Olivia Burton fashion watch brand sold for £60m
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UK fashion watch brand Olivia Burton — founded five years ago by former fashion students Lesa Bennett and Jemma Fennings with £15,000 in savings — has been bought by Movado Group for £60m. The brand sells a wide range of women’s watches with an average price of £100 and recently introduced a line of affordable jewellery. Despite having spent nothing on marketing, it achieved revenues of £15m in the year to March 2017 and expects this year’s figure to be around £25m. Olivia Burton products are sold in UK stores such as John Lewis, Selfridges and Beaverbrooks, as well as Nordstrom in the US. Movado chief executive Efraim Grinberg says he plans to expand the company’s international presence and its ecommerce sales.
Watches donated for this year’s Only Watch charity auction will embark on a 10-stop world tour at the end of this month before being sold by Christie’s in Geneva on November 11. Fifty brands have provided special or one-off pieces for the seventh edition of the biennial event, including Audemars Piguet, Chopard, Patek Philippe and Zenith. It has raised more than €25m towards research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which causes muscle weakening and respiratory and heart problems in young boys. Only Watch was founded by former Monaco Yacht Show chief executive Luc Pettavino after his son was diagnosed with the rare illness.
Titanium for Iron Man
Niche watchmaker Urwerk almost missed a valuable product placement offer from Hollywood: it initially refused a request to supply a titanium watch for Robert Downey Jr to wear as billionaire playboy Tony Stark (who becomes Iron Man) in blockbuster Spider-Man: Homecoming. Urwerk spokesperson Yacine Sar says Sony Pictures told the brand that a “major character” in the film wanted to see — and possibly wear — an Urwerk in the film. “We don’t have any ambassadors and were not keen to pay for one, so we politely declined,” explains Ms Sar. “But they contacted us again, insisting it was a personal request from Robert Downey. When we heard the name and realised it wasn’t a scam, we said yes. Who wouldn’t?”
Watches power up
Timex has partnered with French company SilMach, a pioneer in micro-electrical-mechanical systems (MEMS), to create the first MEMS-powered watch movement. The joint venture supersedes the 40-year-old magnetic system that currently powers quartz analogue watches and, according to Timex, will “disrupt the industry”. The PowerMEMS movement can be used in both traditional and connected watches and offers longer battery life, fewer components and lower production costs. The smaller size of the movements will also allow for more creative designs. A limited edition of 200 watches was made to mark the deal, but MEMS watches will not be in full production until 2019.
Aurum Holdings, the UK’s largest luxury watch and jewellery retailer, with a turnover of £537m in 2016, is setting up shop in the US following the acquisition of the 107-year-old Mayors Jewelers chain for £81m ($105m). The purchase includes 17 stores throughout Florida and Georgia — 15 of which are Rolex agencies — as well as the Fort Lauderdale headquarters.
Eyes on the prize
China’s Beijing Watch Factory could ruffle feathers at November’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (“the Oscars of watchmaking”) after making it through initial selection in the Tourbillon and Escapement category. It has a tourbillon priced at just £2,800 — almost £10,000 less than TAG Heuer’s Heuer-02T, currently the cheapest Swiss-made tourbillon watch on the market. The “Beijing State of Mind” watch (above) features a hand-wound movement in a steel case and has been made in an edition limited to 99 examples; its tourbillon is carved in the shape of a swallow.
Kern’s Breit future
Industry veteran Georges Kern has been named as the new chief executive (and a shareholder) of Breitling, which was acquired in April by private equity firm CVC Capital Partners in a deal that valued it at more than €800m. Mr Kern, known for his “no-nonsense” approach to leadership, became chief executive of IWC in 2002 and is credited with making it one of the most successful watch brands in the Richemont stable. At the end of last year he became the group’s head of watchmaking, marketing and digital, but tendered his resignation in July.
London watch retailer Marcus Margulies has closed his Bond Street store after 18 years. The Marcus boutique was billed as containing “the most important collection of watches in the world” with independent brands such as Richard Mille, MB&F and Greubel Forsey. A spokeswoman says Mr Margulies, 75, is “changing the concept of how he sells watches” and will announce a new venture in 2018.