SWATCH BUYS SWISS WATCH FIRM

Byline: Katherine Weisman

PARIS — The Swatch Group said last week that it had acquired Montres Jaquet-Droz S.A., a high-end Swiss watch company with sales of just under $3 million. Terms of the purchase weren’t disclosed.
Swatch acquired all of Montres Jaquet-Droz’s shares from Cupola Venture Partners 1 Ltd., a Cayman Islands investment firm that owned the majority of its shares, and from private Swiss investors.
Swatch is based in Biel-Bienne, Switzerland, and Montres Jaquet-Droz in La Conversion, Switzerland.
The acquisition of the niche watch concern — which also develops and manufactures highly complex robotic devices — reinforces the Swatch Group’s presence in the luxury segment of the watch market, the group said in a statement. A spokeswoman explained that retail prices for Montres Jaquet-Droz start at about $5,000 for a steel timepiece and go as high as $590,000.
Among the many brands in the Swatch Group, the price range and quality of the timepieces place Montres Jaquet-Droz below the Breguet brand, the most prestigious name in the group, and above Blancpain. Swatch acquired Breguet last year.
Montres Jaquet-Droz has about 40 watch models in its collection. Its products are sold mainly in Asia with little U.S. or European distribution, the Swatch spokeswoman explained.
“Within the Swatch Group, however, distribution for Jaquet-Droz can be widened to more markets,” the spokeswoman said. The company noted that Montres Jaquet-Droz will be integrated into the group as a separate profit center, its present offices and factory remaining in place.
Swatch plans to better capitalize on Montres Jaquet-Droz’s rich history. The first Jaquet-Droz watches date back to the 1750s, when master clock maker Pierre Jaquet-Droz left Switzerland to sell clocks and timepieces to the Spanish court.