Franck Muller Adds Alexis Barthelay SA

The Franck Muller Group, whose luxury watches include popular Franck Muller Geneve, is embarking on a growth plan of significant expansion of its operations and staff, and more brands.

The company, based in Genthod, outside Geneva, Switzerland, recently got majority control of luxury watch brand Alexis Barthelay SA. The addition “continues our multibrand development strategy in a complementary segment,” said Vartan Sirmakes, Group co-founder and chief executive officer. “We’ll put synergies in place in production and distribution to give fresh impetus to Barthelay, which has remarkable commercial potential.” It is now part of Muller’s new Lifestyle Watches division, joining Rodolphe & Co. and Rodolphe Montres et Bijoux, which Muller acquired earlier this year.

Barthelay, founded in the 1930s, “brings together Parisian fashion and luxury with Swiss watchmaking,” said chairman Roland Barthelay. Its shareholders, he added, believe this “consolidation with a major luxury watchmaking group will ensure the future of the brand and of the company.”

Meanwhile, Sirmakes in June told the Tribune de Geneve newspaper that the Group will expand its operations at Genthod and increase total staff over 60 percent in the next two years.

Three glass-walled buildings built in a U (two of them three stories high and one, two stories) will be added. Construction should begin in early 2006 and end by 2008. (The 2006 and 2007 editions of the Group’s annual watch show at the Genthod estate will be held, though in a different area, said Sirmakes.)

Machining and case-making operations, which it has elsewhere in the region, will move to the new facilities. Beyond that, expansion is “justified,” Sirmakes told the paper, because of ongoing company growth and lack of space in current facilities. (The company just opened two more watchmaking shops outside Genthod because of that.) By 2008, “we’ll have between 900 and 1,000 [people] in the canton of Geneva,” he said. It currently employs 650 people, 530 of them in Geneva.