Harry Winston says “I do” to Swatch? It may sound like the ultimate high-low, late-night-monologue-fodder matchup, but only until you realize that the watchmaker’s eponymous plastic timepieces–credited with saving a Swiss watch industry decimated by the “Quartz crisis” of the 1970s and early 1980s–represent just one in a stable of brands that includes Breguet, Omega, and Rado as well as a movements and components business that makes customers of its main competitors. On Monday the Swatch Group announced that it had acquired the Harry Winston brand and its jewelry and watches business for $750 million.
In addition to up to $250 million in assumed debt, the deal gives Swatch 525 new employees, Harry Winston’s Geneva-based production company, and a brand burnished by red-carpet cameos and Fabien Baron‘s stunning ad campaigns lensed by Patrick Demarchelier. “We are proud and happy to welcome Harry Winston to the Swatch Group family,” said chairwoman Nayla Hayek in a statement issued yesterday. “Diamonds are still a girl’s best friend.” True as that may be, the brand’s former owners are hanging on to the sparkly stone supply. The mining activities of Harry Winston will now operate as Toronto-based Dominion Diamond Corporation and continue supplying polished diamonds to Swatch.