The iconic French fashion house Hermès announced Friday that it has acquired Joseph Erard, a watch parts manufacture. Hermès purchased a majority stake in the family-owned watch case manufacture, which is based in Le Noirmont in the Jura district of Switzerland. Specializing in cases of steel, titanium and precious metals, the manufacture boasts facilities for steps including stamping, milling, turning, welding and finishing.
A number of haute horlogerie brands have looked to secure their own means of production in the past year, with significant competition for control of a handful of Swiss-based manufactures. Up until last year the Swatch Group, which is the world’s largest holder of watch manufactures, sold mechanical movements and watch components. However, in 2012 the group announced it would cut off access to its rivals, restricting the sale of parts to their own subsidiary companies (which include Breguet, Blancpain, Glashütte Original, Omega and Longines). As a result, companies wishing to retain their “made in Switzerland” label have faced fierce competition for parts.
Details of the Joseph Erard takeover have not been disclosed, but we can surmise that the manufacture will give Hermès’ watch production a significant boost. According to Joseph Erard, the manufacture employs about sixty people, making it a fairly sizable facility. According to their first quarter financial report, watch sales at Hermès are down 5% in 2013 due to the slowdown in the Chinese market. However, having recently survived an attempted hostile takeover by rival luxury group LVMH, Hermès clearly believes they are in a position of strength.
Pictured above is the Joseph Erard manufacture in Le Noirmont, Switzerland. Photo courtesy Joseph Erard.