Watch importer buys Swiss brand, expands high-end lineup

A trading company dealing mainly in high-end watches, Misuzu Corp., recently bought Swiss luxury golf watchmaker Jaermann & Stubi, holding a ceremony on July 26 to announce that Misuzu President Haruhisa Handa was named the president of the Swiss watch company.

In the ceremony, Misuzu also announced that it has started Japanese distribution of watches from Hysek, another Swiss watchmaker.

Misuzu has been the exclusive distributor of Jaermann & Stubi watches, known as “The Timepiece of Golf,” in Japan, and the Japanese company has now taken on the global responsibility for the high-end watches.

“We are the only company in Japan — maybe in the world — that does both watches and golf. It is very meaningful to acquire the only watch brand specifically meant for golfers,” Handa said at the ceremony at Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo, in Bunkyo Ward.

Others who attended the ceremony include Japanese golf giant Jumbo Ozaki, who has been the annual top money earner in Japan 12 times, and pro-wrestler Keiji Muto. They strutted the runway with their gleaming Jaermann & Stubi watches prominently displayed on their wrists. Additionally, former Japan representatives of Miss Universe, various models and singer Akira Nishikino wore Hysek watches to let those in attendance see the high-end timepieces.

Golf lover Urs Jaermann and master watchmaker Pascal Stubi founded Jaermann & Stubi in 2007 to create precision Swiss watches that can record golf scores.

The company only produces about 1,000 watches a year and all are handmade. Golf irons belonging to famous golfers such as Ian Woosnam and Seve Ballesteros have been melted down and are used to make some of the watchcases.

Hysek rose to prominence in 1997 when its Kilada models gained notice for their bold and innovative designs. The company expanded its sales channels to Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America as it went on to release its first tourbillon and grand complication models.

Handa founded Misuzu in 1978 as the operator of Misuzu Gakuen cram schools, and the company established its watch business in 1979, distributing more than 140 watch brands, as well as its own designs, in Japan since then. It is the exclusive importer in Japan of several international brands such as Roberto Cavalli by Franck Muller, Catorex and Candy Time.

Besides horology, Handa wears many hats. He is behind the promotion of promoting various sports, especially golf, as the chairman of the International Sports Promotion Society (ISPS).

In April, ISPS held the ISPS Handa Jaermann & Stubi Owners Cup, which invited amateur golfers who own Jaermann & Stubi watches to play golf with prominent professionals, including Jumbo Ozaki, in the Hakone resort area of Kanagawa Prefecture.

Others who participated include former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who was in office from November 2008 until last December and became an ambassador for the ISPS in February,

Handa also founded the Japan Blind Golf Association, the first such club in Japan, in 1988, and is known as “the father of blind golf in Japan.” The ISPS regularly sponsors blind golf tournaments. Most recently, it was a sponsor of the Blind Golf Japan Open Championship, which was also supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan Sports Agency, Japan Sports Association for the Disabled, Japan Golf Association, Japan Golf Tour Organization and other groups, in Saitama Prefecture in November.

In addition to the ISPS, Handa is also the chairman of the International Foundation for Arts and Culture (IFAC), which has held international concerts in Tokyo. IFAC also holds the International High School Arts Festival every year.

On the philanthropic front, Handa is the chairman of Worldwide Support for Development, which holds a variety of summit meetings on global welfare. He is engaged in AIDS eradication activities in Lesotho and supports orphanages and carries out charity activities in Cambodia.