Every watch brand has its American dream but is under no illusion about the difficulty of cracking the US market. Earlier this year, negotiations between Bucherer and Tourneau concluded with the acquisition of the US retailer by the Swiss group. “Tourneau is the largest distributor [of luxury watches] in the United States, with a network that extends from New York to California to Hawaii. We have seized a unique opportunity to benefit from this vast territory, which would have been impossible starting from scratch,” commented Jörg Baumann, who is Director of Marketing and Business Development at Bucherer. The acquisition brings with it Tourneau’s 28 ideally located stores, as well as its valuable understanding of the American clientele. Indeed, the watch-buying public on the East Coast has very different tastes and habits from, say, customers in Las Vegas.
Tourneau’s points of sale add to Bucherer’s already substantial network of 33 retail locations in Europe (16 in Switzerland and the rest in Germany, Austria, France, Denmark and, most recently, the United Kingdom). The takeover increases headcount at Bucherer from 1,750 to 2,400 employees. Baumann says the group is “looking forward to future exchanges with the United States. We can each learn from the other, knowing what a huge task lies ahead. First we need to set relations in motion to then establish how we will work together.”
Tourneau has first-class experience of the pre-owned market, a booming segment particularly among millennials.
A diversified strategy
The acquisition gives Bucherer the benefit of Tourneau’s well-established multi-channel strategy – an essential part of the retail survival kit in today’s digital age, when distributors need to multiply the number of touchpoints with the consumer. “This will become an even more important factor in the short to medium term,” noted Jörg Baumann. “Keeping pace implies investments which we can only make from a certain critical size.” The American retailer also brings to the table its first-class experience of the pre-owned market, a booming segment particularly among millennials. That said, Bucherer’s management is fully aware of the need to rethink the “boutique experience” which, even in a digitally-dominated context, should never be overlooked. “The customer wants to be able to see the watches, to pick them up and try them on, which is what we’ve introduced at The Watch Gallery in London,” Baumann added.
Bucherer in brief
Carl F. Bucherer established his business in 1888 in Lucerne, Switzerland, first as a specialist watch and jewellery retailer and, twenty years later, as a brand in its own right. Still family-owned, Bucherer makes a point of remaining an independent company regardless of its geographic or economic expansion. In 1924 Bucherer entered into a partnership with Hans Wilsdorf and Rolex, and remains a foremost distributor of Rolex worldwide. Bucherer opened its first stores outside Switzerland in Austria in the 1980s and the following decade expanded into Germany. Its Paris location, opened in 2013, is the largest watch and jewellery store in the world. Denmark came next, in 2016, then the United Kingdom in 2017 with the acquisition of the four The Watch Gallery stores in London.
Bucherer, which has yet to develop a presence in other global markets, including Asia, will be focusing on North America in the coming months. Baumann confirms that “we’ve had our first meetings with Tourneau’s local management and we are studying the best way to move ahead.” Already a heavyweight in watch sales, Bucherer is now set to make its name globally… an opportunity for the group to promote its own Carl F. Bucherer brand which it launched in 1919 with ladies’ watches in an Art Deco style. The brand further developed in 1948 with its first chronographs. The introduction in 2006 of its first in-house movements marked a further milestone. Bucherer intends to use this new visibility outside Europe to boost sales of its own products, be these watches or its collections of Bucherer Fine Jewellery – at a time when the jewellery market presents excellent potential for growth.
Tourneau in brief
For more than a century, Tourneau has been the preeminent retailer of luxury watches in the United States, and is renowned for its expertise and quality of service. It represents nearly 100 brands and offers a selection of 8,000 styles in its stores and online.