Willing buyers go begging
The elegant 18th-century buildings in Place Vendôme in Paris, over which Napoleon I in Roman emperor robes gazes down from a spiralling column, were commissioned as homes for the aristocracy by Louis XIV, the Sun King.
Today the square is the home of high jewellery and watches and the Ritz hotel – now closed and, behind a screen, undergoing a €200m refit.
"There is a lack of luxury watch and jewellery brands and companies for sale at the high end," says Karen Walker, senior managing director of Michel Dyens & Co, an investment bank that specialises in the sector. "The most coveted jewellery and watch targets are family-owned firms that are not eager to sell and that require a delicate touch."
She says that price is also an issue. "In potential deals for the few luxury watch and jewellery targets available, there is a large gap between what buyers are willing to pay and what sellers are willing to sell for, which makes it difficult to get deals done."
There is new buyer interest from China "but they are very busy" with their own market, says Ms Walker, and "the prices of potential luxury jewellery and watch brands in Europe are too high".
Back in Place Vendôme, a new name has opened up. Louis Vuitton, better known for its monogrammed canvas bags, started making jewellery several years ago but this year underscored its commitment to the business by opening a boutique with a workshop in the square.
Other fashion labels have entered fine jewellery recently, including Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Hermès and Ralph Lauren.