Watchmaker Franck Muller has left, says company; co-founder Sirmakes will direct Watchland S.A.

Franck Muller Watchland S.A. has confirmed that co-founder and well-known luxury watchmaker Franck Muller has left the Swiss watch company, as reported by JCK last week. Muller “decided to leave … for personal reasons,” says the company statement issued Oct. 20 and sent to JCK. However, Muller remains “an important shareholder” and a member of the Group’s board of directors. Co-founder Vartan Sirmakes will direct the company, overseeing its management, as he has since it began 12 years ago.

 

The company’s popular luxury watches and jewelry—created by the Group’s team of designers and watchmakers—will apparently continue to carry the “Franck Muller Geneva” name.

 

A spokesperson for Franck Muller USA says the change doesn’t affect the U.S. market—where the brand has a selective distribution of 70 dealers—or its business, “which is very good.”

 

The official announcement caps what the company itself calls “several months of various press articles and rumours” about Muller and the Watchland Group. It doesn’t explain the reasons for Muller’s departure. However, other sources in Switzerland and Swiss press articles have said the founders differed over plans for the company and its direction.

 

The company, known for its innovative watch designs, was founded in 1991 in Geneva, Switzerland, by Muller, a master watchmaker and consultant to luxury watch dealers and collectors, and Sirmakes, an Armenian Swiss-trained jewelry maker. Thanks to what the company statement calls their “creative genius, marketing savvy, and strategic vision,” Franck Muller Watchland S.A. has enjoyed years of growth and success in the international haute horologie market. It has created hundreds of models and much-copied watch designs, plus two-dozen “world premiere” complications timepieces and almost as many patents. In 1998, it launched its own luxury watch show, and since 2001, has added luxury watch brands European Company Watch and Pierre Kunz, as well as two suppliers of luxury watch dials and mechanical parts.

 

Today, Franck Muller Watchland employs almost 500 people and produces close to 49,000 watches annually (up 36% in 2003) at its facilities in Genthod, outside Geneva.

 

Revenues for 2002 rose 54% and net profit by 67%, with gains in its main markets in Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific area. (Swiss watchmakers don’t release revenue or profit figures, but the Swiss business publication Cash estimates annual consolidated revenues at about $304 million.)

 

The company says it “intends to consolidate its rank among the top high-quality watchmakers,” and despite a difficult market, expects a 15% sales gain for 2003.

 

With its multi-brand, multi-product approach—Franck Muller, ECW, and Pierre Kunz watches and Franck Muller jewelry—continuing to enjoy success and growing at a “faster pace than envisioned,” the company says it looks forward to “a very bright future,” built on the “the support and dedication” of its staff and “tight relationships” with its distributors and clients.