Interesting news today as Porsche Design and Eterna have announced that they have terminated their watch making relationship. For years Porsche Design (designed) watches were produced by the Swiss watch maker Eterna, located in Grenchen, Switzerland. As of March 10th, 2014, the two companies have announced the termination of their license agreement to develop, produce, and sell Porsche Design branded timepieces.
Sadly, I did see this coming. Porsche Design has aligned itself with some interesting watch companies over the years including, most notably, IWC. Their run with Eterna helped them to produce some of the highest quality, most interesting Porsche Design watches since the company’s beginning in 1972. It seemed like Eterna was an excellent and long lasting partner. Eterna had its own problems though, and while very interesting, Eterna brand timepieces were not doing as well as they could have been.
In a sense, Eterna watches were plagued by being too focused on interesting movements and production quality, and less on sound marketing concepts. At least, this was my take on it. In 2011, Eterna was purchased by a Chinese company. All of its shares were purchased by International Volant Limited, which was wholly owned by China Haidian. Purchased from who? Porsche Beteiligungen GmbH, which yes, has a family relation to Prosche Design Group. So in a sense Porsche Design didn’t see profitability from Eterna, it was sold to a Chinese group, and now a few years later Porsche Design has decided to move their production elsewhere.
When Eterna was sold to the Chinese it also lost Patrick Kury, who was running the show. He was certainly more about interesting timepiece technology than sales, but his mission was sound. The new Eterna CEO is Bruno Jufer. Without the Porsche Design connection, Eterna will have to focus on its own timepieces and production of movements. Under Kury their forte was really the in-house movements, so I hope that will continue into the future. Perhaps they will even sell movements to outside companies.
What is perhaps more interesting (and unknown) is what the future of Porsche Design watches will be. The Group claims that Porsche Design timepieces will undergo a “strategic realignment,” and further that “the luxury brand is expected to reposition itself in the luxury watch category by the middle of .” That sounds suspiciously like a price change, and I have a feeling it will not be an increase. If I were to guess correctly I would say that moving forward Porsche Design timepieces will be a bit more accessibly priced with a focus on a more mainstream consumer. They won’t be inexpensive, but more than likely less than they are now. Finding another partner like Eterna will be difficult, but it is possible that focusing on a more mainstream appeal will help their profitability. At current Porsche Design watch prices there is an awful lot of competition. Though aBlogtoWatch readers know we have often been a champion of the brand as well as the role Eterna played in it.
What is interesting is that the future of both Swiss Eterna and German Porsche Design watch is unclear. I have a feeling we will learn more in the next few months.