Yesterday Kering (formerly known as PPR) announced that it will take over 100% of Ulysse Nardin. The luxury conglomerate headed by François-Henri Pinault, has always been quite light in the field of Haute Horlogerie, but it seems that they are on a strategy to change all that. Traditionally Kering is very strong in the field of fashion, owning for example 100% of Gucci, Yves Saint-Laurent, Bottega Veneta, and Brioni. In the field of Haute Horlogerie they have also a controlling interest in Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard, to which now the total ownership of Ulysse Nardin is being added. Ulysse Nardin will become part of Kering’s “Luxury – Watches & Jewelry” division headed by Albert Bensoussan, a heavy weight that served 10 years as director of development for watches and jewelry at Cartier, and spend 16 years in LVMH’s watch and jewelry division in various senior management positions before joining Kering.
Although interesting news by itself, it is of course the story behind the news that is most important, since that will impact the watch industry in the years to come. With both Girard-Perregaux and now Ulysse Nardin, has Kering bought itself true Manufactures that are capable of crafting the majority of the parts needed for their watches in house. Perhaps more importantly is that both brands also have significant knowledge and research and development capabilities. Those are very important assets, not only for the brands themselves, but especially when they are part of a conglomerate, since such knowledge and capabilities can then be shared.
Although probably profitable, both Girard-Perregaux as well as Ulysse Nardin are not heavy hitters in terms of volume. To make the most out of its investment it could be a strategy of Kering to buy a controlling interest in a brand that does produce in a more significant volume, yet is still considered a luxury brand. The problem is that there are of course not many of those brands left that don’t already belong to one luxury conglomerate or another. Most of them have already been scoped up by Richemont, Swatch-group or LVMH. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any candidates. Perhaps the most prime candidate is Breitling. Because the brand Chronometer-certified all its movements (including the quartz ones), there is a pretty good idea of how many watches the brand produces a year. For 2013 that was a little over 164.000, making it a player of significance in the luxury watch world.
But there is of course still another option; perhaps Kering is aiming to become more involved in the absolute top tier of Haute Horlogerie. In that case it might be aiming at Richard Mille instead of Breitling, since rumors have been seeping through about this brand being more or less open to a take-over. But whatever strategy Kering is following, for now Ulysse Nardin has found solid ground with deep pockets, and that will undoubtedly lead to even more incredible Ulysse Nardin watches in the near future!
Eclectic taste in Haute Horlogerie, passion for diamond set watches, loves the classics