Ralph Lauren is joining forces with Swiss luxury goods firm Compagnie Financière Richemont to create a jewellery and watch company. The joint venture – Polo Ralph Lauren Watch and Jewellery Co. S.A.R.L. - will be based in Switzerland , where it will design, make and distribute luxury watches and jewellery. Starting prices for watches will be $3,000.
“I believe strongly in this partnership,” Polo chairman Ralph Lauren said of the venture in a statement. “This business is an important part of our global luxury accessories strategy. I am confident that our unique design sensibility and luxury brand-building skills, combined with Richemont's unique experience on a global basis, creates an opportune way for this partnership to succeed.” Lauren and Richemont's executive chairman Johann Rupert have been working on the creation of this company for two and a half years. The venture is new to both; Polo has never crossed over into the jewellery and watch market before and Richemont has never collaborated with a designer, instead owning design companies in their entirety.
The pair chose a joint venture, instead of a license or partnership, because of its authenticity. “I don't have licenses,” Rupert told WWD. “The question with licenses is always who is controlling the design and who has the final say.”
The watches will debut in the spring of next year in Geneva and the first products will hit stores in fall 2008. Neither company wanted to give sales projections. Meanwhile, jewellery sales are likely to begin on a smaller scale than watches. Rupert said that the category would, however, grow faster than watches, taking into account that “generally as a sector, it is growing quicker than watches.”
According to Rupert, this joint venture is a one-off and does not mean that Richemont has changed its strategy. It will continue to own luxury brand portfolios, such as Cartier, Piaget, IWC, Jaeger-le-Coultre and Baume & Mercier. In terms of the strategy for the new company, it will be positioned as a global brand with considerable growth potential in the US.