Franck Muller Acquires Martin Braun

The Franck Muller Group, the Swiss luxury watch mini-conglomerate, has acquired majority control of the German luxury watch brand Martin Braun, purchasing 52 percent. The transaction, capping three months of negotiations, was confirmed to JCK by Miguel Payró, the Group’s chief financial officer.

Vartan Sirmakes, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Franck Muller Group, said the investment “fits perfectly well within our strategy of investing in the complication watches segment” and will do what the Group can “to accelerate the Martin Braun brand’s momentum, which carries a fantastic potential.”

Martin Braun, founder and general manager, said he was “thrilled to be able to boost my brand, which I established just seven years ago. We have already started to work with the Franck Muller Group for the manufacture of components and new models, including movements.”

Martin Braun is best known for its award-winning complication watches with astronomical themes. It produces about 1,000 handcrafted watches annually. It recently moved its watchmaking facility from near Pforzheim, Germany, to Porrentruy, Switzerland, in order to use the “Swiss made” label on its watches. It also has produced its own watch movement. Martin Braun USA is located in Austin, Texas.

Watchmaker Martin Braun will continue to oversee the brand bearing his name, and the U.S. operation will remain the same, except for being integrated into the Franck Muller USA operation.

“We intended to change nothing, except to provide more means at the financial, industrial and commercial level, to grow brand, strengthen its range [of products], and make it better known to people,” said Payró.

That means a stronger marketing program and expanded production. Payró said that with the Group’s support, the high-end watch company could expand to 3,000 watches annually in about three years.

Martin Braun has 20 points of sale in the U.S. Over the next few years, it could be included in all of Franck Muller’s U.S. outlets (more than 75) or expand its own network to about the same number.

“We do want to retain the brand’s image as a complication watch, penetrating markets where it hasn’t been in the past,” he said. “That includes Asia, and also raising the brand’s profile in the United States, in the next few years.”

Martin Braun’s production facilities will probably be moved to another Franck Muller location in northern Switzerland, near Germany in the next couple years.

In a related story, the Franck Muller Group and Backes & Strauss of London, the world’s oldest diamond company (1789), have agreed to create a watch company, with the Muller Group having just over half the ownership. The new company’s first diamond watch line, plus the watches of Martin Braun, will be on display at the Franck Muller Group’s annual World Presentation of Haute Horlogerie 2007 (WHPP) watch show in this month at its headquarters just outside Geneva.