British watch business Christopher Ward has secured investment of £6.25 million ($8m) from the British Growth Fund that will be used to accelerate growth.
The company revealed last year that it had been working on attracting outside investment because the timing was right to build on the solid foundation laid down since it was founded in was created 14 years ago.
Christopher Ward CEO and co-founder Mike France (pictured above with co-founders Peter Ellis and Chris Ward) told WatchPro in October last year that it was producing around 20,000 timepieces per year at the manufacture it owns in Switzerland and believes it can double or even quadruple sales in the coming years, driven particularly by expansion in North America.
Today the business employs 45 people, selling 22,000 watches per year and generating sales of £10.5m.
“We had a huge change of gear in May 2016 when we re-branded, and that has been extremely successful. We now have a singular Christopher Ward look across all parts of our collections, and people are increasingly noticing that. It has attracted a record number of new people to the brand. 60% of all watches we sell are to new people. The re-branding was mainly, or in part, to attract new people to Christopher Ward and has turned out to be a major step in that direction,” Mr France says.
Around one third of sales come from the USA and Canada, but Mr France believes Christopher Ward has barely scratched the surface in that market. “We are already growing at 50% per year in the United States with very little marketing spend. With this investment we will be spending money and expect North America to be our largest market within two to three years,” he adds.
British Growth Fund (BGF) was established in the wake of the global financial meltdown in 2008/9 with £2.5 billion ($3.1bn) made available from British banks that had been bailed out by the British taxpayer.
It operates in a similar way to private equity backing smaller businesses, and will take a minority stake in Christopher Ward in return for its $8 million investment.
But, unlike private equity, it will not push for an exit plan. “This is a long term play,” Mr France says. “The team at BGF are as excited as we are about creating a truly great brand and business and we are delighted to have them as our partner for the next phase of the journey.”
James Austin, an investor at BGF who will join the board of Christopher Ward, says: “We’re really pleased to be joining the team at Christopher Ward, a fantastic example of great British entrepreneurialism, becoming a truly credible player in the luxury watch market over the last decade. With a simple mission and a focus on producing quality products at fair prices, it has developed a strong track record and reputation among its loyal and growing customer base.
“We’re looking forward to working with an experienced team to build Christopher Ward into a globally recognized brand. The south east of England is teeming with ambitious businesses like this and we’re excited to welcome another company from the region into the BGF portfolio.”