Not quite the continental shift that saw LVMH acquire Bulgari, this week's news that the Swatch Group has paid $750 million (and up to another $250 million in debt) for Harry Winston certainly rattled the windows, particularly as Harry Winston's CEO had said that plans to sell the brand would not be pushed ahead during 2013.
Financial media reporters were focussing on the 23 times earnings valuation that changed minds at Harry Winston and the inevitability of a strong bid given the Swatch Group's cash reserves, however, the more intriguing question is what difference the acquisition will make to Swatch's luxury brand portfolio.
The perception has been that Blancpain, Breguet, Glashütte and Jaquet Droz do not, so far, add up to a portfolio to rival those of Richemont and LVMH (the latter having been considered serious contenders for Harry Winston's acquisition), let alone independents like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. Might the integration of Harry Winston make all the difference?
Although Harry Winston has glamour enough as one of the heavyweight jewellery houses and a following in watch collector circles sufficient that the brand has much to contribute, the Swatch Group communiqué suggests that the acquisition is almost entirely about cash, returns and potential savings on matters such as logistics.
We'll have to wait and see.
Further information: www.harrywinston.com