PARIS — Expanding its footprint in hard luxury, PPR said Monday it would take majority control of Swiss watch firm Sowind Group via a capital increase that will fund international expansion.

This story first appeared in the July 5, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Financial terms were not disclosed for the operation, which gives PPR a 50.1 percent stake.

In 2008, the French retail-to-luxury conglomerate took a 23 percent stake in Sowind, parent of the luxury timepiece manufacturers Girard-Perregaux and Jean Richard.

“We have always said we would love to strengthen our presence in hard luxury,” Alexis Babeau, deputy chief executive officer of PPR’s luxury division, told WWD. “We don’t want to create overlap.”

Babeau said the two brands have “big potential for growth,” particularly in fast-growing Asia.

Based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Sowind produces about 15,000 watches per year, and also sells a portfolio of high-end watch movements to third parties. The company employs 270 people.

Girard-Perregaux and Jean Richard watches retail from 5,000 to 500,000 Swiss francs, or about $5,900 to $590,000 at current exchange rates, and are sold in about 500 points of sale.

Babeau said PPR would leverage its expertise in brand management, production and distribution to speed growth at Sowind, which has a presence in 60 countries.

Boucheron represents PPR’s main property in hard luxury, although its other brands, principally Gucci, also have watch and jewelry businesses.

Separately on Monday, Louis Vuitton said it acquired La Fabrique du Temps, a high-end watch workshop founded in Geneva in 2007 and a partner of the French brand, part of luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

La Fabrique specializes in specialty movements, such as tourbillons and minute repeaters. Vuitton entered the watchmaking activity in 2002 by establishing a workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

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