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Rodolphe Founder Exits Franck Muller

Executive laments lack of development of smaller brands at Swiss watch firm.

PARIS — Rodolphe Cattin, the founder of Rodolphe Montres & Bijoux and Rodolphe & Co. design studio, is leaving luxury Swiss watchmaker Franck Muller, which owns the two firms, at the end of the month. Cattin will remain a minority shareholder in both companies.

“I no longer sense that the group has any wish to develop the brand bearing my name. The same is indeed true of all the other ‘small’ brands within the Franck Muller group,” Cattin said in a statement.

Officials from Franck Muller were not available for comment Wednesday.

Shrinking demand for expensive timepieces amid the recession has caused the Swiss watch industry to decline, with watch exports falling 25.9 percent since January.

Earlier this year, Geneva-based Franck Muller eliminated almost half of its 428-person workforce in a bid to reduce costs.

In 2003, the group’s namesake co-founder fell out with his business partner, Vartan Sirmakes, and left his company. After an acrimonious court battle, the two reached an agreement a year later, with Sirmakes continuing to run the firm and Muller becoming a consultant.