Siragusa is out as Maurice LaCroix USA president

There has been a sudden change in the top management of the U.S. subsidiary of upscale Swiss watch brand Maurice La Croix. Watch and jewelry industry veteran Robert Siragusa, who established the brand in the United States in 1994 and built it into a network of more than 400 jewelers, is out as president.

An Aug. 22 letter sent to the brand’s U.S. retailers says, “effective Aug. 22, 2003, Mr. Robert Siragusa will no longer serve as president of Maurice Lacroix USA Inc.” The letter was sent under the name of Philippe C. Merk, chief executive officer of the Maurice Lacroix Group in Zurich, Switzerland.

The change wasn’t completely unexpected. There had been rumors at the Jewelers of America Show in New York at the end of July that Maurice Lacroix might be seeking a replacement for Siragusa.

Merk’s letter gave no reasons for the change. However, a settlement agreement reached later in the month between Sirgusa and the watch company says that “Maurice Lacroix and Siragusa mutually agree to terminate Siragusa’s employment … ” When contacted by JCK on Aug. 28, Siragusa declined to comment about the change. Prior to Maurice Lacroix, Siragusa founded and was a partner in an award-winning jewelry manufacturer called Aurion International, was sales manager for the luxury Swiss brand Jaeger LeCoultre, and, in the late 1970s, helped relaunch the Pulsar watch line for the U.S. market.

A search is underway for a new president for Maurice Lacroix USA, said Merk’s letter. An announcement could come as early as September, said the spokesman in Switzerland. Meanwhile, Daniel Wechsler, vice president of Maurice Lacroix USA, is temporarily in charge and leading the management team. That includes Siragusa’s nephew, Anthony Siragusa, vice president of sales, Carol Levey, senior director and public relations, and Karen Dardick, senior director, finance and administration.

In his Aug. 22 letter, Merk assures the brand’s U.S. retailers that “the Maurice Lacroix group is committed to the American market and the support of our U.S. subsidiary.”

Siragusa’s departure comes as Maurice LaCroix is launching a new advertising campaign in the U.S., part of its global campaign, and new models and collections—among them, the women’s diamond Selena series, the Masterpiece Phase de Lune Dame (the brand’s first mechanical “Masterpiece” watch for women) and the Masterpiece Phase de Lune Tonneau—introduced this year at the international watch and jewelry showy in Basel, Switzerland and at the JCK Show ~ Las Vegas.

Maurice Lacroix, a 28-year-old upscale Swiss brand, is sold in about 50 countries and over 4,000 outlets. It produces around 150,000 timepieces annually at its assembly facility in Saignelégier, Switzerland. Its star collections include the classic, mechanical “Masterpiece” watches, the sporty “Milestone” line, the elegant and feminine “Intuition” series, and the spherical-cased “Sphere” collection.

Siragusa “discovered” the brand in Europe in 1993 and opened a company in 1994 to distribute it in the U.S. market. The Swiss parent firm bought back that business in 1995, and Siragusa continued as president. As of August 2003, it had more than 400 retailers in the United States and the Caribbean. It is the official timepiece or sponsor for several U.S. events, including the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants; horse racing’s annual International Jockey Challenge, and auto racing’s Brickyard 500 and Indy Racing league, including the Indianapolis 500 races.