Jeweler Tiffany & Co has served Swatch Group SA with a 542 million franc ($590 million) counter-claim in a legal dispute over their former joint venture, the Swiss watchmaker said on Monday.

Tiffany's claim comes after Swatch, the world's largest watchmaker, sued it in December for lost profit, which it conservatively estimated at 3.8 billion francs, after the breakdown of their venture three months previously.

The strategic alliance, signed in 2007 and intended to last for 20 years, was meant to boost the development, production and worldwide distribution of Tiffany branded watches, but it never turned into big business for either company.

Swatch had accused its former partner of systematically trying to block and delay development of the business and of undermining efforts to promote watches linked to the venture.

Tiffany has now responded by saying Swatch did not honor the terms of the agreement, including providing adequate distribution, and had been unwilling to work cooperatively with the U.S.-based group.

They're not used to having a license arrangement where they can't make 100 percent of the decisions without possibly stopping for approval along the way, James Fernandez said in June when he was Tiffany's chief financial officer. He has since been made chief operating officer.

Swatch told Reuters last year Tiffany was not giving watches sold under their joint venture enough prominence in its stores.

Shares in the Bienne-based company were flat at 1209 GMT, in line with the Swiss blue-chip index <.SSMI>.

The impact of this affair on numbers has not been that relevant, given that the Tiffany relationship was terminated when it was still in its very early stages, analysts at UBS said in a note.

($1=0.9190 Swiss francs)

(Additional reporting by Emma Thommasson; Editing by Greg Mahlich and David Holmes)