On 14 April, 2004, Fossil Inc. announced to the world that it had acquired Tempus International Corporation, the organization that manufactures, markets and distributes the MW and MW Michele watch brands, for approximately US$ 50 million in cash.
Under the sales agreement, the company will continue to be run by Jack Barouh, the President of Tempus from its Miami and Geneva offices.
Fossil’s Steve Bock, President of Fossil’s Luxury Division, said, “We are excited by the many expansion opportunities that Michele watches presents us, especially in Europe and the Far East. Michele has established a business with increasing momentum and we look forward to capitalizing on this strength by utilizing the powerful platform we have created to further develop the brand. We believe our proven track record for integrating and expanding licensed and owned brands places us in an excellent position for the Michele brand to reach its full potential.”
CSX DIAMOND COLLECTION
Stainless steel watch decorated with 100 hand-set
diamonds. Swiss chronograph movement with date,
mother-of-pearl dial, sapphire crystal, various inter-
changeable coloured straps.
DECO DIAMOND COLLECTION
Stainless steel watch decorated with 108 hand-set diamonds. Swiss chronograph movement with date, mother-of-pearl dial, sapphire crystal, various interchangeable coloured straps.
Stainless steel watches equipped with a Swiss Made chronograph movement. Sapphire crystal, alligator strap, water-resistant to 50 metres.
STONE CUFF COLLECTION
Opal and agate watches (36 mm) equipped with a Ronda quartz movement. Mother-of-pearl dials, sapphire crystals, water-resistant to 30 metres.
A brief history
Based in Panama, Jack Barouh worked in the watch and diamond trade. He moved to Miami in 1983 and in 1995 launched Michele Watches, named after his daughter. The brand enjoyed strong growth in Latin America and then developed further afield in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Jack Barouh, who came from a Belgium watchmaking family, decided to launch his brand in the USA in the year 2000 and despite being the new kid on the block, he managed to create quite a stir with his trendy eye-catching timepieces. However, it was with the introduction of the MW Collection, which included the illustrious CSX-Diamond Chronographs, that propelled the brand into the consumer limelight and made his watches one of the most popular on the market.
The combination of steel and diamonds in elegant shapes and enhanced with colourful straps created a niche market for the brand, although with sales already reaching 60,000 pieces in 2002 and spiralling upwards thereafter, niche brand is perhaps too restrictive a term to use.
On the brand’s website, it states that ‘Michele Watches … is an expression of an individual’s place in life – a statement of who you are today and where you will be tomorrow … Your lifestyle, your personality and your level of sophistication are all broadcast by what you choose to tell the time.’
The success of this concept is unquestionable. In the USA, a week doesn’t pass without the watches being featured in some fashion bible or glossy magazine. It was the watch to be seen in, elegant, sophisticated and not too pricey given that many of the models were set with diamonds. Michele Watches was already a star, playing a major role in the country’s watchmaking scenario. So what was the reason for the saleı
At BaselWorld 2004, the Michele stand was as busy as ever and it wasn’t until the last day of the fair that we managed to catch up with the Barouh family. Sitting with Jack and Michele, the brand’s Creative Director, whilst everyone else, including his wife Rita and son Jeremy, were busy packing, I asked the question.
Development and distribution
“Why did we agreed to agreeı” Jack Barouh offered with a smile. “For us it’s a tremendous challenge. It will help us to move forward as we have been doing. The sale will help the brand grow faster through Fossil’s distribution system, particularly in countries other than those we are already in. But we will remain totally independent and continue to control all the product development and distribution. We will be able to use Fossil’s subsidiaries, developing the brand in our own manner in their markets. We will continue to control our external contacts, including press and public relations, and the team in Miami will remain the same. The only major change is that financially, we will report to Dallas. It also brings to the Fossil group a brand at a level they never had before.”
Asked if he wasn’t worried that Fossil would bring in someone from the Head Office to control the company, Jack Barouh gave a knowing smile and said, “They’re not going to fix something that is working. No one new is coming in, our brand is an exciting addition for them. It’s a marriage of similar cultures. Fossil is a dynamic group, active and results oriented. They are very creative as a group and communicative without any bureaucracy. That’s why we began talking with them.
“They have a factory in Switzerland, which means Swiss Made watches and that was of interest to us because we want our watches to be fully Swiss Made by the end of this year. Michele Watches will be a step closer to the classical, traditional watch world. We feel we belong there – it’s our aim – and joining the Fossil group means that it will help is achieve it that much quicker.”