After the “quartz crisis” in the 1980’s, most of the Swiss (and a few from other countries) watchmakers are being consolidated into a few big groups in order to survive. Now, most watchmaker brands are owned by a few major companies, and those watch company histories or stories you read from the magazines are just marketing materials written by their marketing department. While most of those stories are true, the stories have little to do with the company now. Take Bovet for example; although not many people have heard of the brand, but Bovet was a prestige watchmaker that once dominated Chinese pocket watch market in the 19 century. Bovet claimed to have 190 years of history, but there was a long hiatus before the brand was purchased by Parmigiani Fleurier, a Swiss company founded in 1976. In fact, the watches released by Bovet recently have little to do with Bovet’s so-called 190 years of history. It is just a fine example of how a larger, richer company purchases the brand name (and history) of a dying company and repackages the stories with marketing materials. A few of the Swiss prestige brands were even owned by Middle-eastern companies, so the watches by those companies were technically under Arabic brand during certain period of time.

It is always interesting to hear something like “I would choose Omega over Longines” or “Vacheron Constantin has a longer history than Panerai.” Many people might not aware that the fact they are basically talking about the same company. Some might argue that those companies are operating independently under the umbrella, but, in fact, most of their marketing budget, target customers or even service departments are managed by their parent company. You will never see Longines attempt to develop a super complicated luxury watch because Longines is, decided by its parent company, not a prestige watch brand.

Let’s look at the major watchmaker brands as January 2015. You will be amazed that most of the brands you know are basically owned by the same company.

The Swatch Group
• Balmain
• Blancpain
• Breguet
• Certina
• CK Watch
• Endura
• Flik Flak
• Glashutte Original
• Hamilton
• Harry Winston
• Jaquet Droz
• Leon Hatot
• Longines
• Mido
• Omega
• Rado
• Swatch
• Swiss Timing
• Tissot
• Union Glashutte

• Alfred Dunhill
• Baume & Mercier
• Cartier
• Chloe
• IWC International Watch Co.
• Jaeger-LeCoultre
• James Purdey & Sons Limited
• Lange Uhren GmbH
• Panerai
• Piaget
• Roger Dubuis
• Vacheron Constantin
• Van Cleef & Arpels

• Bulgari
• Chaumet
• De Beers
• Hublot
• TAG Heuer
• Zenith

The Kering Group
• Boucheron
• Girard-Perregaux
• Gucci
• JeanRichard
• Ulysse Nardin

However, there are still some independent brands that stands strong against those giant mergers. As January 2015, some of the major independent brands are:
• Audemars Piguet
• Breitling
• Chanel
• Chopard
• Citizen
• Frederique Constant (Alpina)
• Hermes
• Patek Phillipe
• Rolex (Tudor)
• Seiko

It does not necessarily mean independent brands are superior to those acquired brands. However, next time when you read about a certain brand is “known” for its long history or exceptional craftsmanship in an article, do some research. You might be able to find out that it is a piece of purchased history and its exceptional craftsmanship is being limited by the marketing direction of its parent company.
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