Binda Acquires Geneva Watch Group

The Binda Group, the Italian watch and jewelry company, has acquired 100 percent of Advance Watch Group Ltd., the U.S. watch and clock manufacturer, doing business as Geneva Watch. It was owned since 1999 by Heritage Partners, a Boston private equity fund.

The deal became effective Sept. 4. Financial details weren’t released. Geneva Watch will stay at its Long Island City, N.Y., headquarters, and be headed by Jeff Gregg, its new chief executive officer (and previously its chief operating officer and chief financial officer). He succeeds Mark Lucas, CEO since 2005, and reports to Gianni Pieraccioni, Binda Group’s CEO.

The purchase helps Binda Group’s 2007 strategic plan to become a “global player,” by giving it wider distribution in the U.S. market, strengthening its presence (which began when Binda opened its U.S. subsidiary in Miami in 2006); expanding its watch portfolio (which includes upscale Wyler Genève and Glam Rock) with added licensed brands, including Kenneth Cole, a top U.S. fashion watch with “high potential” for growth globally; and proving enhanced manufacturing capacities, quality control structures and personnel in Asia (in addition to those Binda has in Switzerland and the Far East).

“This acquisition allows our Group to strengthen its international presence and share competencies with a successful U.S. company,” said Marcello Binda, co-CEO of the Binda Group, along with his brother Simone Binda (both pictured above), who added, “Combining forces [with the Geneva Watch Group] gears us up to compete on equal terms with global category giants and rise in the world ranking of watches and jewelry companies.” 

Those at Geneva Watch are “very excited about the strengths gained by working with such an internationally successful company as Binda, and the benefits it will bring our customers and brands,” says CEO Jeff Gregg. On a practical level, Geneva Watch adds “key strategic assets for development and growth of our Group in terms of know-how and industrial and commercial strength,” said Pieraccioni, Binda’s CEO

With the acquisition, Binda expects 2008’s total sale revenues to reach $665 million. In the United States alone (30 percent of Binda’s worldwide business), it expects 2008 sale revenues to top $200 million, putting Binda, it claims, in the same league as major players like Timex, Fossil and Movado. Geneva Watch’s assets will “sustain and accelerate growth” of its portfolio, says a Binda statement, strengthening its aim of reaching one billion euros ($1.4 billion) in sale revenues by 2015.

The Binda Group, started in 1906 and headquartered in Milan, ended 2007 with consolidated revenues of 297 million euros ($382 million) and sales of about five million pieces. It has eight subsidiaries (Italy, the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Portugal and China) and 50 distributors, serving more than 12,000 retailers worldwide. It has approximately 400 employees, a third in Milan. Its watches, its core business, include those made in the Far East, retailing under below $100 (75 euros), Swiss-made ones, averaging about $1,400 (1,000 euros), and complicated tourbillon watches, retailing above $184,000 (130,000 euros). It has production units in Switzerland and the Far East; 37 technical service centers in Italy and 100 worldwide; 24 Breil Milano stores and boutiques worldwide, and 23 B-Hip! stores in Italy.

Binda’s three main business units are watches, jewelry and leather. It produces and distributes its own brands, including Breil Milano, Breil Tribe, Wyler Genève, and Details, plus the licensed brands D&G Time and Jewels, Moschino CheapandChic Watches and Jewels, Ducati and Ducati Corse Watches. It also distributes upscale Glam Rock watches in the United States, Canada and Italy. Breil Milano’s two brand ambassadors are Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron and movie star Edward Norton.

Geneva Watch Group, begun in 1974, designs, produces and distributes its timepieces. It recorded net revenues of $192 million for the year ending March 2008, and sold about 25 million watches. It has 1,800 employees—300 in the United States (New York, Michigan) and 1,500 in the Far East (Hong Kong, China), including 300 quality control specialists.

Geneva Watch has two business units: Status and Advance. Status makes and distributes the company’s own brand (Freestyle) and licensed brands (Kenneth Cole New York, Kenneth Cole Reaction, Tommy Bahama, Betsey Johnson, BCBG Maxazria, Ted Baker London, Mexx and Speedo). Advance serves major retailing chains in North America.