury group’s stable, which also includes Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Boucheron and Alexander McQueen.

To be sure, there has been some recent upheaval in Gucci Group’s watch division.

Over the summer, a reorganization put managerial control of the Gucci brand watch business under Gucci brand ceo Mark Lee. At the time, the company said it also was mulling over a new organizational structure for its Boucheron and Bedat & Co. brands.

In light of the changes, Gucci Group Watches Division ceo Jacques-Philippe Auriol decided to leave the company when his contract expires at the end of the year, Gucci said. Until then, he will help with the ongoing transitional and organizational changes at the company.

“The changes will ensure that all of our luxury timepieces businesses will continue their success and achieve their full potential for development led directly by each brand,” Gucci Group president and ceo Robert Polet said at the time in a statement.

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