The Swatch Group and Harry Winston announced today, January 14th, 2013, that Swiss Swatch Group has acquired the entirety of the Harry Winston jewelry and timepiece division. That is all of Harry Winston except its diamond mining division which was not acquired by Swatch Group (nor sold as far as we know). Back in October Reuters announced that Harry Winston was searching for a buyer for its timepiece and jewelry division. Though popular, it was a widely known fact that Harry Winston was in a money losing position from a business perspective and was rumored to have been seeking a buyer for at least a little while.
Now only a few months later, a buyer has emerged. We’d say that it didn’t take long for Harry Winston and the Swatch Group to begin acquisition negotiations and to reach a deal. According to the Swatch Group, the terms of the purchase include 100% of the United States shares of HW Holdings Inc. – parent company of Harry Winston Inc. While the Swatch Group now has control of all of the 535 worldwide Harry Winston employees, it is unclear what the future for those employees is. Logically the Swatch Group will incorporate much of Harry Winston in its own existing operations and install its own management, thereby making a lot of Harry Winston’s existing employees redundant.
This is the first time in quite some while that the Swatch Group has acquired a high profile jewelry and watch maker. According to the Swatch Group the purchase price for Harry Winston was the quite reasonable sum of $750 million, plus $250 million in debt. Together that more or less equates to a price of $1 billion for Harry Winston.
Around the turn of the century, Harry Winston was also in trouble. It was Max Busser (now of MB&F watches) that helped turn around its timepiece division. He also most well-known for the creation its “Opus” line of annual watches that are favorites among watch lovers. It is very much unclear what the future of the Opus collection will be with Harry Winston under Swatch Group ownership. It has been rumored that while excellent for press and branding, the Opus was either a money losing or barely profitable segment of the brand. Harry Winston’s main timepiece collections are the Ocean and Midnight families. We suspect that the majority of the brands income was from diamond decorated women’s models with more simple quartz movements.
As a high-end watch maker Harry Winston will co-exist with other “Prestige” brands in the Swatch Group along side Breguet, Blancpain, Jaquet Droz, and Glashutte Original. Unless government regulators for some reason don’t approve the purchase, we can expect Harry Winston to be officially under the Swatch Group umbrella soon.