Swiss watchmaker Breitling has been sold to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners for $870 million (€800 m). The transaction will be completed in June, subject to approval from competition authorities.
Bloomberg News first reported the news on Friday. Theodore Schneider, Breitling’s current majority owner, will reinvest in exchange for a 20 percent stake. According the report, CVC is likely to focus on increasing demand for Breitling’s watches in the Chinese market.
CVC Capital Partners is a Luxembourg-based private equity firm with approximately US$80 billion in secured commitments across European and Asian private equity, credit and growth funds.
Breitling, which reported sales of $424 million in 2016, has been on the selling block for a while now. The brand, whose watches start at around $2,500 and makes about 147,00 watches annually, has seen demand suffer in recent years. It was among the few sizable family-owned business left in the industry. Most of the big names belong to bigger groups like Richemont, LVMH or the Swatch Group.
The Schneider family has owned Breitling since Ernest Schneider bought it in 1979. His son Theodore took over the reins of the company in the Nineties and the third generation (Theodore’s son and nephew) also work in the business. The family is reported to have put up the business for sale last year.
Established in 1884 in the Jura mountains by Leon Breitling, the brand is best known for modernizing the chronograph watch by separating the stop-start functions from the reset button – an innovation that enabled a way to measure short intervals of time in sports and flights better. The brand is also known for its Emergency wristwatch, which has a personal locator beacon that the wearer can trigger to alert rescue authorities.
As Baselworld this year, Breitling unveiled an in-house split-seconds chronograph movement in the $32,895 Navitimer Rattrapante. A haute horology complication, the movement, Caliber B03, was developed and produced in-house and presented in the emblematic Navitimer model.