Business News: Breitling Purchases Universal Genève

Breitling's recent purchase could be a sign of their intentions to move up in the world.


Recently news has surfaced that Breitling has purchased historic watchmaker Universal Genève for a sum rumoured to be around $70m. I would imagine that a lot of people’s reaction to that was “Wow! Wait, who?”. Universal Genève’s current lineup of watches is, well, bland, so that might leave you wondering why Breitling’s made this purchase. 

It’s most likely to do with the brand’s history. Universal Genève is very popular with vintage watch collectors and enthusiasts. They may not be on the same level as some of the most well-known collector’s brands such as Patek Philippe and Jaeger-LeCoultre, but there’s a fairly sized community of people who love these watches. There are good reasons for that, too. Universal Genève’s watches looked great when they arrived and have (for the most part) aged beautifully. The brand was, until recently, owned by Stelux Holdings International Ltd which is based in Hong Kong and owns Cyma, another watchmaker, as well as controlling distribution and e-commerce for Seiko and Grand Seiko in certain parts of Asia.

Universal Genève’s watches were considered to be quite high-end back in the day, which explains why Stelux wanted it before and why Breitling owns it now. David Bredan of AblogToWatch theorised that this could be Breitling’s attempt to vault itself into the higher echelons of watchmaking than are currently available to them. I think David’s onto something there. Although Breitling makes some exquisite mechanical watches at the moment including rattrapante chronographs, calendars, tourbillons and so on, I can’t imagine they’re hot sellers despite the fact they’re very appealing watches. 

This reminds me of when Montblanc purchased the historic watchmaker Minerva a few years back and started making higher-end watches than they used to and sold them under that Minerva name. I hope Breitling keeps the Universal Genève name around and gives the current watches the boot. Sure, there will be some people who mourn their loss, but the loss for the entire watch industry of Universal Genève, one of the most important players from the past, is arguably greater. We could hopefully see some new reimaginings of the old legends, too.

So, who’s gonna do the decent thing and buy Enicar back? I need me a new Sherpa Diver, mostly because I can’t afford a vintage one.