Fossil enters the Swiss watch business

Zodiac, the mid-priced Swiss watch brand best know for its Sea Wolf and Astrographic watches, has been sold to Fossil Inc. by Genender International Inc. (GII).

It is Fossil’s entry into the Swiss watch business. The sale was announced Oct. 16. The transaction covers the worldwide rights to use the Zodiac brand name on watches, clocks, and other timekeeping devices.

In an unrelated deal, Fossil has announced it will acquire three other, unnamed Swiss watch companies. Those purchases should be finished this month. The other three watch companies will provide Fossil with “design, sourcing and production capabilities necessary to manufacture and market Swiss-made watches,” the company said in a statement.

The combined purchase price of the three Swiss companies and the Zodiac brands total approximately $7 million, Fossil says.

“We intend to operate the Swiss watch business separately from our core Fossil business and view the acquisition of these companies and the 120-year-old Zodiac brand as the first phase of this strategy,” the corporate report says.

“The Company is in the process of developing the infrastructure and systems necessary to design, manufacture and distribute better watches made in Switzerland. We have demonstrated our ability to successfully design, develop and market better watches at higher price points with our licensed brands and are confident that we can apply these same talents to our Swiss-made brands.”

GII, based in Wheeling, Ill., purchased the 120-year-old Swiss brand in May 1999. At the Basel 2001 watch and jewelry fair in March, it launched its new, redesigned Zodiac collections.

“Zodiac was a dream come true for us,” said Kenneth J. Genender, chief executive office of GII, “but it arrived at an inopportune time. Given the economic landscape, it made sense for us to sell Zodiac and reap the considerable value that we have created in the brand.”

Fossil Inc., headquartered in Richardson, Tex., is best know for its contemporary and fashion Fossil watches, including its new line of Philip Starck timepieces, and Fossil accessories. Fossil brand products can be found in department stores, other upscale retailers and in its own retail stores and outlets in over eighty countries around the world.