While many once-defunct watch brands have relaunched over the past decade-plus, one name in particular has remained the white whale: Universal Genève. Today, a revival that’s been dreamed of for years has become reality, as Universal Geneve is being reborn. Partners Group, the ownership group behind Breitling, has announced its acquisition of Universal Genève from Stelux Holdings, the Hong Kong holding company that has owned the brand since 1989.
“As excited as we are, we are also fully aware of the task at hand and the profound heritage we are set to uphold,” said Georges Kern, CEO of Breitling. high quality replica watches
“Universal Genève was once hailed as the couturier of watchmaking, renowned for its in-house movements and mythical models. It is a brand that watch enthusiasts have dreamed of seeing make a permanent comeback,” added Alfred Gantner, Co-Founder of Partners Group and Chairman of Breitling’s board. Partners Group is a private investment firm based in Zurich and is the largest shareholder in Breitling. Ownership in Breitling first changed hands in 2017 when the Schneider family sold a majority stake to CVC Capital Partners. In 2022, Partners Group increased its stake in high quality replica watches Breitling to become the brand’s largest shareholder, in a deal that Bloomberg reported valued the watchmaker at $4.5 billion. At the time, it was reported that there were plans to take Breitling public on the Swiss Stock Exchange in 2027.
Universal Geneve’s history dates to 1894, when it was founded in Le Locle, Switzerland, as Universal Watch. Soon, it opened a branch in Geneva, officially changing its name to Universal Geneve in the 1930s. By then, the brand had become an industry leader with its chronographs, highlighted by the Compax line. By the 1940s, the Henri Stern Agency, distributor of Patek Philippe in the United States, began distributing Universal Genève, an endorsement of the brand’s quality. At the time, UG’s headquarters sat between Rolex and Patek in Geneva. Through the 1950s and ’60s, Universal Genève continued to sit at the cutting edge of watches. It introduced a micro-rotor automatic movement, then in 1954 launched the Polerouter (nèe Polarouter), one of the first designs from a promising young designer named Gérald Genta.
But like so many other Swiss watch brands, the so-called Quartz Crisis spelled the eventual collapse of the proud manufacturer. It high quality replica watches partnered with Bulova and began to use its tuning fork technology before pursuing quartz. But the Universal Geneve of the 1970s and ’80s was far from the brand that had once produced watches to compete with Rolex, Heuer, and others.
In 1989, Stelux Holdings, a Hong Kong-based investment holding company, acquired Universal Genève. Since then, the brand has made a couple of ill-fated attempts at a relaunch, first for the brand’s 100th anniversary in 1994 and then again in 2005. While the brand still makes watches today, they’re nothing like the watches from the golden age of the 1940s–1960s. Still, collectors have kept the interest in Universal Geneve alive over the years, sharing research, scholarship, and enthusiasm for the vintage brand across forums, social media, and, of course, on this very site.
Rumors of business people or enthusiasts trying to acquire Universal Genève have been frequent over the years, but they never seemed to get very far. These rumors usually hinted that Stelux seemed content with the status quo and had no interest in selling. Now, Breitling’s leadership, led by CEO Georges Kern, will be in charge of one of the most anticipated brand revivals in the Swiss watch industry.
Kern’s experience should prove valuable. Since taking the helm at Breitling in 2017, sales have surged, and it’s now one of the 10 largest Swiss brands by revenue. In 2022, sales approached $1 billion, increasing about 40 percent year-over-year according to Morgan Stanley. Breitling’s success is attributable to its focus on simplifying its product line, producing watches in more modest sizes, and a focus on its historically important models. This marketing and aesthetic overhaul is complemented by Breitling’s continued technical innovation, illustrated with developments like the manufacture caliber B01 chronograph. He’ll look to use a similar formula for the relaunch of Universal Genève.
“Rebuilding a brand with such a rich narrative is not a quick endeavor—it is a meticulous labor of love that we high quality replica watches anticipate will unfold over the coming years. A dedicated team will be brought on board to allow Breitling and Universal Genève to operate as separate maisons,” Kern said.