Movement maker BNB Concept is out of business. But its founder, and many of its watchmakers, have found a new gig.
Just months ago BNB Concept seemed to be smokin’. The Swiss maker of expensive, complicated movements for brands including Hublot, Concord and Bell & Ross, was being praised in press reports for its “phenomenal” growth. BNB’s founder and majority shareholder, Matthias Buttet, gave interviews describing the company’s 200% annual sales increases, recession be damned.
The company was selling, yes, but getting paid was apparently something else. On January 18 the company, which had been based in Duillier, near Nyon, closed its doors.
One big reason was a huge portfolio of accounts receivable, which one source said amounted to more than $9 million, that BNB could not collect. Suddenly, the company behind such talked-about watches as Jacob & Co.’s 31-day Quenttin and Romaine Jerome’s Day and Night (it has two tourbillons, but doesn’t tell the time) was no more. Buttet told one Swiss paper he had tried to sell the company, but its heavy debts had scared away all suitors. In its heyday, BNB, founded in 2004, had more than 30 customers and employed some 200 people, including the small band of elite watchmakers Buttet had chosen to make branded, artisan watches under the banner “Confrérie Horlogère.”
Now Buttet (he’s one of the “B’s” in “BNB”: the other “B” and the “N” are Enrico Barbasini and Michel Navas) is starting a new chapter. Last week, Hublot, one of BNB’s biggest customers, hired Buttet to head a new “Haute Horlogerie” department to make complicated movements for the Hublot brand. Hublot chief Jean-Claude Biver told WatchTime he will hire 30 to 40 watchmakers from BNB. Biver said he is in the process of trying to buy all of BNB’s machinery. BNB machines and people will be relocated to Hublot’s new factory in Nyon, which opened last year. Prior to BNB’s collapse, but as a precautionary measure in its event, Hublot, which is owned by the LVMH luxury-goods group, had bought from it about $2 million of finished and unfinished movements so it would not be cut short.
Look for an in-depth report in WatchTime’s March/April issue.
BNB’s customers included Romain Jerome, Jacob & Co., DeWitt, Bell & Ross, and Concord