Sector Group SA sold for $96 million

Sector Group SA, best known in the United States for its Swiss-made, Italian-designed sports watch, has been acquired for $96 million by The Opera Group, a Milan, Italy, investment firm whose majority shareholder is Bulgari, the luxury Italian jeweler and watchmaker. (The Sector Group is one of Italy’s leading sports watch suppliers.)

The new owner’s intent is to energize and expand the group’s business in international markets. “We need new resources to develop the high potential of the brand,” Eric Oppliger, a director the Sector Group SA, based in Neuchatel, Switzerland, told the French magazine L’Express.

According to Opera Group reports, the Sector Group SA is being restructured as a holding company, based in Luxembourg, called “Quadrante,” which will oversee the group’s own brands and those it has under license. Its strategic plans aim for “international revival [of the former Sector Group] through the growth of existing brands, new license agreements with prestigious brands, as well as through new acquisitions,” says an Opera Group report.

Opera owns 77% of the restructured croup. The rest is divided between Tetragon Partners, a Luxembourg investment firm (15%), the Giardiello family, founders of Sector (5%) and Enrico Ceccato, the new managing director of Quadrante (3%). Board of directors includes Francesco Trapani, chairman of Bulgari, and Silvio Ursini, marketing director of Bulgari.

The Sector Group exports about 88% of its watches to 50 countries, including the United States, In addition to Sector Sport watches, the other brands it sells include Phillip Watch, Chronostar, Robert Cavalli watches, Invicta, Mode, and Lucien Rochet.

In the United States, Sector Sport watches are distributed by the Rabco Luxury Holdings, based in New York City. The change in ownership won’t affect Sector’s distribution in the U.S., says Norm Kushner, Rabco vice president of sales and marketing, but it will provide the parent firm with “additional resources for growth and marketing.”

Rabo took over distribution last year, and Rabco is moving purposefully to revitalize Sector’s U.S. business. “We feel Sector [retailing for $175 – $1,000] is one of the most undervalued brands” in the market, says Kushner. “It has a lot going for it-a true sports watch with beautiful Italian design and Swiss craftsmanship-and is an incredible value for consumers and jewelers.”

Rabco has spent much of this year restructuring and rebuilding Sector’s distribution. “We’ve repositioned the brand, introduced new collections and are marketing it through traditional channels consistent with the brand’s image,” says Kushner, including independent jewelers, chain stores like Tourneau’s Watch Gear stores, and fine department stores like Sachs Fifth Avenue or Bloomingdale’s. It has built a Sector network of 150 outlets, with an eventual goal of about 400.

It is also spending $1 million this year to promote “Sector Sport watches,” with ads (and the training of retail salespeople) focusing on the timepieces, rather than “extreme sports” or sporty fashion, as in years past. “We want people to know Sector is a true sports watch, not a fashion watch,” says Kushner.