JUNGHANS, BEDAT GET NEW OWNERS

Two more well-known European watch brands-Junghans of Germany and Bedat & Co. of Switzerland-have new owners, capping a year of ongoing mergers and acquisitions in Europe’s mid- and luxury-priced watch industry.

Junghans was bought Nov. 2 by EganaGoldPfeil Ltd., a Hong Kong-based global marketer of fashion accessories.

The Gucci Group, one of the world’s leading multi-brand luxury goods companies, on Dec. 11 acquired controlling interest in Bedat & Co., the Geneva-based Swiss watchmaker whose luxury timepieces have enjoyed solid and growing success in the United States since their introduction in 1997.

Junghans, a pioneer in radio-controlled and solar technology for watches and clocks, was purchased from the Diehl Group, its former owner, for about $39 million. Its acquisition is ‘a strategic fit in our roadmap of allying with prominent players to expand our global business presence and sustain our long-term growth prospects,’ says Hans-Joerg Seeberger, chairman and chief executive of EganaGoldpfeil. ‘On the financial front, we expect Junghans will substantially enlarge the group’s turnover as well as widen our worldwide distribution network.’

EganaGoldpfeil employs about 3,200 people worldwide and is represented in 90 markets. Its turnover in 1999 from the watch, jewelry, leather goods, and accessories amounted to about $290 million.

Junghans is headquartered in Schramberg, Germany, and designs, manufactures, and distributes watches and clocks under its brands Junghans and Eurochron. It has a production base in Seebach, Germany, and operations in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong.

Last summer, Junghans opened its first U.S. office to promote its radio-controlled and ceramic watches. Next year, it will add its solar-powered watches. Junghans’s timepieces (which retail here for $100 to $1,000) are distributed in the United States to independent jewelers and other retailers by Eric Amin Inc., Franklin Lakes, N.J.

The financial terms of Gucci’s purchase of Bedat were not disclosed. However, the Gucci Group acquired 85% of the Bedat business. Mme Simone Bedat (a former founding partner of the Raymond Weil brand) is chairman, while her son Christian, who started the company in 1996, continues as chief executive officer.

The Bedat brand has grown rapidly in the United States. Basic Bedat models start at approximately $4,000; more exclusive pieces are priced as high as $30,000. Distribution is currently through a very limited number of doors in the United States and Geneva. Sales of the Bedat group are expected to be around $20 million in 2000. With the support of Gucci, major markets in Japan, Europe, and the rest of Asia will be targeted for Bedat in the next few years, in addition to expanding upon the selective U.S. presence.

Domenico De Sole, president and chief executive officer of Gucci Group, had this to say about the new partnership with Christian and Simone Bedat: ‘Prospects for developing this brand worldwide in partnership with Gucci Group are excellent. The Bedat business increases our presence in luxury timepieces and extends the scope and positioning of our timepieces portfolio.