The acquisition of Harry Winston by the Swatch Group, (owner of Omega, Breguet and Hamilton among others) marks a decided change for Winston, who was for a long time completely independent and privately held, and most recently, publicly traded but essentially independent.
To be fully acquired by a large conglomerate will mean a lot of changes for Winston, and according to Hodinkee, here are some things to consider.
– Harry Winston is considered the only true “high-luxury” brand remaining in America. It has a fantastic legacy of true glamor and prestige (the Hope diamond is a Winston diamond), and to see it go into the hands of a giant Swiss conglomerate is bittersweet.
– Swatch knows watches, but they are not particularly familiar with high-jewelry. We tend to think of things in terms of wristwatches, but Winston is first and foremost a jeweler. How will this new ownership change the jewelry side of Winston, which is to say, the side that most people know?
– Swatch has tremendous resources in movement sourcing, and while Winston has been doing great things for years using existing movements from Girard-Perregaux and others, a Winston in-house caliber was expected in the not so distant future. Will Swatch take ownership of this pending caliber and use it in other brands? Or will it be shelved and Winston given existing Swatch calibers? Or, will Swatch put new investment into Winston as a watchmaker and allow them to produce their own movements sooner than expected.
– It will be curious to see where Winston falls in the hierarchy, especially compared to Breguet. Breguet is Swatch’s crown-jewel, but Winston is arguably a much more recognizable and valuable brand. While Winston’s watch products are completely different than those from Breguet, the pricing is similar.
– Will Harry Winston become the counterpart to Richemont’s Cartier – in the sense it will be a an all encompassing high luxury lifestyle brand? It would make sense, as Swatch doesn’t own another brand that creates products across a range of categories, with a name widely recognized. Also, several current Winston employees come from the Cartier family, including the CEO, so assuming that some of the management team is kept, the influx of cash from Swatch could mean Winston finally has the fire power to take on Cartier.
For more on the terms of the deal read the Reuters article.