Franck Muller expands again

The Franck Muller Group, the Swiss luxury watchmaker, has expanded its “Watchland” headquarters and watchmaking site in Genthod (outside Geneva) by acquiring an adjacent 250-year-old, 30-acre estate for about $14.4 million. Together, the two sites total 72 acres “dedicated to the watch business” and a visible demonstration of company’s intent to remain in Geneva, said Vartan Sirmakes, Group co-founder and chief executive officer.

The Group owns the luxury watch brands Franck Muller Geneve, Pierre Kunz, European Company Watch, Rodolphe and Alexis Bathelay (the last two purchased in 2005), plus the Franck Muller and Rodolphe jewelry brands. It has been sold in the United States since the 1990s. It produces some 50,000 watches annually. Sales in 2005 tallied some $305 million.

Acquisition of the Grand Malagny estate is “a natural extension [because] with five brands we need more space for reception of customers, sales rooms, and so on,” said Didier Decker, chief operating officer, told JCK.

The fast-growing Franck Muller Group now has 840 employees in Switzerland (702 in Geneva). The added land enables it to build up to four additional buildings, though there are no immediate plans to do so. Even so, “considering the market’s demand for Franck Muller watches and the Group’s other brands, we’ll probably double the size of our company within five years, which demands a lot of space for new factories, workshops and offices,” says Decker. The Grand Malagny and Les Bois projects will help “satisfy those needs for the forthcoming years.”

This is the Group’s second major expansion in less than a year. It’s currently investing $30 million to develop a complex of facilities for making parts and movements for its brands in Les Bois, in northwest Switzerland. That’s due to open in 2007.