Breitling AG, the celebrated Swiss luxury watchmaker, has made a significant move by acquiring Universal Geneve in an effort to revive the declining brand. This marks Breitling’s first major acquisition and a major milestone for the company, which recently entered the top 10 Swiss watch companies by sales in 2022, known for its iconic aviation-themed chronographs like the Navitimer. Under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Georges Kern, who has successfully revived the brand, Breitling is now transitioning into a watchmaking group.

In an interview, Kern revealed that Breitling intends to establish a team of designers and executives to independently manage Universal Geneve as a separate entity. The company has plans to reintroduce iconic models such as the Polerouter and the Compax sports watch, both of which gained popularity in the 1960s and ’70s and were designed by Gerald Genta.

Universal Geneve, with its establishment in 1894, holds significant historical importance in the watchmaking industry. Kern expressed his enthusiasm for the potential of Universal Geneve and believes it to be the best dormant or semi-dormant watch brand globally. The first watches under Breitling’s ownership from Universal Geneve are expected to be launched in 2026, with a considerably higher price point than Breitling’s average price of around 6,700 Swiss francs ($7,640). Kern emphasized that the new timepieces will exemplify the brand’s exclusivity and prestige.

Similar to many mechanical watchmakers, Universal Geneve faced financial challenges during the quartz crisis in the 1980s. Since 1989, the brand has been owned by Stelux Holdings International, a Hong Kong-based publicly listed company. Stelux disclosed in a corporate filing that the acquisition price for Universal Geneve amounted to approximately 60 million Swiss francs, to be paid over five years.

The addition of Universal Geneve to Breitling’s portfolio will grant the company its second major brand, enabling it to compete with the likes of conglomerates such as Swatch Group AG and Richemont, both of which own around 10 timepiece brands. Rolex, the leading Swiss watchmaker in terms of sales, is also the owner of the Tudor marque. Kern previously mentioned in 2022 that Breitling was considering the acquisition of other watch brands that could benefit from revitalization.

Breitling’s acquisition of Universal Geneve represents a bold step towards expanding its presence and reclaiming the glory of a renowned brand in the luxury watch market. Watch enthusiasts can eagerly anticipate the relaunch of iconic models and the introduction of new creations that encapsulate the craftsmanship and excellence for which Breitling is celebrated.

Useful links:
1. Breitling Official Website
2. Universal Geneve Official Website