Bucherer AG

Langensandstrasse 27
Lucerne, 6005
Switzerland
Telephone: (+41 41) 369 70 00
Fax: (+41 41) 369 73 64
Web site: http://www.bucherer.com

Private Company
Founded:
1888
Employees: 1,200
NAICS: 423940 Jewelry, Watch, Precious Stone, and Precious Metal Merchant Wholesalers; 339910 Jewelry and Silverware Manufacturing

Bucherer AG is one of the most renowned names in Swiss jewelry and luxury watchmaking, and the oldest Swiss watchmaker to be continuously owned by its founding family. Bucherer operates through three independent businesses: Bucherer, which oversees the company's retail watch and jewelry operations; Carl F. Bucherer, a manufacturer of luxury timepieces; and Bucherer Fine Jewellry, a producer of luxury jewelry designs. Bucherer's retail brands include the flagship Bucherer chain, which consists of 16 locations in Switzerland, 10 in Germany, and stores in France, England, the United States, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Hong Kong, and Japan. Its other retail chains include Kurz AG Jewelers and Swiss Lion in Switzerland; The Watch Gallery in England; and, since 2018, Tourneau, the largest luxury watch and jewelry retailer in the United States, with 28 stores in 10 states. The group's watchmaking unit is Carl F. Bucherer, launched in 2001, which has become one of the world's most sought-after international luxury watch brands. The company operates its own manufacture in Lengnau, near Biel, with a capacity to produce nearly 30,000 watches per year, and operates its own international retail chain. Bucherer Fine Jewellery produces a range of fine jewelry based on its own designs and those of its design partners. Bucherer remains a family-owned company, led by Jörg G. Bucherer, the third generation of the founding family. Guido Zumbühl is the CEO of Bucherer AG, while Sascha Moeri is the CEO of Carl F. Bucherer.

SWISS WATCH AND JEWELRY PIONEER: 1888

Bucherer AG was founded by Carl Friedrich Bucherer, who, together with his wife, Luise, opened a jewelry boutique in Lucerne, in Switzerland's German-speaking region, in 1888. The shop, located on the city's Falkenplatz, was an immediate success, and before long the couple was able to open a second store, also in Lucerne. This period also marked the beginning of Switzerland's reputation for its high-end and luxury watches.

COMPANY PERSPECTIVES

Bucherer: a name known throughout the world.

By the mid-19th century watchmaking had become a major national industry in Switzerland, and Switzerland already rivaled England as the leading producer of watches and timepieces. The peculiarities of the Swiss economic and political landscape, which was an offshoot of the country's geological landscape, played a role in the industry's growth and its ability to survive the challenge from a new competitor, the United States, where the rapid adoption of industrialized production enabled watchmakers to flood Europe with lower-priced watches. Whereas industrial production in the United States, England, and other countries tended to be concentrated in the cities, Switzerland's mountainous landscape led its industry to be far less centralized, with each canton, and even individual cities and towns, developing a high degree of self-reliance.

This in turn led to a specificity of the Swiss watchmaking industry, that is, the development of a production system known as établissage. Instead of producing an entire watch, Swiss craftsmen specialized in the production of specific components, such as dial faces, cases, mechanisms, and the like. These were then assembled by the country's watchmakers. The établissage system was credited with providing the foundation for the surge in innovation and sophistication as the Swiss watch industry fended off the lower-priced competition from U.S. watchmakers. By the early 20th century Swiss watchmaking had become synonymous with innovation, elegance, and sophistication.

WATCHMAKING: 1919

As Bucherer's own interest increasingly turned toward watches, he established himself as one of Switzerland's most prominent watch retailers. Bucherer developed close relationships with many future leaders in the industry, and most especially with Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of the Rolex brand. Bucherer became one of the first to feature Wilsdorf's innovative watch designs in his shops, starting in 1924. These included the Rolex Oyster, the world's first waterproof watch, which helped establish Rolex as one of the world's top watch brands.

Bucherer's interests in watches led him to venture into watchmaking himself. In 1919 he introduced his first watch collection, a range of small, ornately decorated women's watches that featured an art deco design. Bucherer became known for his somewhat unusual designs, such as the flip-top Peek-a-boo watch introduced during the 1920s. He also helped pioneer the wristwatch at a time when they were widely viewed as a novelty. Bucherer embraced the new type of timepiece, starting with ladies' models, before adding a men's wristwatch range, and a unisex range by the 1930s. The company also continued to produce pocket watches that featured unusual designs, such as square and rectangular faces.

Bucherer was joined by sons Ernst and Carl Edward, who took over the family business during the 1930s. Both had been raised into the business, with Ernst training as a watchmaker and Carl Edward as a goldsmith. This background enabled Bucherer to establish itself as a fully-fledged watchmaker by the mid-1930s, while also developing a reputation for its jewelry. The Bucherer brothers also retained their father's commitment to high-quality and highly innovative design.

Switzerland's neutrality during World War II enabled Bucherer to continue to thrive. During this period the company began developing a new specialty, the chronograph, which added a stopwatch function to a traditional wristwatch. By 1948 this had become Bucherer's primary timepiece product, while the company also maintained its long-standing tradition of innovation and eye-catching design. Over the next decades the company developed another important product line: the chronometer (stopwatch). In fact, Bucherer became one of only three Swiss manufacturers to meet the certification criteria of the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC; Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute), the Swiss chronometer certification body. As such, Bucherer received authorization to include chronometer on its stopwatches.

SURVIVING THE QUARTZ CRISIS

KEY DATES
1888:
Carl Friedrich Bucherer and wife, Luise, open a jewelry shop in Lucerne, Switzerland.
1919:
Bucherer begins producing his first watches.
2001:
The company relaunches its watch production under a new brand, Carl F. Bucherer.
2008:
The company becomes a manufacture with the acquisition of Techniques Horlogères Appliquées.
2018:
Bucherer acquires Tourneau LLC, the largest luxury watch retailer in the United States.

However, the Beta21 movement was already more or less obsolete from the moment of its introduction, as the global watchmaking industry made rapid improvements in quartz movement technology. By the end of the 1970s the flood of inexpensively produced quartz wristwatches had nearly brought the Swiss watchmaking industry to its knees. Even so, Bucherer's early embrace of quartz technology, and its ability to adapt to the fast-improving technologies, allowed the company to weather the worst of the so-called Quartz Crisis.

Under the leadership Jörg G. Bucherer, who took over as head of the company in 1977, Bucherer entered its third generation as a family-owned company. Through the 1970s and 1980s Bucherer released a steady stream of mechanical and quartz-based watches. The company also continued building its reputation for “quirky” timepieces that featured distinctive dust covers and unusual mechanisms. Its thriving retail jewelry and watch business, which had grown to represent most of Switzerland's major luxury watch brands, helped the company avoid the worst of the Quartz Crisis. The company was also almost entirely focused on the Swiss market, which was another factor that helped it avoid direct competition in the global industry.

CARL F. BUCHERER BRAND: 2001

Bucherer expanded its retail operations with the acquisitions of other prominent Swiss jewelry retailers, starting with the Kurz Group in 1989. That company had been founded in 1948 and operated retail locations in Zurich, Basel, Berne, Lucerne, and Geneva. Bucherer also acquired the watch and jewelry retailer Barth AG. In 2001 it took over Swiss Lion AG and its retail network.

By that point the steady growth of the international luxury goods market, and especially the explosion in demand coming from China and other fast-growing Asian markets, caused Bucherer to rethink its Swiss-only strategy. The company began taking its first steps into the neighboring retail markets, and especially Germany and Austria, including adding the Vienna-based jewelry retailer Haban to its operations. Meanwhile, Bucherer began placing its own timepieces with a select number of retailers around the world. These extensions helped the company build its total revenues to CHF 412 million by 1999 and to CHF 500 million by 2001.

In 2001 the company became determined to launch its watches and timepieces on a truly international scale. To that end, it established Carl F. Bucherer AG, an independently operating subsidiary to develop a new generation of watches launched under the Carl F. Bucherer (CFB) brand. Taking charge of the new company was the managing director Urs Tobler. The brand debuted with five collections, including the Pathos and Antecedo collections, and especially Patravi, Latin for “I have accomplished,” which became the subsidiary's flagship collection. The Patravi range was marketed as sports, diving, and professional watches, with many also meeting COSC certification as chronometers.

Bucherer backed up the launch of the CFB by expanding its production capacity. In 2001 it invested more than CHF 1 million to move its production from its original workshop in Nidau to a new 1,000-squaremeter facility in Lengnau, which became operational in 2002. The company also launched its first advertising campaign to promote the CFB brand, under the slogan “The Magic Garden of Carl F. Bucherer.”

BECOMES A MANUFACTURE: 2008

After launching sales at the Bucherer and Kurz retail stores, the company rolled out the brand to third-party retailers around the world. By 2003 the brand was already present in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia, as well as in Austria and Germany. Russia followed in 2004. To enter the United States it formed the joint-venture Carl F. Bucherer North America Inc. and created a number of partnerships, including one with the Ohio-based Stoll & Co. in 2004.

Bucherer also expanded its own international retail operations. In 2002 it acquired Wallner, one of the most well-known jewelers in Nuremberg, Germany. The company followed this purchase with the acquisition of the Munich-based Andres Huber GmbH, which operated the Uhren Huber chain of watch stores.

In the meantime, CFB had been developing its own exclusive retail store format, opening Carl F. Bucherer shops in Germany, the United States, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. To these were added a store in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2006, and in Tokyo in 2007. These were followed by stores in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Macau in 2008. Bucherer also continued to introduce popular new designs, including a new generation of the Patravi line in 2005. The new line included three categories: EvoTec, with a power-reserve function; TravelTec, capable of displaying three time zones; and ScubaTec, diving watches that boasted water resistance down to 500 meters.

The year 2008 marked a significant milestone in Bucherer's already illustrious history. Although the company had gained acclaim as a watchmaker, its production stopped short of manufacturing its own movements. In Swiss tradition, this meant the company was not able to tout itself among the most prestigious of Swiss watchmakers, known as “manufactures.” Bucherer had taken a step toward gaining that status when it began cooperating closely with the Saint Croix–based Techniques Horlogères Appliquées SA (THA), a company founded in 1989 to design and produce watch movements. In 2008 Bucherer acquired THA outright, allowing the company to join the ranks of Switzerland's true manufactures.

The acquisition came as the collaboration between CFB and THA resulted in a major new innovation: the peripheral rotor movement, dubbed the CFB A1000. The new movement represented a major breakthrough in automatic winding designs, permitting a dramatic reduction in the watch's thickness. The CFB A1000 boasted other features, including bidirectional winding, dynamic shock absorption, and a dual adjusting system to eliminate the need for manual adjustments.

U.S. ACQUISITION: 2018

While CFB was conquering the global luxury watch marketplace, Bucherer AG continued to build up its jewelry business. This expansion included the launch of Lacrima, a new diamond jewelry line, in 2008. For the most part, Bucherer AG focused its retail operations on the German-speaking markets, expanding its own chain to include 14 locations in Switzerland. The company added a 15th location, at the Zurich airport in 2011, and by 2013 it had eight stores in Germany and Austria. That same year Bucherer expanded into France, opening a store in Paris, near the Place Vendôme. The Paris store claimed to be the world's largest watch and jewelry store, with a sales space that encompassed 2,200 square meters.

CFB continued its own steady growth, especially after a new CEO, Sascha Moeri, took over its direction in 2010. Under Moeri, CFB focused on expanding its production capacity, which grew from 6,500 watches in 2009, to 20,000 in 2014, and to 25,000 in 2015. In 2016 CFB moved into its new manufacture in Lengnau, expanding its production space to 3,000 square meters, as the company targeted a new rise in production to 30,000 watches per year. The expanded production came online as CFB launched its popular Manero Flyback collection, which boasted a new generation caliber of CFB's own design.

Bucherer AG continued its strong growth in 2017, with the acquisition of The Watch Gallery, a leading distributor of luxury watches in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1985, the Watch Gallery originally focused on the watch collectors' market, before developing itself as a leading distributor of independent watch brands in the United Kingdom, with six shops in London, as well as The Fine Watch Gallery in the Selfridges department store.

Bucherer added to its U.S. operations as well, with the acquisition of Tourneau LLC, the leading luxury watch retailer in the United States, in January 2018. The purchase added 28 stores operating in 10 states to Bucherer's existing retail network, which by that point had reached 33 locations in Europe. These included the company's first store in Copenhagen.

Although catering to the global luxury market, Bucherer had not entirely abandoned its long history as a producer of certified chronometers. The company underscored this tradition in 2015, when it was named the official timekeeper of the Swiss national football (soccer) team. From that position, Bucherer gained the attention of a new global market, as it accompanied the Swiss team to the 2018 World Cup in Russia in June of that year. Bucherer AG remained the oldest continuously family-owned luxury watch and jewelry company in Switzerland, and, through CFB, represented one of the world's most respected luxury watch brands in the early 21st century.

M. L. Cohen

PRINCIPAL SUBSIDIARIES

Carl F. Bucherer AG; Bucherer Fine Jewellery AG.

PRINCIPAL DIVISIONS

Jewelry; Retail; Watches.

PRINCIPAL COMPETITORS

Bulgari S.p.A.; Cartier Joaillerie International SAS; Compagnie Financière Richemont SA; Heraeus Holding GmbH; L. Possehl & Co. MbH; M & L Jewelry Manufacturing Inc.; Piaget SA; Tiffany & Co.

FURTHER READING

Anthony, Paul. “Carl F Bucherer Watch History: Innovation and Design for Spirited Personal Expression.” Bespoke, February 28, 2018. Accessed August 13, 2018. https://bespokeunit.com/watches/carl-f-bucherer .

Bhattacharya, Mitrajit. “All You Need to Know about the Carl F. Bucherer Manero Flyback.” The Watch Guide, December 19, 2017. Accessed August 13, 2018. https://www.ethoswatches.com/the-watch-guide/grey-carl-f-bucherer-manero-flyback-watch .

Brunner, Michèle. “The New Manufacture in Lengnau Is Operational.” World Tempus, July 4, 2016. Accessed August 13, 2018. http://en.worldtempus.com/article/industry-news/brands/carl-f-bucherer-the-new-manufacture-in-lengnau-is-operational-22011.html .

“Bucherer Acquires The Watch Gallery.” Fédération de l'industrie horlogère suisse FH, April 6, 2017. Accessed August 13, 2018. http://www.fhs.swiss/eng/2017_04_06_03_Bucherer.html .

“Bucherer Hat Den Umsatz Zwischen 2009 und 2013 Verdoppelt.” Neuer Zurcher Zeitung, October 25, 2014.

Buerki, Roman. “Carl F. Bucherer with the National Team in Russia.” Fédération de l'industrie horlogère suisse FH, June 21, 2018. Accessed August 13, 2018. http://www.fhs.swiss/eng/2018_06_21_02_Carl_F_Bucherer.html .

“Carl F. Bucherer: Histoire d'une Marque.” World Tempus, February 3, 2010. Accessed August 13, 2018. http://fr.worldtempus.com/article/carl-f-bucherer-histoire-dune-marque-14207.html .

Corder, Rob. “Bucherer Buys America's Largest Luxury Watch Retailer.” Watchpro, January 31, 2018.

O'Ceallaigh, John. “The World's Largest Watch and Jewellery Shop Opens in Paris.” Telegraph (London), April 24, 2013.