Ashford Acquires WatchNetwork.com

Ashford.com, one of the Internet’s leading retail Web sites, announced Feb. 15 that it will acquire online luxury watch retailer WatchNetwork.com, which bills itself as “the Web’s authorized watch retailer.”

Watches are already Ashford’s largest retail category, and acquisition of Watchnetwork.com is “a key element in our drive to build our relationships with the Swiss watch community” says Kenny Kurtzman, CEO of Ashford.com. Ashford has been criticized in the past for offering some watch brands that it wasn’t authorized to sell. The acquisition also provides Ashford with “a talented team of watch industry experts and an industry-leading advisory board,” Kurtzman notes.

“Ashford.com is an invaluable resource for the watch industry and will soon be known as the leading authorized watch dealer on the Internet,” says Scott Hockler, president and CEO of Watchnetwork.com. “We believe the combined company strengthens Ashford’s position as the No. 1 destination for watch buyers worldwide.”

The New York City-based Watchnetwork.com was launched in 1999 by Hockler and fellow watch enthusiast Daniel Hirsch. By early 2000, the site was selling 15 watches a day, at an average price of $1,200. The sites offers such upscale stars as Technomarine, Fortis, Sector, and Hugo Boss as well as luxury, vintage, and pre-owned models of Rolex, Breitling, Breguet, and Franck Muller. It also has watchstraps, watch accessories, and—as the authorized dealer for its brands—full warranty protection and service, unlike the many unauthorized Web sites selling fine watches.

Financial details of the acquisition weren’t released, but shareholders of E.S.T. Inc. (doing business as The Watch Network) will receive about 2 million shares of Ashford stock and may receive up to an additional 5.5 million shares of Ashford stock if certain contingencies are satisfied. The acquisition was expected to close by the end of February.