CORDER’S COLUMN: Swatch Group and Calvin Klein’s divorce should surprise nobody

Rob Corder, managing editor, WatchPro and managing director of Promedia. (Photo by Ausra Osipaviciute/ITP Images)

Swatch Group and Calvin Klein announcing last week that they are splitting up after a 22 year marriage was a shock that should surprise nobody.

The remarkable thing about the announcement was that the two companies had worked together for so long.

Swatch Group is first and foremost a manufacturer of finished watches and watch movements.


Calvin Klein needed neither manufacturing nor movements from the Swiss Group.

As a fashion brand, Calvin Klein has a presence on thousands of high streets and in hundreds of department stores across the world where its inexpensive quartz watches could be sold alongside clothing, accessories and underwear.

It never needed wholesale distribution to the jewellers and watch specialists that Swatch Group might have reached.

There is little reason to think that either Calvin Klein, with annual sales of around $4 billion, or Swatch Group, with turnover of around $8.5 billion, gave their co-created watch business anything more than cursory consideration in terms of how it should be positioned, marketed or sold.

Predictably, they could not even agree on who should be to blame for breaking up.

In a short two-paragraph statement, Swatch Group said it was ending the long-time partnership due to the “recent turbulence and uncertainties at the management level of Calvin Klein Inc., New York”.

Calvin Klein, however, cites not being able to achieve “maximum potential in key markets” as the reason for parting ways.

Fossil Group, Movado or Timex, which are global giants in creating fashion watches under license, are the natural home for Calvin Klein timepieces and jewellery, and it is staggering it has taken all involved parties 22 years to work this out.


  1. Mr.Corder,

    if you think that passing 200M in sales and more than 1M sold units per year is a bad result, we are all waiting for your suggestions for what to do next in our lifes.

    The joint venture between CK and TSG has been one of the most successful histories in fashion watches category, and it has come to an end for many more reasons than the ones officially stated and the ones you think to know.

    The new “natural homes” of CK watches like you wish, will be China made supermarkets of Brands, struggling to stay alive, full of internal competition and with a very low end distribution network.

    Do you really think that CK watches “never needed wholesale distribution to the jewellers and watch specialists” ? This was exactly the success and the thing that made CK watches different than all other fashion brands, next to premium fashion Swiss Made brands like Gucci, Hermes, Versace, etc.

    Or do you consider these brands as “inexpensive quartz watches” to be sold “alongside clothing, accessories and underwear” ?

    Please, pay more respect for people who reached incredible results in the last 23 years.


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