For the second time in four years, Japan’s Citizen Watch Co. Ltd. has purchased a Swiss watchmaker. In May, Citizen agreed to buy Switzerland’s Frédérique Constant Holding SA and its three watch brands — Frédérique Constant, Alpina and the tiny Ateliers DeMonaco — for an undisclosed sum.
“Citizen is implementing a multi-brand strategy and seeking to complete its brand portfolio by acquiring Swiss brands,” Citizen said in a statement. “This particular acquisition will enable Citizen to strengthen its brand portfolio, offering consumers a variety of products from accessible timepieces to accessible luxury timepieces.”
Citizen is a giant manufacturing conglomerate with annual sales amounting to the yen equivalent of $2.9 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31. Watches and clocks account for 52 percent of that revenue. As the world’s top producer of quartz watches, Citizen is a powerhouse in the mid-priced market from $300 to $1,200 on the strength of its Citizen and Bulova brands.
About five years ago, Citizen made a strategic shift to expand into the luxury mechanical-watch segment of the watch business and become a multi-national watch group. (For more, see “Redefining Citizen” in WatchTime’s April 2016 issue.) In 2012, it acquired Switzerland’s Prothor Holdings, owner of the respected mechanical movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret and the Arnold & Son brand.
Arnold, which specializes in high-mechanical complications produced by La Joux-Perret, gives Citizen a presence in the small-batch, premium price segment of the market. Frédérique Constant will give Citizen a foothold in the affordable luxury segment. FC watches sell primarily between $1,000 and $4,000 (a few models can cost as much as $13,000). Sports-oriented Alpina has similar price points. Frédérique Constant says it has developed, manufactured, and assembled 19 in-house calibers since 2004. It describes its mission as “making fine watches available to the largest possible audience of watch enthusiasts at sensible prices.”
Peter and Aletta Stas, the Dutch husband-and-wife team who founded Frédérique Constant in 1988 and have run it ever since, will remain with the company. In a statement, the couple said that Citizen had specified that it would “keep both of us and the current management team in place for at least five years. Within the [Citizen] group, we will be the largest Swiss entity and we will continue to operate independently.” They said they opted to sell the company when their two children decided not to join the family business.
Citizen CEO Toshio Tokura, the architect of the Swiss acquisition strategy, said, “We have a great opportunity to expand the sales of Frédérique Constant through our current distribution channels, particularly in Japan and the U.S.”