Citizen to Buy Bulova for $250 Million

Japanese watchmaker Citizen Watch Co., Ltd said on Oct. 5, that it will buy U.S. watchmaker Bulova Corp., from Loews Corp., the New York-based conglomerate. The purchase price is $250 million, JCK was told by Darren Daughtery, director of Loews’ Investor Relations. Bulova has been a subsidiary of Loews for almost 30 years.

Announcement of the sale was made by Citizen Watch Co., Ltd., headquartered in Tokyo, in a brief press release and subsequently reported by major business media in Japan, Europe and the United States. At press time, no formal statements had been issued by Loews or Bulova.

The purchase will be completed Jan. 10, when Citizen buys 100 percent of Loews shares in Bulova, JCK was told by a Bulova spokesperson. At press time, the companies hadn’t issued formal press announcements.

The purchase would reportedly enable Citizen to expand further in the United States, the world’s largest watch market, where it is already a leading brand.

Bulova Corp. will become a subsidiary of Citizen Watch Co., Ltd., and reportedly remain operating at its long-time Woodside, N.Y. headquarters. No changes in operations were expected at Bulova’s offices and facilities in Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Switzerland.

Bulova Corp.’s watches and clocks are among the most-widely sold brands in U.S. jewelry stores. Its watch lines include Caravelle, Bulova, Accutron, and Wittnauer. In 2006, it had sales of about $205 million. Citizen Watch Co., located in Tokyo, had worldwide sales of about $2.8 billion in 2006. Its U.S. arm is Citizen Watch Co. of America.

Bulova was founded in 1875 in New York City by Joseph Bulova, a Czech immigrant and jeweler. In 1911, it began making and selling clocks and pocket watches, wristwatches in 1919, and became one of the country leading and best-known brands for decades. During the 1970s, it briefly had a joint venture with Citizen to make watches for sale in Asia. In 1973, Gulf & Western Industries, Inc. bought a large share in the company, and then in 1976 sold its 26.8 percent interest to Stelux Manufacturing Co., a Hong Kong watch components maker. In 1979, Stulux sold its holding to Loews Corp., making Bulova a subsidiary of Loews. By 1984, Loews owned 95 percent of Bulova common stock. It purchased the rest in 2005.

In the past decade, Bulova has seen ongoing growth. National surveys in 1996 and 2001 found it among the top watch and jewelry brands in U.S. consumer awareness. On Oct. 4, 2000, then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani proclaimed Bulova Day in recognition of its 125th anniversary. In 2001, it acquired the high end Wittnauer brand and in 2002, launched a new international marketing strategy, setting up its European headquarters in Fribourg, Switzerland.