Business News: Patek Philippe Acquires Stakes in Geneva Gem-Setting Giant

Thierry Stern and Pierre Salanitro, now partners.

Little know outside the industry but a key supplier to the biggest watch brands, Salanitro S.A. is Switzerland’s biggest gem-setting and jewellery specialist catering to watchmakers. Owned by its namesake founder until now, Salanitro now counts Patek Philippe as a shareholder.

Founded three decades ago by Pierre Salanitro, the company is located a Geneva suburb not far from Rolex headquarters. A discreet but well-connected individual, Mr Salanitro built his company both organically and through acquisitions, creating an enterprise that’s the preeminent jewellery and gem-setting specialist for the watch industry.

Today Salanitro far exceeds the competition in scale with annual revenue in the high nine figures and over 230 employees, more than half of them gem-setters. The company covers all the bases when it comes to jewelled watches: it supplies, cuts, and sets gemstones, and also produces components with the three dozen CNC mills on its premises.

Gem-setters at work in Salanitro’s facility. Image – Salanitro

The art of gem-setting is a manual process that requires deft hands. Image – Salanitro

Mr Salanitro’s three children have no involvement in the business, explaining his desire to seek a strategic investor.  “I am very proud and delighted that Patek Philippe has acquired a stake in my company,” says Mr Salanitro, “[The brand is] the ideal partner for securing the firm’s future… [and] continue our activities and guarantee jobs beyond generations.”

Salanitro also manufactures components for jewellery watches, reflecting the company’s vertical integration. Image – Salanitro

Reflecting the rapidly growing importance of gem-set timepieces to Patek Philippe’s sales, the investment in Salanitro assures the Geneva watchmaker a reliable supply of product and skill over the long term.

“[Salanitro] is ideally positioned to continue to grow and develop its production capacity in the jewellery watch segment, which offers significant potential for development,” says Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe.

His company’s stake in Salanitro essentially protects the supply chain for a lucrative part of Patek Philippe’s business, particularly complicated and men’s watches set with gemstones.


 

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Longines Introduces the Master Collection 190th Anniversary

Beautifully engraved Breguet numerals.

While it isn’t common knowledge, Longines now 190 years old, making it the longest-established of the seven biggest brands in Swiss watchmaking, besting even its sister company Omega. Historically known for its top-quality chronographs and time-only chronometers, Longines has unsurprisingly delved into its archives to mark the anniversary.

The brand has just taken the wraps off the Master Collection 190th Anniversary, a three-hand wristwatch with an unusually elaborate dial for a Longines. And as expected for a commemorative model, it is available not only as a regular production model in steel, but also also a pricier limited edition in yellow or rose gold.

The steel version with blued steel hands is an affordable US$2,400

Initial thoughts

With compact proportions and an elegantly detailed dial, the Master 190th Anniversary blends various elements drawn from watches of the mid 20th century, giving it an easy appeal. That said, the aesthetics of the Master anniversary are not exactly original – it does bring to mind a variety of other watches.

While it’s definitely a vintage-style watch, the Master anniversary is not a reissue – a feat for Longines, a brand that already has several dozen reissues in its catalogue. I find the dial of the new Master more attractive than most of the actual remakes in Longines’ Heritage collection. Those watches typically have good fit and finish, but the anniversary Master is a marked improvement and enhanced by flourishes like the engraved hour numerals.

The engraved markers add depth and a feel of artisanal decoration, though they are done by machine

In terms of value, the steel version is unquestionably the winner at US$2,400. Considering the automatic, three-day movement and the engraved dial, the steel model is well priced, even against the keenly-priced competition.

But the limited edition gold models cost a whopping US$12,000, certainly expensive by Longines’ standards though more or less on par with comparable watches by other brands. But at that level the choices are many, making the gold models less compelling.

Being so affordable, at least in the steel iteration, the anniversary Master can be summed up as an expensive-looking entry-level watch, rather than an entry-level watch trying to look expensive.

A different Master

The Master Collection is a diverse lineup ranging from from a time-and-date base model to an annual calendar. Nevertheless, the line largely sticks to the same formula, namely a simple case with a polished finish, a stamped guilloche dial bearing Arabic numerals. 

The anniversary model, however, does away with the complications, even the date. At the same time, the printed text on the dial has been dialled back and executed in italic typography for a more classical look. And to set it apart even more from the standard offerings, the anniversary models replace guilloche with subtle surface texturing, either straight graining or granular frosting.

The rose gold model gets more pronounced frosting on its dial than its steel counterpart

While the changes would seemingly make for a plainer dial, the anniversary edition is actually more striking, largely thanks to the elaborate hour numerals. Instead of being printed as is the norm at this price point, the numerals are engraved in a deep, distinct manner that mimics hand engraving. The precise engraving of the hour numerals is impressive and possibly unrivalled at this price.

The hour numerals are done in the Breguet style

Notice the facetted recesses and sharp corners of the numerals that resemble hand-engraving

Inside the watch is the L888.5, an ETA movement exclusive to Longines that has a silicon hairspring for better resistance to magnetism along with a practical power reserve of three days. Being based on the ETA 2892, the L888.5 is thin enough to make for an elegant watch, resulting in a total case height of just 9.35 mm.


Key facts and price

Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary
Ref. L2.793.4.73.2 (steel)
Ref. L2.793.6.73.2 (yellow gold)
Ref. L2.793.8.73.2 (rose gold)

Case diameter: 40 mm
Height: 9.35 mm
Material: Steel, 18k yellow or rose gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: L888.5
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 25,200 beats per hour (3.5 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Alligator leather with steel folding clasp or 18k gold pin buckle

Limited edition: 190 pieces in each colour of gold, steel model is regular production
Availability:
 At Longines boutiques
Price:
Steel – US$2,400, or 3,420 Singapore dollars
Yellow and rose gold – US$12,000, or 17,170 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Longines.com.


 

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Business News: Grand Seiko Inaugurates Asia-Pacific Arm

Consolidating distribution.

Having enjoyed several years of double-digit growth in its biggest markets outside of Japan, Grand Seiko is continuing to hone a marketing and distribution strategy inspired by its Swiss peers. One of the key planks of its brand development has been to vertically integrate its sales channels, with Asia being the latest to join the mothership.

Headquartered in Singapore, Grand Seiko Asia-Pacific is a newly established entity that will take charge of sales and marketing of the brand in the region. Grand Seiko Asia-Pacific becomes the company’s third regional subsidiary, after those covering Americas and Europe, both amongst the brand’s most important markets outside of Japan.

The Grand Seiko boutique in Place Vendome, Paris

The Asia-Pacific division of Grand Seiko no doubt develop the brand along similar lines as its counterparts in Europe and the United States. The senior managers in both the Americas and Europe are Omega alumni, with the head of the American operations also being the brand’s Global Strategy Officer. Unsurprisingly, Grand Seiko has embarked on a game plan centred on brand boutiques in upscale locations as well as limited edition models, mirroring the familiar approach utilised by many of its Swiss rivals.

The newly-established Asia-Pacific operation is a joint venture between Seiko Watch Corporation and Thong Sia, the Hong Kong-based company that was the longtime Asian distributor for Grand Seiko (as well as other Seiko brands). It is chaired by Akio Naito, whose main job is President of Seiko Watch Corporation. And the company’s operations are overseen by Yoshikatsu Kawada, who is also also Executive Vice President of Seiko Watch Corporation, while the Regional Brand Director is Ida Idris-Low.


 

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