Berkshire and Wearable Tech, Really? Really!

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)




Those who think of Warren Buffett as a technophobic investor who has no interest in technology companies, are overlooking the fact that Berkshire Hathaway has its hands in many technology companies. Berkshire is a minority owner of IBM and BYD Co., and its own wholly-owned companies often have areas of leading-edge tech if you look for it. One of those companies is the Richline Group, one of Berkshire’s lesser-known group of companies.

What is the Richline Group?

The Richline Group, Inc., is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway that was formed in 2007, and is both a fine jewelry manufacturer and marketer. The four independent strategic business units in Richline’s portfolio are LeachGarner, Inverness, Rio Grande and Richline Brands.

Embracing Wearable Tech

Early in 2015, Richline signed distribution deals with Omate and Cuff, and Richline will also introduce new products featuring differentiated technology from companies including Say and MightyCast.

Richline is debuting two tiers of product offerings: fine jewelry, which primarily consists of designs made with precious metals, and fashion jewelry, which offers more affordable designs made with bronze and base metals. In addition to fitness tracking, many of Richline’s proprietary designs will offer features centered on personalization, notifications and discrete personal security. Designs look to bring a combination of style and tech to an entirely untapped audience of fashion-forward fine jewelry shoppers.

“We are extremely proud of our initial offering of smart jewelry,” said Ramona Genao-Archibald, Richline Brands’ EVP of Merchandising, “and we feel like we are just getting started. We have an amazing team here at Richline that is dedicated to finding the best emerging technologies and finding new ways to make them look better than ever before.”

In addition to its proprietary innovations, Richline is introducing an assortment of “compatibles” which will offer millions of women stylish and luxury alternatives for use with existing wearable products such as Fitbit and Jawbone.

“Understanding the impact that the emerging wearables space will have on the jewelry industry has been a core focus for Richline over the past two years,” said Richline CEO Dennis Ulrich. “A lot of hard work and collaboration has gone into this project, and we are thrilled to finally be able to show the industry our vision for the future of fine jewelry wearables.”

Promoting Wearable Tech

In addition to its product offerings, Richline is promoting wearable tech through the creation of the WearableStyleNews website. The site is dedicated to sharing the latest in the rapidly-emerging world of luxury wearables. It features a wide-range of news from the mundane to the oddball, including a 3-D printed Bitcoin ring with a QR code in lieu of a stone setting, and L’Oreal’s partnership with Bay Area startup Organovo to achieve 3D printing of human skin for makeup testing.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.