Will Favre Leuba soar again? | Fashion Trends - Hindustan Times

Will Favre Leuba soar again?

May 13, 2024 02:30 PM IST

Backed by Ethos, the country’s largest retailer of luxury watches, the venerable brand is taking another shot at getting back in the game.

News came in last month, accompanied by some deja vu, of Favre Leuba, the Swiss watch brand with strong connections to India, coming back from the dead – yet again. The company has been acquired by KDDL, which owns Ethos Ltd, the country’s largest retailer of luxury and premium watches. It will launch 22 models at the Geneva Watch Days fair in August this year. “We will be showcasing a wide selection of timepieces across various families. This will include the Deep Blue model. It was launched in 1964 and we will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the line that will coincide with the brand’s relaunch,” Patrik Hoffman, Favre Leuba’s chairman, told the Hindustan Times.

Favre Leuba, world's second oldest watch brand, to unveil 22 new models at Geneva Watch Days.
Favre Leuba, world's second oldest watch brand, to unveil 22 new models at Geneva Watch Days.

Founded in 1737, Favre Leuba, is the world’s second oldest watch brand. It was the first Swiss watchmaker to enter India way back in 1865 and its wares were sold across British India, including Bombay, Calcutta, and Rangoon. Between the 1950s and 1980s, its products, from elegant wristwatches to stolid alarm clocks, often made in collaboration with French company JAZ, were almost as ubiquitous in the homes of the Indian middle class as the Godrej almirah. (Also read: Bangalore Watch Company’s Apogee is India’s first Space-qualified watch )

The venerable company, which once owned Bovet and Jaeger-LeCoultre, went belly up during the quartz crisis of the 1980s and has since passed through the hands of a series of owners, including Titan, which acquired the dormant brand for €2 million in 2011 in an effort to target the upper end of the watch market in India. On paper, it sounded like a good plan.

The appeal of Favre Leuba didn’t merely hinge on sentiment; it had an impressive legacy as well. Besides the classically good-looking, elegant timepieces it sold in India, the company produced several notable watches, among them, the Bivouac, the world’s first mechanical altimeter wristwatch; the Bathy, the first mechanical dive watch with a depth gauge; and the Harpoon.

However, Titan’s 2016 relaunch of the brand, in collaboration with Ethos, failed to enthuse watch aficionados. Watch industry observers feel that there was too much emphasis on mechanical complexity rather than brand building, especially when Favre Leuba was taking on heavyweights like Rolex and Omega.

Favre Leuba 2.0 was a missed opportunity, says Sarosh Mody. “The price point (the watches were priced between 1.6 and 3.8 lakh) was decent, but, with those big cases, they weren’t successful at recreating the whole Favre Leuba imagery. From an Indian perspective, watch lovers were expecting classical watches that their grandfathers wore, but they got something very different,” says Mody who runs Luxury Watch Works in Mumbai.

In 2020, after spending about 275 crore on trying to get Favre Leuba to soar again, Titan scaled down the company’s operations. The brand was acquired last year by Ethos Limited via its subsidiary Silvercity Brands. Ethos’s portfolio includes several luxury and premium brands such as Omega, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and H. Moser & Cie, among others. It has over 50 physical retail stores across 17 cities. (Ethos Ltd did not respond to queries sent by Hindustan Times.)

Hoffman, who took charge at Favre Leuba, which is based in Grenchen, Switzerland, earlier this year, has led the likes of Ulysse Nardin and Watchbox. “Favre Leuba has been in continuous business for over 100 years, though it has gone through some restructuring and changes in the last 20 years. Its revival will involve high quality timepieces that not only resonate with the brand’s legacy but also reflect a forward-thinking philosophy,” he said.

The watches, currently under development, will feature movements made by movement and module manufacturers La Joux-Perret and Chronode SA. Prices are expected to start at around $2,400 (about 2 lakh), going all the way up to around $27,000 (about 23 lakh) for a tourbillon. “We have capitalised on our rich heritage for inspiration,” said Hoffman.

Key international markets include the United States, the Middle East, Central Europe, Southeast Asia and Japan. In India, the watches will be sold both through stand-alone Favre Leuba boutiques as well as Ethos stores. Production will be limited to about 4,000 pieces in the first year.

According to the people in the watch business, the resurrection of Favre Leuba fits in with Ethos's ambition to complement its dominance of the luxury and premium watch segments by having a portfolio of its own. In 2023, Silvercity Brands acquired 0.06 of equity shares in Swiss watchmaker Czapek & Cie. “Besides being the top multi- brand retail player, they are going about very strategically making small investments in watchmakers across price points,” said a senior watch industry executive who did not want to be identified.

Sarosh Mody thinks that this time around, especially with Ethos’ backing, Favre Leuba is in with a chance. “Ethos has been in the business for years, they’ve supplied dials to international watch manufacturers. So they have a certain aesthetic and understanding,” says Mody. “And there really is a market for vintage revival watches. I woul rather patronise a company like Favre Leuba, which has a great legacy, than a watch from yet another boutique brand.”

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