Arrest of Jaquet S.A. boss stirs Swiss watch business

The arrest of the boss of a prominent Swiss manufacturer of watch movements for prestigious Swiss brands is making news in Switzerland.

Jean-Pierre Jaquet, head of Jaquet S.A., La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, was arrested by Swiss authorities on Oct. 8. That followed a two-day shutdown of the company and a search of it by authorities that began with an early morning raid on Oct. 7, before employees arrived. The charges against Jean-Pierre Jaquet, say articles in Geneva, Biel, and Zurich newspapers, include robbery, receiving stolen goods, and counterfeiting of merchandise.

According to the Sonntag Zeitung, the investigation is linked to a January 2002 theft of gold watchcases from Miranda S.A., another company in the town, which were later used in counterfeit Rolex watches. The connection, though, the paper says, is still unexplained.

Jaquet’s lawyer denied the charges, claiming his client had been singled out because he had been arrested twice—but only convicted once—many years ago, says the Bieler Tagblatt.

The judge overseeing the investigation has said that her investigation isn’t directed against the company Jaquet S.A “but only against individuals.” The company, which criticized the search as improper, issued a statement saying it had nothing to do with the theft of any watches or precious metals.

As of Oct. 14, a total of 12 people had been arrested in what Swiss newspapers are calling “the Jaquet Affair.” They include Jaquet, a manager of Miranda, and an employee of luxury watchmaker Ulysse Nardin.

The case is attracting interest in the Swiss watch business for several reasons. One is a possible link to watch counterfeiting. But there are other reasons, too. Jaquet S.A. supplies complicated mechanical movements to a number of prestigious Swiss and German watch brands, and is one of the few independent companies still doing so. Jaquet himself is a partner in the high-end Swiss watch brand British Masters. Another is Dr. Ernst Thomke, who helped develop the Swatch watch (before leaving what is now The Swatch Group, the world’s second largest watchmaker), and is reportedly an investor in Jacquet S.A. In addition, Jaquet S.A. was one of the companies that filed complaints in 2002 with the Swiss Competition Commission against ETA, The Swatch Group’s movement-making company, which announced it won’t sell components after 2005 to smaller independent makers of movements.