Swatch Group, Tourneau form U.S. retail partnership

The Swatch Group, the world’s largest watch company, announced Thursday that it has formed a retail partnership with Tourneau, the world’s largest watch store, to open a chain of luxury watch stores under the Tourneau name in several U.S. luxury outlet malls.

The Swatch Group, headquartered in Biel (Bienne), Switzerland, has 18 brands including several prestige and luxury brands. Swatch Group officials say the new stores will probably carry some of its brands but haven’t announced yet which ones. However, officials say that the top prestigious brands of the group—Breguet, Blancpain, Glashütte-Original, Jaquet-Droz, and Léon Hatot—will not be sold in the stores.

Robert Wexler, chief executive officer of Tourneau, headquartered in New York City, said that while it is “common to find many luxury brands at premiere outlet malls around the United States, we’re delighted to take the watch category into this arena by offering a multi-brand experience in partnership with The Swatch Group’s many brands.”

G. Nicolas Hayek Jr., CEO of The Swatch Group Ltd., noted that, “American consumers love our brands. Tourneau has long been one of our strong partners in the United States, and the opportunity to open multi-brand outlet stores looks more than promising.”

Though no leases have been signed yet, initial plans for the joint venture target major luxury outlet malls outside New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando, Fla.

This is the second major retail joint venture announced by Tourneau this year. On March 31 at Basel 2006, it formally signed an agreement with Peace Mark, a major Hong Kong watch manufacturer and distributor, to open a chain of luxury watch stores in China over the next several years, starting with two this year.