Big news today for the watch industry: as announced a few hours ago, Citizen Watch Co., Ltd has wholly acquired the Frédérique Constant Group, including its namesake brand as well as its subsidiary watch brands, the sporty and affordable Alpina, and the high-end and very limited-production Ateliers DeMonaco.
Citizen already owns Bulova as well as Swiss movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret SA that includes the Angelus and Arnold & Son high-end watch brands under La Joux-Perret. With Frédérique Constant and Alpina, Citizen says it “will be able to augment its portfolio of brands and occupy the space in the markets where some of our competitors operate and further expand the presence of the Citizen brand in the market.” To put that corporate speech into context: by acquiring Frédérique Constant and Alpina, Citizen clearly aims to go into battle against other competitively priced Swiss watch brands, which should include the likes of Longines, Hamilton, Baume & Mercier, and perhaps even Montblanc, Tudor, or TAG Heuer.
From Citizen’s side, it is easy to understand why this acquisition makes sense: it helps them strengthen their position in the Swiss watch industry and get a slice of the highly competitive two- to eight-thousand-dollar segment largely dominated by the aforementioned (and a fair number of other) brands. You see, for the last decade or so, Frédérique Constant has been heavily investing into developing and manufacturing its own in-house movements; and the resulting know-how and manufacturing capacity of this caliber (see what I did there?) remains very rare and a huge asset to its owners.
Both Frédérique Constant and Alpina are established brands at this point, but when you add to the mix Citizen’s arguably much larger distribution network, as well as all the possibilities of exchanging technologies between the two groups, you end up with a very powerful recipe. Although Citizen does have its own high-end, Swiss-made range of watches with Citizen Campanola (hands-on here), these two freshly acquired brands have an incomparably stronger international presence as well as a much more established product range.
From Frédérique Constant’s end, we have to look at the claimed motivations of the company’s founders. The brand was established in 1988 by Aletta and Peter Stas, and through over 25 years of constant growth, the group has reached its current state where it manufactures around 150,000 watches a year and employs 170 people in six countries. While Frédérique Constant had been one of the last wholly family-owned Swiss watch manufactures, apparently there was no one in the family with the interest to take the baton and carry on managing the brand. While the present management personnel and staff are said to continue to hold their positions following this acquisition, we also know that Peter and Aletta will remain in their executive roles for the next five years.
If you want to learn more about the differences and similarities between how these two groups make watches and movements, be sure to check out our detailed Citizen manufacture visit here, and our report on making a Frédérique Constant watch from scratch here. frederiqueconstant.com