Richemont’s watchmaking division left rudderless as Georges Kern quits

Georges Kern attends the IWC Schaffhausen "Decoding the Beauty of Time" Gala Dinner during the launch of the Da Vinci Novelties from the Swiss luxury watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) on January 17, 2017 in Geneva, .  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for IWC)Georges Kern attends the IWC Schaffhausen “Decoding the Beauty of Time” Gala Dinner during the launch of the Da Vinci Novelties from the Swiss luxury watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) on January 17, 2017 in Geneva, . (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for IWC)

The watchmaking division of Richemont is searching for a new chief executive after Georges Kern quit after just four months heading the business.

Mr Kern, who started his career at Richemont 17 years ago, was leading IWC last year when he was put in interim charge of the Watchmaking division in November. The position was then made permanent.

As well as taking control of the luxury goods conglomerates watch houses including A. Lange & Sohne, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Panerai, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin, Mr Kern was also expected to drive the group’s digital strategy.

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Swiss newspaper Le Temps says that Mr Kern has been lined up by Breitling’s new owner, the private equity firm CVC, to take a key role at the watchmaker. Breitling declined to comment on the report.

A statement from Richemont chairman Johann Rupert gave weight to the Breitling rumour. “Georges has been offered an interesting opportunity to become an entrepreneur,” he said.

The statement also hinted at difficulties since Mr Kern took over as CEO of Richemont’s watchmaking division. “He has had a very successful career at IWC Schaffhausen and we wish him well,” Mr Rupert said, without mention of any other watch brand within the group.

Richemont has been working through a number of changes of its top team since November last year. Around the time of SIHH in January, the annual showcase of Richemont maisons’ new watches, it was announced that Philippe Leopold-Metzger would retire from his position as CEO of Piaget.

Chabi Nouri, the managing director for marketing and sales at Piaget, was promoted to CEO of the watchmaker  in April.

Vacheron Constantin’s Juan Carlos was also moved to a non-executive president role at the end of March, with Louis Ferla replacing him as CEO.

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