Levinger Acquires Speidel

Fred Levinger, the former CEO and owner of Colibri, has acquired certain assets of Speidel, the East Providence, R.I.–based manufacturer of watchbands, watches, and other accessories.

“Since June 2005, I’ve been semiretired, but I think I’m going to flunk retirement,” he quipped in an exclusive interview with JCK. “We’re masochists in this business.”

With his acquisition of Speidel’s watchband and retail assets, he will become chairman and chief executive officer. Jeff Massotti, Speidel’s current president, will remain as president and chief operating officer.

Speidel’s men’s and women’s jewelry and identification bracelet assets were excluded from the sale. Included, however, are its three retail stores, operating under the name Providence Watch Hospital. All are in Rhode Island.

The ironic twist to this story is that Levinger’s father, Paul, owned Speidel in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and was the inventor of its famous Twist-O-Flex metal expansion band. “It really has come full circle,” the younger Levinger said.

Speidel has been in business since 1904 and has about 2,500 accounts. Most of those are independents, but some majors carry the line.

“The Speidel model is very different from Colibri,” he said. “The brand name is an old name, but it needs promotion. And the best-selling product is still the Twist-O-Flex band.”

The Twist-O-Flex is not targeted to a fashion customer, and though Levinger estimates the Speidel customer is skewed a bit older than a typical fashion watch customer, he says that technologies available today in terms of surface treatments and platings weren’t available 25 years ago, suggesting the line may be in for some updating.

He won’t be turning Speidel into another Colibri, though. “I think you should not just repeat what you’ve done in the past,” he told JCK. “I like niche businesses, especially when they’re niche businesses with a brand name.”