Citizen, by one measure, the world's biggest watchmaking company today announced the purchase of Prothor.
Yes, I know that you have never heard of Prothor, but you might well have heard of the firms owned by Prothor; La Joux Perret a movement manufacturer, Prototec, a components maker and Arnold & Son a high end watch brand.
In their submission to the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Citizen said that they paid 64.6 million Swiss Francs for the company.
The plans are two fold, there is now a possibility for Citizen to produce 'Swiss Made' watches and there is potential for Porotec to become a full fledged competitor to the Swatch Group's ETA as Porotec will now have access to Citizen's hairspring manufacturing technology.
This is major news, by any measure. I plan to speak to someone at Citizen on Wednesday & will pass on any information I can obtain.
The above are the few facts as known at this moment; here is some wild and utterly unverified speculation;
1 Citizen were upset when the rules of the 2009 chronometry competition were announced and they saw that Asian manufacturers were excluded. Unlike Seiko who won major prizes in the mid 1960s, Citizen have never entered the Swiss chronometer competitions and they saw their new mechanical 'The Citizen' watch as their chance to garner some laurels. By buying a Swiss company, they can then make the watch in Switzerland and then enter it.
2 The three largest hairspring manufacturers in the world are the Nivarox/FAR division of ETA, Citizen and Seiko. Should Citizen transfer some of their hairspring manufacturing technology to their new Swiss subsidiary along with Swiss production of their Miyota movements; they have the POTENTIAL to become the first ever real competition to ETA. Sure, lots of people from DeBethune to Rolex are making their own hairsprings nowadays, but they are almost all used in house. To the best of my knowledge, there is no-one producing them on a large scale for sale. If Citizen start to produce them in Switzerland, it will genuinely be a game changer.
Please feel free to comment & I will update this with any information I get at Basel in the next few days.