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Movado Group (formerly North American Watch Company or NAWC) is a watch holding company that owns the Movado, Concord, Ebel, Olivia Burton, and MVMT and produces Coach, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Scuderia Ferrari, and Tommy Hilfiger under license.
The company that would become Movado was founded in 1881 as L.A.I. Ditesheim. 19 year old Achilles Ditesheim opened a small workshop in Le Locle that year with six watchmakers. His brothers, Léopold and Isidore soon joined the firm as well.
In 1905, the company was renamed Movado, the Esperanto word for “always in motion”. The company soon began to gain market share in the new wristwatch market, bringing the Polyplan to market in 1912. The next major introduction was the Ermeto case watch in 1926.
Movado began sales in the United States in 1924, and the brand soon became especially successful in that market.
In 1969, Movado merged with Zenith, briefly becoming Movado-Zenith, before adding Mondia later in the year. This would become Movado-Zenith-Mondia. Due to the cooperation with Zenith the head office was moved to Le Locle in 1971.
Zenith Radio Corp. of the United States purchased the company in 1972 and decreed that it move entirely to quartz. This benefitted Movado but hurt Zenith, which specialized in high-end mechanical movements, and Mondia, which had invested heavily in mass-market mechanical movements. Through the 1970s, the quartz crisis hurt all three brands, as Japanese competition undercut their market.
By 1978, Zenith Radio had had enough and sold the watchmakers to a consortium of Swiss businessmen lead by Paul Castella. He merged Mondia with Dixi and worked to rebuild Zenith. Movado languished until being purchased by North American Watch Company in 1983.
North American Watch Company
Young entrepreneur Gedalio "Gerry" Grinberg was successful selling luxury watches in Cuba in the 1950s and 1960s, selling Juvenia and Omega. When Piaget began selling their own brand luxury watches in the late 1950s, Grinberg saw an opportunity. Ultra-thin gold and jewellery watches had a great deal of appeal for North American consumers, and this would become Grinberg's legacy.
Grinberg continued selling watches through the Cuban Revolution, but the family fled to Miami on August 16, 1960. In 1961, Grinberg set up shop in New York but found it challenging to sell the expensive Piaget watches in America. Eventually he was able to establish the brand, co-opting the derisive slogan, “the most expensive watch in the world” as a differentiator for the brand. He developed a series of watches with colored stone dials for Van Cleef & Arpels after befriending Claude Arpels and grew Piaget sales dramatically.
By 1965, Grinberg's firm had driven Piaget sales over US$6 million. He bought out his partners and renamed the company North American Watch. The firm continued to focus on being “the most expensive watch”, sponsoring upscale events like polo to capitalize on the ultra-luxury Piaget Polo model. Soon, North American Watch added a second brand, Corum, which would be successful with coin watches and a watch made of a gold ingot. Grinberg befriended celebrities and politicians like Andy Warhol, Ronald Reagan, and Walter Cronkite and sponsored lunches with wealthy Americans. Soon the rich and powerful were wearing Corum and Piaget.
In 1970, North American Watch acquired the Concord brand. Although it had been successful in the American market, Concord was struggling. Grinberg had tried to purchase Movado instead, but was rebuffed. Instead, he focused Concord on the emerging luxury quartz movements but was disappointed as the Swiss fell behind the Japanese companies Citizen and Seiko in his prime segment, ultra-thin watches. As the two companies announced movements under 2 mm in 1978, Grinberg traveled to Switzerland to make an offer to Ebauches SA He would put up CHF 2 million if they could deliver an ultra-thin 9 ligne movement by 1979.
ETA/ESA had already been working on an integrated next-generation watch, which would become the Swatch in 1983. ETA chief Ernst Thomke was able to quickly redirect this work to create an ultra-thin watch with its quartz movement integrated into the case. The result was the 1.98 mm Delirium, announced on January 12, 1979. The watch was marketed by Longines and Eterna but North American rights were held by Concord.
As Concord gained strength based on the halo effect of the Delirium, Movado suffered. In February, 1983, North American Watch finally purchased the brand. Their strong ties to the American watch market allowed Movado to rebound, with new designs and strong marketing. By 1995, Movado accounted for over 75% of all sales in the United States in the near-luxury market segment (under CHF 1500).
On April 15, 1996, North American Watch changed their name to Movado Group. The public company also changed its ticker symbol from NAWC to MOVA on that date. A new corporate division was created, called North American Watch Company, which handled sales and operations in the United States, including exclusive distribution of Piaget and Corum as well as owned brands, Concord, Movado, and Esquire/ESQ.
Movado Group began producing watches under license from existing manufacturers in the 1990s. Coach was added around 1997 and Tommy Hilfiger in 1999. Boss was purchased in December 2004 and repositioned as a fashion brand rather than near-luxury as it had been under Tempus Concept since its 1996 launch. Shortly after this, Movado Group added Juicy Couture (since discontinued) and Lacoste.
At Baselworld 2012, just four months after the Ferrari partnership with Hublot was announced, Ferrari launched a line of branded watches produced by Movado Group. These are sold in Ferrari's lifestyle boutique stores, mass-market retailers, and at Ferrari dealerships and are priced in the near-luxury range below 1,500 Euro.
Movado Group purchased Ebel from LVMH in 2003 for just US$47.3 million.
Later additions to the group have focused on the challenges of smartwatches. The company purchased Rebecca Minkoff in 2017 and added millennial appeal with MVMT.