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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Red Diamond; 50-Carat Graff Diamond Ring Up For Auction

3.15-carat circular-cut fancy reddish orange diamond. Estimate: $700,000 – 1,200,000. Photo credit: CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2012

Red is certainly the color of Christmas and in this spirit Christie’s New York is offering a rare red diamond along with a 50-carat D color Graff diamond that could fetch $10 million during its Magnificent Jewels sale on December 10.

The 3.15 carat circular-cut fancy reddish orange diamond is the largest such diamond ever graded by the Gemological Institute of America and the largest ever to be offered at auction. Exhibiting excellent symmetry and polish, this stone is estimated at $700,000 - $1.2 million.

The diamond’s rarity is a function of both its intense color and large size, the auction house said. Very few red diamonds larger than one carat are known to exist. Among the largest is a circular-cut 5.03 fancy dark red diamond that is now in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

50.01-carat Rectangular-cut D-color diamond ring by Graff. Estimate: $7,000,000 – 10,000,000. Photo credit: CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2011

While impressive, the red diamond will not be the most expensive lot being offered at the daylong auction. That honor goes to a 50.01-carat D color diamond ring by the celebrated jeweler Graff. Offered for sale from an important private collection, the stone is mounted in a platinum setting designed by Graff, with two baguette-cut diamonds flanking the center stone. It’s estimated at $7 million - $10 million.

The Graff diamond is one of 12 D-color diamonds—the whitest shade possible—among the 300 lots being offered at the sale, which also includes rare gemstones, natural pearls and signed jewels from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. The total sale, which is accessible for bidding in person, on the phone, online, or by absentee bid, is expected to realize in excess of $25 million.

Three-stone Colombian Emerald ring of 8.51, 4.04 and 3.94 carats. Estimate: $475,000 – 550,000. Photo credit: CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2011

Among the star lots of gemstone jewelry is a three-stone Colombian emerald ring mounted with an 8.51 carat cushion-cut center stone and flanked by matching emeralds of 4.04 and 3.94 carats, respectively. Its estimate is $475,000 - $550,000.

Sapphire and diamond bracelet by Paul Flato from circa 1935. Photo credit: CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2011

Among the period pieces being offered is a sapphire and diamond bracelet by American jeweler Paul Flato from circa 1935, which is on the cover of the sale cataloge. Its estimate is $120,000 - 180,000. This jewel, offered from a prominent private collection, is designed as an openwork bracelet with alternating rectangular-cut sapphire and diamond bricklink bands.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

David Beckham Is The New Face of A New Breitling Watch

David Beckham appears in new ad for Breitling

Breitling, said Tuesday that David Beckham is the new face of its Transocean Chronograph Unitime worldtimer watch. The new campaign establishes a long-term partnership between the Swiss luxury watch brand and the international sports celebrity and style icon.

Transocean Chronograph Unitime

The Transocean Chronograph Unitime, equipped with the new Manufacture Breitling Caliber B05, with its double disk enables permanent readings of the time in all 24 timezones through its crown-operated correction system.

Beckham stars in the Breitling advertisement featuring a visual shot on the runway of the Mojave Air & Space Port in California. The image, taken by American photographer Anthony Mandler, shows Beckham standing in front of a private jet wearing his Transocean Chronograph Unitime. 

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Titanic Jewelry Exhibition

Ring with sapphires and diamonds. Photo credit: RMS Titanic Inc.

Jewelry not only defines an individual’s personal style but it also provides an understanding of how people lived and what they valued at a given time in history. With this in mind an exhibition of jewels from the ill-fated RMS Titanic that opens Friday will attempt to help the public gain this understanding. It will be the first stop on a three-city tour that will end in May, 2013.

Filigree ring with diamonds. Photo credit: RMS Titanic Inc.

As everyone knows the British luxury passenger ship on its maiden voyage struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. A total of 1,502 passengers and crew, some of whom were among the wealthiest people of the time, were killed in the maritime accident. The sinking of the Titanic is considered one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in modern history and it has captured the imagination of the public to this day.

The “Jewels of the Titanic” is a collection of 15 pieces of fine jewelry that gives a glimpse of how the wealthiest passengers traveled. Items on display include a hand-made platinum, 18k gold and diamond filigree ring; a gold ribbon brooch with diamonds; and a man’s green enamel and gold cufflinks and studs.


Ring with three diamonds. Photo credit: RMS Titanic Inc.

Alexandra Klingelhofer, VP of collections for RMS Titanic Inc., said most of the items that will be on display were found in a Gladstone bag uncovered during a research and recovery operation in 1987. The remaining items were found at various times during other recovery operations. RMS Titanic is a subsidiary of Premier Exhibitions, Inc., which owns the rights to salvage the shipwreck site.

The jewelry owners are unknown but other items inside the bag reveal that the valuables were entrusted to a purser, who was responsible for handling the money and other valuables inboard the ship, she said. It’s believed the purser was taking care of the bag himself instead of leaving it in the safe during the shipwreck. However, he, like all the other pursers, did not survive.



Ribbon brooch with diamonds. Photo credit: RMS Titanic Inc.

“The majority of the best-of-the-best, high-end pieces came from the Gladstone bag,” Klingelhofer said. “They’re beautiful, explicit, Edwardian pieces.”

Klingelhofer said that some of the items had been on display at various times over the years but this is the first time they will be featured together. The timing is part of the way the organization has been commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the shipwreck.



Green enameled gold cufflinks and studs. Photo credit: RMS Titanic Inc.

“We thought it would be a fitting end to the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic and that the jewelry would be highlighted in a different way as a mini-exhibit,” she said.

The jewelry will be on display at the three permanent Titanic exhibition spaces that are owned and operated by RMS Titanic and Premier Exhibitions, Inc. The dates and locations are as follows:

Atlanta
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
Premier Exhibition Center
Atlantic Station
Nov. 16 – Jan. 6, 2013

Orlando
Titanic The Experience
International Drive
Jan. 11, 2013 – March 12, 2013

Las Vegas
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
Luxor Hotel and Casino
Mar. 22, 2013 – May 31, 2013


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World Record for a Colorless Diamond: 76-Carat Archduke Joseph Diamond Sells For $21.5 Million

The 76-carat diamond is considered is the largest D-color, Internally Flawless diamond from the historic Golconda region. It was the property of the Archduke Joseph August of Austria, Palatine of Hungary (1872-1962). Photo credit: Tony Falcone

A large, D-color, Internally Flawless diamond with outstanding pedigree in origin and ownership sold for $21.5 million at Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels auction on Tuesday, setting a world record for the sale of a colorless diamond.

The 76-carat Archduke Joseph Diamond was sold to a phone bidder during the auction held at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, Geneva. The unmounted, cushion-shaped gem is from the historic Golconda region of India, one of the oldest diamond mining regions in the world and where some of the most storied diamonds on earth were discovered. The Gemological Institute of America said it is the largest D-color, IF diamond it ever graded from the historic region. It was the property of the Archduke Joseph August of Austria, Palatine of Hungary (1872-1962), a member of the House of Habsburg. 

“I am thrilled but not surprised that the Archduke Joseph Diamond should have fetched such a high price,” said the former owner of the diamond, Alfredo J. Molina, CEO of America’s Black, Starr & Frost jewelers. “I was blessed to be the Archduke’s guardian and champion for the past 13 years, and indeed it has become part of my very identity.”

The auction took in more than $85 million, selling 84 percent by lot and 86 percent by value. This result, combined with the total achieved for the category in May, concludes the most successful year for Christie’s jewelry department in Switzerland, with annual sales exceeding $195.2 million.  

Highlights of the sale include: 


A Pair of Unmounted Brilliant-Cut Diamonds. The twin gems sold in separate lots each for $2.1 million. The diamonds were each 25.28 carats and have identical G color, VVS1 clarity characteristics. Each gem also has the same estimate of $2.3 million to $2.5 million.

Photo Credit: CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2012

Colored Diamond and Diamond Brooch by Wartski. The shield shaped fancy intense blue diamond center, SI1clarity, weighing approximately 3.33 carats, flanked on either side by single old-cut pear-shaped diamonds with a suspended diamond. Wartski, the London antique jeweler, is a “royal warrant of appointment” for the British Royal Family. Estimate: $1 million - $1.4 million. Sold for $2.4 million.

Photo Credit: CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2012

Sapphire and Diamond ‘Transcendence’ Butterfly Brooch by Cindy Chao. The body of the pavé-set diamond butterfly is a pentagonal-cut diamond, weighing approximately 3.01 carats, the wings are enhanced by briolette diamonds, sapphire beads and vari-cut sapphires. It is mounted in titanium and gold and signed by artist.

Photo credit: Denis Hayoun - Diode SA

Bulgari Art Deco Sapphire and Diamond Sautoir. The circa 1930s baguette and circular-cut diamond geometric pendant is centered upon a star sapphire, suspended from a sautoir composed of cabochon sapphire and diamond cluster panels with diamond collet connecting links. Estimate: $320,000 - $530,000. Sold for $662,483.

A 70-carat unmounted rectangular-cut fancy vivid yellow diamond failed to sell. It had an estimate of $3.1 million to $5 million. 

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Harry Winston to Pay $500 Million for Ekati Diamond Mine

Ekati Diamond Mine
Photo credit: Jason Pineau, through Wikipedia
Harry Winston Diamond Corp. said Tuesday that it has entered into share purchase agreements with BHP Billiton Canada Inc. and other affiliates to acquire all of BHP Billiton’s diamond assets, including its controlling interest in the Ekati Diamond Mine as well as the associated diamond sorting and sales facilities in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and Antwerp, Belgium.

The Ekati Diamond Mine, located in the Northwest Territories of Canada, consists of the Core Zone, which includes the current operating mine and other permitted kimberlite pipes, as well as the Buffer Zone, an adjacent area hosting kimberlite pipes having both development and exploration potential. The agreed purchase price, payable in cash, is $400 million for the Core Zone interest and $100 million for the Buffer Zone interest, subject to adjustments in accordance with the terms of the share purchase agreements.

“Completion of this acquisition will bring the opportunity to marry our Canadian diamond sorting and marketing skills with an experienced mine operating and development team, a world class operating asset, and future growth potential,” said Robert A. Gannicott, Harry Winston chairman and CEO. “Together with our existing mining business, these assets will serve as our platform for sustained, disciplined growth in the upstream diamond sector.”

Harry Winston, known for its luxury retail salons throughout the world, also supplies rough diamonds to the global market through its 40 percent ownership interest in the Diavik Diamond Mine, also located in the Northwest Territories. The company was looking to sell its retail assets, according to media reports, which it denied. Harry Winston also was reportedly in talks to buy the remaining interest in Diavik from its partner in the venture, Rio Tinto Diamonds. Talks between Harry Winston and BHP Billiton for the Diavik Diamond Mine were first reported in August.

The Ekati Diamond Mine, approximately 310 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada, includes both open pit and underground operations and is Canada’s first, and largest, diamond producer, having begun production in 1998.

The Ekati Diamond Mine has produced an average of approximately three quarters of a billion dollars of rough diamonds per year over the past five years, Harry Winston said in a statement. Over that period sales from the Core Zone represented approximately 6 percent of world rough diamond supply by value. The current phase of production at the Ekati Diamond Mine includes ore sourced primarily from the lower grade, but high carat value, Fox open pit supplemented by underground production from the lower portion of the Koala kimberlite pipe and from the Koala North pipe. Although production in the next two years is forecast to be lower than the average achieved over the last five years, it is expected to return to higher levels as the mine transitions to higher grade, but lower carat value, ore from the Misery and Pigeon open pits. The current Ekati mine plan calls for a further seven years of production, but there are additional resources which could become economic with increased diamond prices.

The Core Zone and the Buffer Zone are subject to separate joint venture agreements. BHP Billiton holds an 80 percent interest in the Core Zone and a 58.8 percent interest in the Buffer Zone, with the remainder held by the Ekati minority joint venture parties. Harry Winston has agreed to purchase BHP Billiton’s interests in each of the Core and Buffer Zones. Pursuant to the joint venture agreements, BHP Billiton will first separately offer to the joint venture parties its interest in each of the Core and Buffer Zones on the same terms as those agreed to by Harry Winston. The joint venture parties will then have 60 days to elect to acquire either or both of those interests. Any interests that the joint venture parties do not elect to acquire within that time period can then be transferred to the Company in the following 60 days.


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Monday, November 12, 2012

Diamond Empowerment Fund to Honor Tiffany & Co. and Leo Schachter


Global luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. and Leo Schachter Diamonds will be honored for global leadership in helping empower people in Africa, at the second annual GOOD Awards on January 10, 2013.

The GOOD Awards, established by the Diamond Empowerment Fund in 2012, are the highest awards to recognize individuals and corporations in the diamond and jewelry industry for outstanding leadership in the areas of good corporate citizenship, sustainability, and promoting opportunity in Africa.

Tiffany & Co. has been in the forefront of promoting business practices and programs that benefit communities in which diamonds are sourced. Tiffany’s work in Botswana and other diamond producing countries highlights one of the many ways the company demonstrates accountability through best business practices resulting in employment, infrastructure improvements, and ultimately the empowerment of people in that region.

Leo Schachter Diamonds was one of the first diamond companies to establish a cutting factory in Botswana, employing hundreds of locals. In addition, Elliot Tannenbaum, principal of Leo Schachter Diamonds, in partnership with the government of Botswana, helped to establish the Botswana Top Achievers Program, a DEF beneficiary, that funds top students from the nation to study at the university of their choice worldwide.

Additional honorees will be announced soon. For more information on tickets, journal ads and sponsorship packages please visit www.goodawards.org.


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World Records Set for Eric Clapton’s Patek Philippe Watch and Patek Chronometer

Eric Clapton's watch with moon phases sold for $3.6 million. CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2012

A Patek Philippe platinum perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon phases owned by famed guitarist Eric Clapton sold for $3.6 million at Christie’s Geneva Important Watch auction held Monday.

Described by the auction house as a reference 2499/100, movement number 869'308, and case number 2'817'876, it was manufactured in 1987. The Calibre 13''' mechanical movement was stamped twice with the Geneva seal. The watch from the famed rock and blues musician and songwriter (nicknamed “slowhand”) has 23 jewels, silvered matte dial, applied gold baton and square numerals, gold dauphine hands, outer Arabic five minute divisions, windows for day and month, three subsidiary dials for constant seconds, 30 minutes register and moon phases with date, circular case, stepped downturned lugs, snap on back. Finally it has a platinum Patek Philippe buckle, case, and a signed 37.5 mm. diameter dial and movement.
Patek Philippe unique platinum chronometer wristwatch sold for $4 million. CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2012

While Clapton’s watch may have been the piece the received the most press, it didn’t receive the highest bid at the auction. That honor went to “J.B. Champion Platinum Observatory Chronometer.” a Patek Philippe unique platinum chronometer wristwatch with Guillaume balance, Bulletin d’Observatoire, additional diamond-set dial and platinum bracelet that sold for just under $4 million, a world auction record for a watch without complications.

Manufactured in 1952, the historically significant 13''' caliber, 13 Lépine, mechanical movement is numbered twice and stamped twice with the Geneva seal, three-quarter plate, 20 jewels, blued steel Breguet balance spring, Guillaume balance, micrometer regulator, silvered matte dial, applied baton numerals, outer beady minute divisions, gold feuille hands, subsidiary seconds, circular heavy case, snap on back, platinum Patek Philippe buckle, case, dial and movement signed 36 mm. diameter.

It great day for Patek Philippe as the top 10 lots was manufactured by the renown Swiss watch brand. This includes three other Pateks that sold for more than $1 million:

* An extremely rare, platinum chronograph wristwatch that sold for $1.6 million. One of three platinum examples ever made of this reference; it’s signed Patek Philippe & Co., Genève, ref. 1579, movement no. 867'005, case no. 645'566. Manufactured in 1946, the Calibre 13''' mechanical movement has 23 jewels, micrometer regulator, silvered matte dial, black enameled baton and applied gold Arabic numerals, Arabic five minute divisions, outer tachymetre scale, two subsidiary dials for constant seconds and 30 minutes register, large circular case, downturned angular or "spider" lugs, snap on back, and 18K white gold Patek Philippe buckle.

* An 18K gold World Time wristwatch with cloisonnè enamel dial depicting the Eastern hemisphere sold for more than $1.04 million. Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, ref. 1415 HU, movement no. 964'802, case no. 669'492. Manufactured in 1949, the calibre 12'''120 HU mechanical movement has 18 jewels, bimetallic compensation balance, micrometer regulator, polychrome cloisonné enamel dial depicting the map of Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, applied gold baton and Roman numerals, gold hands, outer revolving ring depicting the diurnal and nocturnal hours on silvered and black background, circular case with revolving bezel engraved with the names of 41 cities in the world, teardrop lugs, and snap on back.

* An 18K pink gold chronograph wristwatch with two-tone silvered dial also sold for more than $1.04 million. Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, retailed by Gobbi, Milano, ref. 530, movement no. 868'800, case no. 514'608, it was manufactured in 1955. The Cal. 13''' mechanical movement stamped with the Geneva Seal, 23 jewels, two-tone silvered dial, applied pink gold baton and Arabic numerals, gold hands, outer railway five minute divisions and tachymetre scale, two subsidiary dials for constant seconds and 30 minutes register, large circular case, downturned lugs, snap on back, two rectangular chronograph buttons in the band, 18K pink gold buckle, case and movement signed by the maker, dial signed by the maker and the retailer.

Possibly the world's first chronograph. CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2012

A timepiece of historical significance that was part of the auction was what may have been the first chronograph. It sold for $245,274. The “probably unique” and historically important inking chronograph with cylinder escapement, housed in mahogany box is signed Rieussec Horologer du Roi, Chronographe, Brevet d'Invention, circa 1821/22.

Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec is credited with inventing the chronograph on September 1, 1821.

The timepiece has a mechanical cylinder movement, plain three-arm balance, two revolving silvered dials on the front plate—the upper one for minutes, the lower one for seconds—both with fixed blued steel inking hand, brass button on the left side of the fausse-plaque activates the inking hand, brass button on the right starts and stops the movement, front plate signed. It measures 143 mm. long & 114 mm. wide not including the box.

This lot includes a note from Christie’s, which reads as follows:

It is very interesting to note that this historically important inking chronograph by Rieussec is not numbered, but instead inscribed "Chronographe, Brevet d'Invention". One may speculate for the reasons why Rieussec didn't number this superb piece, but one very logical explanation may be that this example here is the very one he used to obtain his patent.

Vaucher Fleurier 18K gold and enamel identical numbered, mirror-image pair of duplex watches. CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2012

Another interesting item that received a great deal of interest was a set of two Vaucher, Fleurier 18K gold and enamel identical numbered, mirror-image pair of openface center seconds duplex watches with matching gold and enamel keys and fitted box, made for the Chinese market. It fetched $385,432, nearly triple its high estimate. Signed Vaucher, Fleurier, No. 160 & 160., circa 1830, it features mirror-polished and blued steel keywound duplex movements, bimetallic compensation balances with blued steel wedge-shaped weights, hinged gold cuvettes, white enamel dials, Roman numerals, gold spade hands, centre seconds, large circular cases, pink, light blue and translucent scarlet champlevé enamel floral decorated bezels, rims, pendants and bows, the backs decorated with finely painted, mirror-image polychrome enamel bouquet of flowers on mauve background.

All totaled, the auction held at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, Geneva achieved more than $28.5 million in sales with 96 percent sold by lot and 97 percent sold by value. All prices realized for individual items and auction house totals include commissions.

“Today’s seven-hour marathon auction welcomed some 500 registrants from five continents, generating stellar sell-through rates as well as breaking numerous records,” said Aurel Bacs, International Head of Christie's Watch Department. “Collectors, public and private museums, the trade and also an investment watch fund, battled out the bidding for the best watches seen at auction this season, reconfirming.”

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Richemont Names Joint CEOs to Replace Johann Rupert

Johann Rupert to step down as
executive chairman and CEO.
The Board of Compagnie Financière Richemont SA announced Friday that it has approved a number of senior management changes, culminating with a change at the top of the company’s management structure. The announcement came as the luxury goods conglomerate reported a 21 percent increase in sales and a 52 percent increase in profit for the first half of the fiscal year.

Bernard Fornas, currently Cartier CEO, and Richard Lepeu, currently Richemont deputy CEO, will become joint CEOs of Richemont on April 1, 2013, under a succession plan that begins to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

As previously announced, Stanislas de Quercize, currently CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, will succeed Fornas as CEO of Cartier on Jan. 1, 2013. On the same date, Fornas and Lepeu will be appointed as joint deputy CEOs, reporting to Johann Rupert, executive chairman and CEO.

Rupert returned to the role of Richemont CEO when Norbert Platt, who held the position, took early retirement due to ill health in 2010. Rupert will step down from that role on March 31, 2013.

The following day, Fornas and Lepeu will become joint CEOs. Fornas will oversee Richemont’s maisons while Lepeu will continue to oversee Richemont’s central functions. Fornas and Lepeu together with Gary Saage, CFO, will form a senior executive committee for Richemont.

In addition, the Board approved certain changes to Richemont’s Group Management Committee.

The following executives will join the Group Management Committee, effective immediately: Lutz Bethge, CEO of Montblanc; Hans-Peter Bichelmeier, Group Operations director; Stanislas de Quercize; Georges Kern, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen; Jérôme Lambert, CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre; and Philippe Léopold-Metzger, CEO of Piaget.

The following executives will retain their responsibilities but, reflecting the changed role of the Group Management Committee, will resign from the committee by the end of the current financial year: Giampiero Bodino, Group art director; Alan Grieve, director of Corporate Affairs; Mr Eloy Michotte, corporate finance director; and Jan Rupert, executive director.


Richemont, based in Geneva, owns many of the world’s best-known luxury brands (called “maisons” by the company) including Cartier, Montblanc, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels and Piaget. It also has wholesale businesses and owns the luxury retail website, Net-A-Porter.com. A list of its businesses can be found by following this link.

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Richemont Sales Up 21%, Profit Up 52%


Swiss luxury goods conglomerate, Compagnie Financière Richemont, said Friday that sales increased, year-over-year, for the first half of the fiscal year by 21 percent to €5.1 billion ($6.5 billion). By constant exchange rates sales grew 12 percent.

Profit for the period rose 52 percent to €1.08 billion ($1.37 billion); with operating profit up by 28 percent to €1.38 billion ($1.75 billion), benefiting from favorable currency movements, and gross profit up 24 percent to €3.31 billion ($4.2 billion). Operating margin gained 150 basis points to reach 27 percent.

The Geneva-based company cited “solid growth in all segments, regions and channels” along with favorable currency rates and Asian tourism in Europe for the strong performance.

Richemont owns many of the world’s best-known luxury brands (known as “maisons” by the company) including Cartier, Montblanc, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels and Piaget. It also has wholesale businesses and owns the luxury retail website, Net-A-Porter.com. A list of its businesses can be found by following this link.

“The Group’s maisons benefited from favorable exchange rates effects, successful product launches as well as strong pricing power,” said Johann Rupert, Richemont executive chairman and CEO. “The increase in net profit was well above the prior period, reflecting both the growth in operating results and the non-recurrence of non-cash losses, which stemmed from the Swiss franc’s appreciation against the euro.”

He added, “Sales growth rates moderated, as evidenced by the October sales which grew by 12 percent at actual exchange rates. At constant exchange rates, they were 7 percent higher. Richemont is seeing good growth in Europe, supported by Asian tourism which is compensating for slower domestic Asia Pacific sales. Retail continued to lead wholesale, reflecting robust jewelry sales.”

Rupert did warn that sales and profits could slow as exchange rates will like be “less favorable” for the remainder of the fiscal year.

By region the company reported that sales in Europe accounted for 36 percent of overall sales as the region enjoyed good growth, with tourists driving the above-average increase. The highest growth rates were in the Maisons’ own boutiques in tourist destinations, including the Middle East. Europe’s reported a 23 percent growth in sales for the period to €1.85 billion ($2.35). At constant exchange rates, sales increased by 19 percent.

Asia Pacific remains the strongest region for Richemont but sales growth has slowed. The region accounted for 41 percent of the Group’s total, with Hong Kong and mainland China the two largest markets. “Sales growth in our maisons’ own boutiques in the region was well above the increase in sales to wholesale partners, partly reflecting the number of boutique openings in the last two years,” the company said. Asia reported a 22 percent growth in sales for the period to €2.1 billion ($2.67). At constant exchange rates, sales increased 9 percent.

After two years of what the company termed as “outstanding sales,” the Americas region reported that sales grew 16 percent to €698 million ($877 million). However, at constant exchange rates, growth was 4 percent. The region represented 14 percent of overall sales for Richemont.

Japan, which Richemont lists separately, saw what the company terms as “continued momentum” in sales in all retail segments. The struggling market saw its sales increase by 18 percent to €448 million ($570 million). At constant exchange rates the increase was 4 percent.

Its group of jewelry brands saw sales grow by 20 percent to €2.6 billion ($3.3 billion) with operating results of €958 ($1.21 billion), a 31 percent increase. Operating margin gained 280 basis points to reach 36.7 percent.

Meanwhile, its specialist watchmakers group reported that sales increased 25 percent to €1.46 billion ($1.85 billion) with operating results of €470 ($592 million), a 51 percent increase. Operating margin gained 560 basis points to reach 32.2 percent.

Montblanc, the German brand known for its luxury writing instruments but also manufactures and sells luxury leather goods, jewelry and watches, is listed separately by Richemont. It reported that its sales increased 10 percent to €368 million ($468 million) with operating results of €53 million ($67.3 million), a 2 percent decline. Operating margin lost 180 basis points to reach 14.4 percent. Richemont said that Montblanc doesn’t benefit much from sales in tourist destinations.

For its other businesses—which includes Richemont’s Fashion and Accessories businesses, Net-a-Porter and watch component manufacturing activities—results are as follows:

* Fashion & Accessories maisons saw double-digit sales growth and operating profits were in line with the prior period at €25 million.

* Sales growth at Net-a-Porter is “normalizing” but continues to exceed the Group’s average. Net-a-Porter reduced its losses during the period, but generated a positive operating cashflow.

* Losses at the Group’s watch component manufacturing facilities were in line with the comparative period.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Luxury Marketing Partnership: Rolls-Royce, Vacheron Constantin Host A Thomas Keller Dinner

Chef Thomas Keller explains the meal he prepared for the well-heeled guests of Rolls-Royce and Vacheron Constantin. Photo credit: Derek Gardner Photography

Luxury automobiles and high-end timepieces seem to go hand-in-hand among collectors. Those who appreciate the high-powered engines and vivid design of the most expensive automobiles, also admire the miniature components of mechanical watch movements and the more subtle finishes of well-crafted haute horlogerie. Many of these car and watch brands develop long-standing partnerships that include joint product introductions and long-term marketing agreements. This is especially true when it comes to sports cars.

However, it was a different kind of partnership that recently occurred between Rolls-Royce and Vacheron Constantin. The British luxury automobile company and Swiss luxury watch brand invited about 50 of their clients to dinner, but it wasn’t just any meal. 

Guests talk in front of a Vacheron Constantin watch display.  Photo credit: Derek Gardner Photography

The event was held in a villa on the Monterey Peninsula in a development at least partially owned by Clint Eastwood. The food was prepared by a staff led by Thomas Keller, arguably the best chef in the United States. The event was held on the night before the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the internationally renowned annual antique car competition held on August 19.

While the event was formal, the partnership between the two brands was informal and temporary, which is how they both want it. They have worked together a few times for small events in the past—including annual private events in Europe and when Vacheron Constantin opened its Madison Avenue boutique in late 2011. But this is the first time they’ve teamed up to put together an outing of this magnitude.

“There is a natural attraction between both maisons. We share a lot of customers. And there is a mutual appreciation from their customers for both nice cars and nice watches,” said Hugues de Pins, Vacheron Constantin, CEO of North America. “As far as I know this is the only one (company that Vercheron has partnered with). This is very punctual. There is no agreement between both companies.”

A Vacheron Constantin watchmaker explains the finer points of a luxury timepiece.  Photo credit: Derek Gardner Photography

De Pins defines this type of event as providing an experience for what who he describes as “friends” of the two brands. The event he says is not about sales.

“What we organize today is a dinner among friends and what we want to bring is an exceptional moment and an exceptional experience,” he said prior to the event. “What best can we get for our friends then having this world-class dinner by Chef Thomas Keller, surrounded by extraordinary cars and extraordinary watches in this beautiful scenery? I think this is going to be magic. This kind of takeaway is at the end of the day what our customers are looking for and expect. Not just the single fact of purchasing a watch but what comes beyond the purchase of a watch. The nice experience we want to live together.”

David Archibald, president of Rolls-Royce North America, Chef Thomas Keller and Hugues de Pins, Vacheron Constantin, CEO North America. Photo credit: Derek Gardner Photography

This is a sentiment echoed by David Archibald, president of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars North America.

“Luxury should not be defined by a single item, but viewed as a lifestyle. Rolls-Royce and Vacheron Constantin share a discerning clientele who seek superior craftsmanship and innovative design, as well as unique and memorable experiences.”  Archibald said. “An event such as this, with its stunning setting and Chef Keller’s unparalleled cuisine, is the epitome of the luxury lifestyle that both Rolls-Royce and Vacheron Constantin represent and offer to their clientele.”


But there is product placement. Dinner was served outside and in plain view was a two-tone Rolls-Royce Ghost strategically fronting both the view of the valley below and in front the setting sun. Inside the villa Vacheron had its collection of timepieces available for viewing. De Pins stresses that they are not for sale. Some of the items were one-of-kind pieces. The brand also brought a watchmaker who gave demonstrations for the guests. 
 
Thomas Keller created an open kitchen where guests can enter while the staff works. Keller us standing in the background.  Photo credit: Derek Gardner Photography

There was a bit of sticker shock for the Rolls Royce customers who I shared a table with when they learned that a few of the watches on display were nearly double the cost of a Rolls Royce.

In a kitchen open for guests to enter while the staff worked, Keller designed a dinner themed with the two luxury brands in mind. 

 

“We tried to bring inspiration from both of these companies and bring them to life on a plate,” he said. “I think we were to at least able bring some recognition to some of the key words and key phrases that are so ingrained in the philosophy and culture of these companies.”

Among the courses was a caviar dish titled “Silver and Platinum,” the metals for Rolls Royce cars (silver) and for luxury watches (platinum). The staff cut the vegetables for a hearts of palm salad in a way that resembles the watchmaking technique of beveling. A braised short rib was titled, “Best Made Better,” after the Rolls-Royce slogan. A final desert was titled “Bespoke,” of course named after what many define as the most ultimate luxury experience. It was a chocolate tart with a selection of condiments. 

A bespoke Rolls-Royce Ghost was in perfect view of the dinner guests as the sun was setting'. Photo credit: Derek Gardner Photography

The meal from appetizers to desert was not favorable, artfully prepared and flawlessly served. To pull this off Keller brought in 19 employees from his restaurants around the country, describing it as a major undertaking that included hotel accommodations during one of the busiest times of the year in Monterey and daily transportation to and from the villa.

“It’s a major commitment,” he said. “Vacheron has the same standards. Rolls-Royce has the same standards. I don’t do many of these events.”

It also was a major expense. It was rumored that the cost of hosting this event was about $1,700 per person. 

These two Patrimony Traditionnelle timepieces were among the watches the Swiss luxury watch brand had on display. Photo credit: Derek Gardner Photography

It’s the price of what de Pins describes as creating “magic,” for friends of the brand. Magic is certainly a way to describe the evening. Few details were left unattended from the greeting at the entrance of the villa to the gifts at the end of the night. As the sun set behind the Rolls-Royce and the evening became cool as it often does in this part of the country, women were given bright orange silk shawls—with the Rolls-Royce logo.

At the end of the night the two car collectors at my table, obviously moved by the experienced, declared that were going to buy another Rolls Royce.

Now that’s what I call magic. 

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‘The Shaq’ Designs Men’s Jewelry Collection for Zale Corp. Stores


Shaquille O’Neal has found himself a new job as a jewelry designer for Zale Corp. The former NBA star has partnered with the specialty retail jeweler to create and market a branded collection of men’s jewelry.

The Shaquille O’Neal Collection consists of a variety of men’s pendants, rings and bracelets. The collection will be offered exclusively in select Zale Corp. stores in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and online. Zale Corp. operates approximately 1,780 retail locations under the following brands: Zales Jewelers, Zales Outlet, Gordon’s Jewelers, Peoples Jewellers, Mappins Jewellers and Piercing Pagoda

The partnership builds on the strengths of both brands as Shaquille O’Neal (known as “The Shaq”) is widely regarded as one of the most gregarious personalities in sports, and Zales, is one of the most recognized North American specialty jewelry brands.

“Since I was in college I have shopped at Zales because I knew I could buy a quality product at an affordable price,” O’Neal said.

“The product is an expression of Mr. O’Neal’s fun-loving personality and his unique sense of style,” said Theo Killion, Zale CEO.

The company made a promotional video of O’Neal working behind the counter at a Zale store in the Shops at Willow Bend, a mall in Plano, Texas. The video is below.



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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Megayacht Luxury Jewelry Fair Unveils Exhibitors

The SeaFair megayach, home of the upcoming International Contemporary Jewelry Fair.

The International Contemporary Jewelry Fair unveiled some of the jewelry brands who will be exhibiting on SeaFair, a 228-foot megayacht that will be docked in Miami. The inaugural event will be held December 4-9, during Art Basel Miami Beach.

Luxury jewelry designers, many with one-of-a-kind pieces, will be participating from more than eight countries including Italy, Spain, Philippines, Lebanon, Australia, Brazil, Germany and the U.S. The show is expected to attract the same type of collectors who attend Art Basel and are interested in rare pieces of wearable art. Exhibitors for the event are as follows:

Bagues Masriera (Barcelona)
Chantecler (Capri)
Dario & Peter (Vicenza)
Opera Omnia (Milan)
Scavia (Milan)
Vendorafa (Valenza)
Zydo (Milan).
Autore (Australia)
Jewelmer (Philippines)
Arunashi (Los Angeles)

Ana Kopejka Greene Fine Jewelry Design (Jensen Beach, Fla.)
Daniel K (New York)

Denny Wong Designs, presented by Blue Marlin Jewelry (Islamorada, Fla.)
Heloisa Fitzgerald Jewelry (Boston)
Emsaru (New York)

La Reina/ART (Palm Beach, Fla.)
La Reina Collection (Los Angeles)
Oliver & Espig (Santa Barbara)
Ray Griffiths (New York)

Pandora & Pendragon  (Longwood, Fla.)
Nada G. (Beirut)
Reinstein/Ross Goldsmiths (New York)
Willow Co. (Lawrenceville, N.J.)
Yael Sonia (Brazil)
Lauren Harper Collection (Chicago)
llyn strong (Greenville, S.C.)
Rachel Dugger (Miami)

For the exhibition, the $40 million yacht, built specifically for the purpose of hosting mobile art and jewelry exhibitions, will be docked at its winter season location at Chopin Plaza, Noguchi Bayfront Park in downtown Miami.

On December 4, ICJF will open with a preview party hosted by diplomatic representatives of Italy, Brazil, Spain, Australia, Philippines and Lebanon. Regular fair hours will be from 1 p.m. till 10 p.m., December 5-9.

For more information, tickets and programming; visit www.icjfmiami.com.


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Taiwan to Host International Jewelry Fair in 2013

Taipei World Trade Center, home of the new Taiwan Jewellery & Gem Fair.

UBM Asia, the Taiwan Jewelry Industry Association and the Taipei Jeweler’s Association will join together to launch the first Taiwan Jewellery & Gem Fair, which will be held Nov. 15-18, 2013, at the Taipei World Trade Center.

Described as “a high-end, professional jewelry event that aims to provide an opportunity for international jewelry suppliers to meet with local buyers,” the November timing of the exhibition was chosen because it is the time of year when jewelry retailers in Taiwan purchase inventory ahead of the busy Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day jewelry buying seasons.

The event will be held in Exhibition Hall 3 of the Taipei World Trade Center, located adjacent to the Taipei 101 Tower, the Grand Hyatt Taipei Hotel and situated in the Xinyi commercial district of central Taipei.

Taiwan has a strong jewelry manufacturing and processing industry that exports products around the world. Recently, there’s been a surge in tourists from Mainland China fueling an expansion of the domestic market. Chinese tourists are avid buyers of coral and jadeite jewelry. This has created strong demand from Taiwan’s jewelry manufacturers for loose stones, mountings and materials; and from retailers for finished jewelry, according to the organizers. This led to people calling for an international, professional jewelry exhibition in Taiwan.


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Consumers Online Spending Up 15% in Q3


Online retail spending for the third quarter increased 15 percent year-over-year to $41.9 billion, representing the 12th consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and eighth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, according to comScore, Inc.

Gian Fulgoni, chairman of the Reston, Va.-based company that specializes in measuring digital data, said the numbers are consistent with the prior quarter and confirm “the strength in the e-commerce sector, despite a few negative headwinds in the macroeconomic environment during the quarter. Such performance offers some optimism as we approach the holiday season, especially given recent improvements in consumer sentiment.”

He added, “With the housing market beginning to show signs of recovery in addition to increasing–if still underwhelming–job growth, there appears to be strong enough footing to support a very healthy online holiday shopping season.”

Other highlights from comScore’s Q3 2012 U.S. retail e-commerce sales estimates include:

* The top-performing online product categories, according to the survey were: Digital Content & Subscriptions, Consumer Electronics, Event Tickets, Apparel & Accessories, and Computer Software. Each category grew at least 16 percent year-over-year.

* About 37 percent of U.S. consumers say they have engaged in “showrooming” behavior where they use a smartphone while in a retail store to check prices or to purchase a product online, representing a 5-percent increase in the past two quarters.

* According to the survey, 48 percent of U.S. consumers now rate the economy as “poor” an 8-percentage point improvement vs. the prior quarter and the most pronounced improvement since early 2009.



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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tiffany & Co. to Open Flagship Paris Store on Champs Elysées

Rendering of Tiffany's planned store in Paris.

Tiffany & Co. said Tuesday that it plans to open a new European flagship store in Paris. The 10,000-square-foot, multi-level store will be located at 62, Avenue des Champs Elysées and is expected to open in 2014.

"This is a significant development and sales opportunity for Tiffany & Co. While we have been successful in operating three smaller stores in Paris, establishing this store on the Champs Elysées will be the ultimate symbol of Tiffany as a truly global luxury brand," said Frederic Cumenal, executive vice president, Tiffany & Co. "This is a preeminent location that firmly places Tiffany & Co. on an international stage, in the heart of a city where people from all over the world come to visit and shop."

The opening on the Champs Elysées will mark a new milestone in Tiffany's connection to Paris, which began in 1850 when the company established its first store. In 1999, Tiffany returned to Paris with a store on rue de la Paix.

In March, the owner of the rue de la Paix building that housed Tiffany’s Paris store, placed the property for sale


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Pandora Produces Charming Q3 Sales and Profit Gains


Danish jewelry company Pandora said Tuesday that third quarter revenue increased 14.3 percent, year-over-year, to DKK 1.79 billion ($308 million) with double-digit gains across all geographical markets. Net profit for the period increased by 11.4 percent to DKK 380 million ($65.2 million).

This is a strong turnaround when compared with second quarter results in which the company—best known for the manufacture, distribution and marketing of silver charm jewelry—said its sales fell by 9.5 percent to 1.26 billion DKK ($210.2 million) with profit during the same period down 89.9 percent to 63 million DKK ($10.5 million).

Pandora also said Tuesday that its stock balancing plan (replacing discontinued stock) is continuing as planned. In the third quarter, the company received returns of discontinued products with a wholesale value of DKK 86 million ($14.7 million), and replaced it with merchandising costing DKK 127 million ($21.8 million). In 2012 Pandora received returns of discontinued products valued at DKK 609 million ($104.6 million), and replaced DKK 599 million ($102.8 million).

Revenue by geographic region is as follows:

• Americas increased by 21.9 percent (9.5 percent in local currency), with U.S. sales up 15.8 percent (2.6 percent in local currency).
• Europe increased by 13.1 percent (11 percent in local currency).
• Asia Pacific decreased by 10.7 percent (17.3 percent in local currency).

Branded revenue as percentage of total revenue increased to 81.3 percent, compared with 73.6 percent in third quarter of 2011. Gross margin was 64.1 percent, compared with 73.6 percent in the third quarter of 2011.

EBITDA margin was 28 percent, compared with 34.2 percent in Q3 2011, a decrease of 6.2 percent to DKK 503 million ($86.3 million). EBIT margin was 25.8 percent compared with 32.2 percent in Q3 2011, an 8.5 percent drop to DKK 463 million ($79.5 million).

The company, which sells its jewelry through retail jewelers and its own branded retail stores, updated its outlook, saying it expects revenue for 2012 to be above DKK 6.3 billion ($1.08 billion), from its previous guidance above DKK 6 billion.

“I am happy to report that we continue to perform in line with our ‘18 months turn-around plan,’” said Björn Gulden, Pandora CEO. “Third quarter developed even a little better than we expected and we have, based on the tailwind from the currency development, decided to slightly upgrade our revenue guidance. One of our major initiatives ‘The stock balancing campaign’ was continued, mainly impacting the U.S. and third-party distribution, during Q3 2012. We have now largely concluded the campaign and it will, as communicated earlier, be finished by end of 2012.”

Gulden added its spring merchandise sold well and its fall merchandise had a strong start for the third quarter.

“The year is not yet finished,” he said. “We have our most important quarter to come, but we feel confident that our improved product, our lower prices and our other operational improvements will put us in the position of achieving our updated financial goals for the full year.”


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Monday, November 5, 2012

Georg Jensen Acquired by Investment Group for $140 Million

Georg Jensen Fusion Rings

Investcorp, a group that invests in what it calls “alternative products,” said Monday that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Danish luxury silver brand, Georg Jensen, for $140 million from private equity group Axcel Capital Partners.

With the sale comes a change in key personnel. David Chu, founder of Nautica, will join the company on closing as chief creative director and co-chairman of the Investcorp board. Also joining the board on closing will be Guy Leymarie, former CEO of DeBeers Diamond Jewellers, Cartier International and Dunhill.

Georg Jensen is a global luxury brand that designs, manufactures and distributes silver jewelry, watches, fine silverware and high-end housewares. With a history that spans more than 100 years, the Georg Jensen brand has a deep heritage in fine silver goods and represents quality craftsmanship and timeless designs.

“We are pleased to be entrusted with taking Scandinavia's preeminent luxury brand to a global level. We believe that in partnership with the current solid management team, said Hazem Ben-Gacem, head of Investcorp's European corporate investments activities. “Georg Jensen stands to become one of the leading hard luxury brands in the 21st Century.”

Georg Jensen was founded by the eponymous Danish designer in 1904. Today the business has 94 fully owned stores and three franchised stores around the world. The vertically integrated company has approximately 1,200 employees worldwide. In 2011, the company had sales of approximately $160 million. Georg Jensen is part of the Royal Scandinavia Group, which was bought by Axcel in 2001.
 

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Montblanc’s Villeret Luxury Watches Keep The Minerva Soul

The home of traditional Swiss watch company now owned by luxury brand, Montblanc. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

VILLERET, Switzerland — In the Swiss watch industry, it could be said that the more things change the more they stay the same. This is particularly true for the watch company known today as “Montblanc Manufacture in Villeret.”

The company was founded in 1858 as the H. & C. Robert watchmaking factory by brothers Charles-Yvan and Hyppolite Robert inside the family house in this picturesque village on the edge of the Jura mountains. The company took on the Minerva name in 1923 and kept it for 84 years. 


Some of the components that make up a watch movement. All pieces are made in house in the Swiss watchmaking tradition. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Almost from the beginning the company, which moved from its residential workshop to a true manufacturing facility across the street in 1887, produced in-house movements, particularly its chronographs that were so accurate and efficient they were used in the battlefields of World War I and II and to keep time for the events of the 1936 Winter Olympics. It was one of the first companies to produce a chronograph pocket watch, one of the first to produce movements for wristwatches, and one of the first to build a chronograph that could track hundredths of a second. The company also produced chronographs and classic watches for the general public. Needless to say the brand’s heritage and quality of their movements produced a loyal following.

A watchmaker creates one of the individual components of a movement. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

The company’s biggest change happened in 2000 when Italian investor Emilio Gnutti purchased it and changed its mission to produce haute horlogerie timepieces in-house using the same hand-made techniques and the philosophy of the brand. The new owner brought in Demetrio Cabiddu as its technical director. Then a change of seismic proportions happened in 2006 when luxury goods conglomerate, Compagnie Financière Richemont, purchased the company and from my understanding assigned the watch manufacturer to Montblanc—one of the many luxury brands it owns.

The balance spring (also known as a hairspring) is attached to the balance wheel to control the speed at which the wheels of the timepiece turn, and thus the rate of movement of the hands. These items are hand-made inside the factory. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

In the new atrium on the top floor of the historic manufacturing facility, Cabiddu, who is extremely passionate and protective of the company’s heritage, said he had some sleepless nights wondering what Montblanc, which was new to the staunchly traditional Swiss watch industry, was going to do with the company and its heritage. 

A skilled watchmaker attaches the balance spring to the balance wheel and then sets it over a timing device with a reference balance. She checks the difference in beats and bends the spring until they match.  Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

“Of course I was very worried, I was scared,” Cabiddu said in French through a translator. “There was a need to preserve the heritage and credibility of Minerva and this 150 years of expertise.” He added, “People who don’t have fear are people who don’t have a conscience.” 

Some of the older equipment in the factory includes this large stamping machine. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

It turned out that there was no need to fear. Montblanc, the German company with its own 106-year history as a manufacturer of luxury writing instruments, not only bought into the legacy of Minvera, but in some cases expanded upon it. 

Another example of the early equipment that is still being used in the Villeret factory is this vertical drill. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

In fact, Montblanc’s inexperience in the Swiss watch industry “turned out to be an advantage,” Cabiddu said. “Montblanc trusted us. In hindsight it turned out to be the best choice.” 

Before Montblanc took control of the company, it was known for 84 years as Minerva. The toolboxes still carry the name and according to technical director, Demetrio Cabiddu, still maintains the Minerva heritage. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

There were some changes. Most obvious was the name change to reflect the location of the company. “Losing the name was a solution I had to take,” Cabiddu said. “Today I laugh about it a lot more. I used to cringe (when hearing the new name). In hindsight it was probably the right thing to do as we move into the future.” 

Two persons are dedicated to working with clients all over the world to create hand-drawn models of bespoke watches they would like to own. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Montblanc also renovated the manufacturing facility. However, restoration is a better way to describe the work. Apart from the new, modern atrium with a view of the countryside, a fresh coat of paint and some structural repairs, little appears to have changed. 

Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Vintage Tachydate

Montblanc renamed the building the “Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie,” and created a foundation under the same name, which Montblanc said in a statement is, “dedicated to classical fine watchmaking and the upholding of traditional skills and special complications,” adding that it “supports young watchmakers through internships, commissioning research on the history of traditional watchmaking and initiates new developments with traditional techniques in watchmaking.”

Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique

It isn’t clear to me how this institute or foundation operates. What is clear is that it hasn’t changed the focus of the company. Villeret is a watch manufacturer that employs 36 full-time workers and four consultants and produces between 200 and 250 limited-edition hand-made timepieces per year, Cabiddu said. Everything is done in house with the exception of the dials, hands, straps and cases. 

Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Régulateur Nautique Timepiece

Large stamping machines and vertical drills that date back approximately 80 years share the building with modern CNC and CAD equipment. Some machines are so old parts aren’t available anymore so watchmakers have to hand-build the parts and even the tools to repair the equipment. The company produces chronographs, tourbillons and classic watch lines. In addition, it creates bespoke timepieces for private clients. Two designers are dedicated to creating hand-drawings of the timepieces based on specifications of these collectors. 

The company was founded in 1858 as the as the H. & C. Robert watchmaking factory by brothers Charles-Yvan and Hyppolite Robert in the house across the street from the current manufacturing facility. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

With its trademarked V-shaped bridge and a small arrow, the highly polished movements were always a site to behold. However, the outside of the watches were traditional and one dimensional. Montblanc added variety to the overall appearance of the timepieces, Cabiddu said.

The company, formerly called Minerva, was known for its chronograph movements. Here is some the company's earlier chronograph pocket watches. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

“Our movements were always beautiful,” he said. “Montblanc added a diversification of the aesthetic.” 

The company still does repair work on antique watches that were built prior to Montblanc's ownership of the brand. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

But still he describes the timepieces they make as “understated luxury,” and added that Montblanc’s own history shows that it respects and enhances this philosophy. “Montblanc is not really big with being in your face.” 


This philosophy of beauty could certainly describe the town that now shares the company’s name. Very little seems to have changed in the countryside outside the building, yet its prosperity shows that it is able to adjust to changes in the world while maintaining its heritage. Looking out from the atrium just across the street is the yellow-colored house where the watch company was founded more than 150 years ago, now occupied by a new family. Beyond the house cows graze on a sheet of green. Past the meadow are the Jura mountains covered with the flaming reds, oranges and yellows that represent the leaves of autumn on this late October day. If that’s not enough, above the cliffs in the powder blue late afternoon sky is a crescent moon.

It’s a scene that one could easily describe as understated luxury.


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