Hermes buys control of Swiss luxury watchmaker

PARIS, France - The watch subsidiary of French luxury group Hermes says it has bought control of a Swiss watchmaking firm, Joseph Erard Holding, boosting its strategy in making high-end timepieces.

La Montre Hermes said in a statement it had raised its previous 32.5% stake it has held since September 2011 in the Swiss family-run firm to an unspecified level giving it a controlling majority share.

"For Hermes, this operation is a natural part of a continuing effort to master the craft of watchmaking," the French group said.

Joseph Erard Holding specializes in making watch casings. Hermes last year took control of another Swiss company, Nateber, which makes watch faces.

In 2006, Hermes took a stake in Vaucher, a Swiss company that makes mechanical movements inside watches.

Watches are a small but growing segment in Hermes's product lines. Last year, the subsidiary expanded sales 17% to 173 million euros, which accounts for 5% of Hermes total group revenues. –