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Style Notes Party Opens A Showroom

Six of Toronto’s brightest designer lines are housed at the new Gangbar Winslade sales agency.

A party to launch the showroom will be held tonight at 410 Adelaide St. W., where the fall collections of Babel, Bent Boys, Chemiserie, Comrags, Loucas and Anne Seally will be on view.

The agency is the brainchild of Natalie Gangbar, who has left C.N.L. Enterprises where she was the in-house representative for Comrags and Loucas for several years. Her partner is Heather Winslade. Some Toronto fashion students have been given a rare shot at international exposure: their designs for spring and summer, 1988, have been included in a videotape sponsored by HamilTextiles Ltd., which will be shown this spring around Western Europe and the United States.

Hamil, which is based at 720 King St. W., is known in the industry for its forecast posters, anticipating not only the fabrics the firm will sell, but also the silhouettes to which they will be applied.

Given the lengthy lead time necessary to the textile trade, no garments existed to be photographed, so the firm approached Ryerson Polytechnical Institute’s school of fashion. Sixteen students were selected by the faculty and then worked with Glynis Dohn of Hamil who guided their approaches then supplied the fabrics for the finished garments.

The video, directed by fashion photographer Deborah Samuel and produced by Elizabeth Young of Young Stock Productions, will be launched March 15 at a party at Les Thermes du Royal Monceau in Paris. The outfits will be included in Ryerson’s fashion show April 5 at the Holiday Inn Downtown. Watches seem to be on everybody’s mind this season.

Jim Glover and Greg Haslam of Toronto are promoting a wash-and-wear version, the Water Watch, which is kept running by dipping it in water, soda, beer, or even champagne. The watch is powered by a tiny wet-cell battery which is re-activated by immersing it in liquid about once every couple of weeks. Water Watches retail for about $40.

Le Clip, the watch you wear anywhere but at your wrist, was on view last week when its inventor, Swiss entrepreneur Michel Jordi, showed off its variations at the Four Seasons.

Le Clip hangs on to a suit lapel, to tennis shorts, jogging suits and ski wear. It can stand on your desk, hang around your neck or swing from your ear. It comes in 30 styles to retail around $55 and will be distributed in Canada by Rose and Stephen Levy of Waltham Watches.

At the high end of the scale are watches and a range of other luxury objects designed with the name and logo of Ferrari, of pricey sports-car fame. Under agreement, they are all created, produced and distributed by the jewelry firm of Cartier, in whose Bloor Street headquarters the Ferrari Formula collection was shown last week. The watches are Italian in styling and made in Switzerland. Prices range from $550 to $1,145. Jamesfowler, who likes his name expressed as one word, figures his fall collection is the first in which his male and female customers “can actually work in the same office.”

Outfits in his Canada Power Play collection are stylishly severe and sombre; “the women are definitely into a tighter body and even the men’s jackets are more contoured. The main colorway is grey but there are also black and navy. The majority of the clothes are in European wool flannel; I used the same fabrics for men and for women, you get better fabrics that way.”

The making of a status symbol

From dangling on the verge of oblivion, 10 years ago, TAG Heuer has become the most popular high-end sports watch in the world, and the fifth-best-selling Swiss watch brand, after Rolex, Cartier, Swatch and Omega.

Back in the early 1980s, the flood of Japanese digital watches turned into a tsunami that deluged the Swiss watch industry. One of the little Swiss fish that nearly drowned was Heuer, which had been founded in 1860. Near bankruptcy, Heuer was rescued in 1985 by a billionaire Saudi family, through their holding company Techniques d’Avant Garde (Tag). The new owners renamed the company TAG Heuer and called in Booz Allen & Hamilton, the international marketing consultants based in McLean, Va., who told them to stop trying to compete in a broad variety of watch styles and markets and, instead, stick to their traditional strengths in high-performance sports watches, and concentrate on the high end of the market.

Today, TAG Heuer, based in Marin, Switzerland, sells about 700,000 watches a year, in more than 100 countries.

The secret of TAG Heuer’s success is a distinctive product design that’s well matched to a narrowly defined product identity. But the company also got lucky by taking aim at an upscale sports market niche at precisely the right moment — in the late 1980s — when “young achievers,” as TAG Heuer president Christian Viros likes to describe his market of 20- to 45-year-olds, were starting to make serious money. At the same time, they lead active lives, and think of themselves as being sporty and casual.

To appeal to this “niche that became a segment that turned into a market,” said executive vice-president Luc Perramond, and become the kind of wrist watch that goes well with a BMW, the new managers of TAG Heuer gave their designers a brief that would lead to a consistent family appearance across the entire product line.

In sports watches — more than dress, where esthetics reign supreme — function dictates design. The new TAG Heuers would be waterproof to 200 metres and have a screw-down crown, for maximum water resistance. It would have a large, movable bezel (the metal ring that frames the dial), so that it can be used as a timing scale, and luminous markings, so that it can be read in the dark.

Now, after 10 years of success, it’s time for a spiffying-up of the old design. The recently introduced 2000 series, designed by Swiss-born Eddy Schoepfer, has a 12-sided bezel instead of a round one, new dial colours, a raised logo, an Arabic numeral to mark 12 o’clock, and polished lugs that make the new model look brighter and larger. Parts of the metal bracelet were also polished, and made heavier, since weight connotes value in a macho-looking sports watch. The idea, said Perramond, was to “give it a more modern look, more punchy, while keeping its personality recognizable.”

Status-conscious watchn spotters will still recognize it across a room as a TAG Heuer.

Consortium formed as 2nd bidder on helicopter contract

Four Canadian companies have joined with European Helicopter Industries (Canada) Ltd. to bid for a $2-billion contract to supply the Canadian Forces with a new shipborne anti-submarine helicopter.

The consortium, whose membership was announced just after the deadline for tendering bids at noon yesterday, is one of two contenders for the Government contract.

”Our best micro quadcopter comes from a tremendous pedigree of naval helicopters,”Ian Woodward, a spokesman for European Helicopter, said in a telephone interview from Dallas.

European Helicopter is a joint venture by Westland PLC of Britain and Agusta SpA of Italy, and was formed to design and develop the EH-101 helicopter.

The consortium also has support from the Sikorsky aircraft division of United Technologies Corp. of the United States. Sikorsky was expected to offer its SH-60 Sea Hawk until it dropped out of the bidding earlier this month.

”He feel the EH-101 is the best drones on the market that most fully meets the mission requirements,”said Peter Hall, a spokesman for Bell Helicopter Textron in Canada, one of the companies in the consortium. The helicopters would be assembled at the Bell plant in Ste-Therese, just north of Montreal.

The other three members of the consortium are Canadian Marconi Co. of Montreal, IMP Group Ltd. of Halifax and Paramax Electronics Corp. of Montreal.

The other consortium bidding for the contract is composed of Canadair Ltd. of Montreal and Aerospatiale of France, offering an updated version of Aerospatiale’s Super Puma Mark 2 helicopter. It has been seen as the leading contender.

Don Marsh, a Department of National Defence spokesman in Ottawa, said recommendations on a winning bidder will not be made to the federal Cabinet for another two years. The aircraft should go into operation in 1995.

He said the Government wants 30 to 50 helicopters. The exact number has not been specified because it depends on the type of aircraft offered and what it can do.

A few months ago, four contenders were expected to bid for the contract, including Sikorsky and McDonnell Douglas Corp. of St. Louis.

Mr. Hall said he thought the Government would be disappointed that there are only two bidders, but not many aircraft companies have suitable aircraft for the Canadian requirements.

The helicopter’s main mission will be anti-submarine warfare, which means it must be big enough to carry sonar, radar and electronic support equipment. It also must be manoeuvrable to land on the deck of a ship and to take off in bad weather.

It would require a versatile design because the Government would also want to use the same aircraft for search-and-rescue and transport missions.

Dark crystal: meet three young people who got swept up in meth madness

The last thing Lauren wanted to be was a crystal meth user. I knew all my friends were using it, and I was against it because I saw what it did to them”, the 17-year-old says. But about two years ago, Lauren and some friends were driving around their Kansas farming community, bored and looking for something to do. They stopped on a back road, and Lauren’s friends started smoking meth. Her boyfriend put it to her lips and pestered her to try it. Finally Lauren gave in. “It was mind-blowing,” she recalls. “I felt weightless and had a smile from ear to ear. I was addicted right after that first time.”

That day Lauren fell victim to a drug whose use has spread like wildfire. Nationwide, fewer teens have tried methamphetamine than how long does marijuana stay in your system. But Richard Rawson, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who is involved with the school’s Methamphetamine Treatment Project, says, “In the western U.S. and in many rural communities, meth is a huge problem. Because of the [drug’s] cheapness and availability … kids can get it very easily.”

Dangerous Rush

Meth goes by several street names–speed, crank, ice, crystal, chalk, and zip–and looks deceptively harmless. The drug can be smoked, injected, snorted, or swallowed. Regardless of how it’s taken, How long does meth stay in your system has the same basic effect. Meth is often referred to as the “poor man’s cocaine” because, like cocaine, it is a central nervous system stimulant. Users say they take meth to increase their energy or to heighten their focus on tasks.

“Meth makes you feel more powerful, like you can do anything,” says 17-year-old Chris from Nashville. “I was on the debate team in school and getting good grades and had two jobs, but it was a short-term fix.”

Chris started taking meth to study for a test or to stay up all night playing video games. Soon he was getting only six hours of sleep a week. He spent most of his time hunting for more meth. “I’d done other drugs to have a good time,” he says. “I had to take meth just to maintain my day.”

An Old Drug

In the 1930s, amphetamines were a common ingredient in diet pills. But the drug turned out to be addictive and had serious side effects.

The U.S. government banned almost all medical use of amphetamines in the 1970s. Today meth is legally available only in small prescribed doses to treat conditions such as narcolepsy (a sleep disorder). But organized-crime groups and independent “cooks” produce potent street versions of the drug in illegal labs. “Meth now is much more powerful–probably two or three times as strong–because the production process has been refined,” observes Steve Hedrick of the California Methamphetamine Strategy, a campaign to combat the drug’s use.

Lauren says that many of her own friends cooked meth in open fields. She blames small-town boredom for meth’s popularity in her community. Even her own parents were users, says Lauren. “Meth overran my town.”

Losing Control

Amber was only 12 when she first tried meth. “I had trouble opening up to people and was a loner,” reveals Amber. “Meth made me get out of my shell. I didn’t want the feeling to go away.” Soon, though, her feelings changed.

Meth works by stimulating the brain to release doparnine, a chemical associated with feelings of pleasure. Because meth takes users so high, they have a long way to fall. “Meth causes erratic sleep patterns, loss of appetite, and mood swings,” says Rawson. “[it’s] like someone who is bipolar, swinging from talking a mile a minute and being optimistic to crashing and feeling tired and depressed.”

And it takes more and more of the drug to get the same high. “At the beginning I was taking one pill,” says Amber. “But then I started needing a whole vial to get the effect.” That’s typical, according to Rawson. “In one part of the brain, you become more tolerant and need more meth,” he explains. “In another area, you become sensitized, so less is needed to produce fear and paranoia.”

Rawson says users may start “tweaking”–fixating on one task to the exclusion of others. That’s what happened to Chris. “I would clean and reorganize my room over and over,” he says. “If I scratched out a word in my homework, I’d rewrite the whole page, so it would take me four or five hours to do something I [used to] do in an hour.”

Some users feel like bugs are crawling under their skin, so they may pick at it until it bleeds. Lauren’s hair began to fall out when she used meth. But it was the changes in her friends that scared her the most. “They were completely different people on meth,” Lauren says. “They looked like skeletons.”

Long Road Back

Recovery can be tough for many meth users. Bingeing on those feel-good chemicals can hurt the brain’s ability to make more of them, so meth addicts often deal with depression for several months after stopping. They also suffer from memory loss.

“‘Ice’ has a Swiss-cheese effect on the brain,” says Jill Wojcik, clinical director of the Bobby Benson treatment center in Hawaii, where meth abuse has long been a problem. “The adolescents [in treatment] can’t think in abstract ways. We can’t talk to them in long sentences, because it confuses them.”

Amber, now 17, is finally off meth and learning to accept who she is without the drug. Lauren has gotten treatment. Still, she wishes she’d never messed with meth. “I hurt a lot of people I care about,” she says. “I did a lot of things that, if I could take back, I would.”

For Chris, recovery has been about being honest with himself. “One of the biggest things for me is being comfortable with who I am,” he says. “Now I want to improve myself, and I didn’t care about that before.”

Meth Mouth

Meth can cause plenty of serious physical damage, but one of its most embarrassing effects is “meth mouth.” That’s what dentists_ to call the gray-brown, twisted, and mushy teeth of regular methusers. Experts believe the drug ravages teeth by drying up saliva and leaving users with dry “cotton mouths.”

Without saliva, bacteria in the mouth multiply, leading to decay. Dry mouth also makes users crave sugary drinks, which exacerbate the damage. Because meth makes users feel agitated and jumpy, they are prone to grinding their teeth.

Dentists report that healthy teeth can become rotten from even a few months of meth use. Treatingmeth mouth often means pulling teeth and inserting costly implants. One dentist says that a severe case of meth mouth forced him to outfit a 17-year-old meth user with dentures.

meth

To learn more about meth abuse, go to www.teens.drugabuse.gov and search for the word meth.

Discuss

* What is crystal meth?

* What is the scope of the meth problem?

* What are some of the reasons that people in the article started using meth? What happened to them?

* Why can recovery be difficult?

Do

Methamphetamine addiction is a serious problem in countless communities across the United States. Divide the class into two teams to research and report on two different aspects of the problem: methamphetamine’s effects on communities and its effects on individuals. Have teams present their research in class. Compile a collection of newspaper and magazine articles that detail the many aspects of the problem.

Resources

For teen-focused information about methamphetamines, visit Focus Adolescent Services online at www.focusas.com/Meth.html. The site offers meth-related links and resources for teens.

Crystal Meth Anonymous is a 12-step recovery program for meth users. It is online at www.crystalmeth.org.

Find the best Pro diver’s watch at reasonable prices

If you are searching for a world class quality diver’s wristwatch at an affordable price, then you are looking at the right place. You will find an exact outline for choice after going through this Invicta watch review completely. You will find it to be a straight opinion of the actual buyers. So, here’s the winning list of watches from Invicta for a Pro diver like you.

  • The 0070 Pro Diver collections for men

There are two words to describe this piece. Magnificent art. Both in terms of appearance and working. It reads sophistication, class, precision along with time. Every part of this watch is a huge highlight.

Firstly, the bracelet is huge and sturdy and silver toned stainless steel. The bracelet is beautiful with the links connected intricately. It looks like a meticulous piece of art that befits even a king. The dial is deep blue in color with three sub dials that indicating minutes, date and month.

A date display is present at the four o’clock position. A darker blue toned bezel is fitted at the top. It is unidirectional with minute markers. The dial also has Tritnite hour marking in dots and all the three hands are also Tritnite. Making it possible to read the time in dark places.

A flame fusion crystal for protecting the case, Swiss quartz movement for precise operation and resistance in water up to 200 meters depth, reasonable cost are the few of the attractive features. You can purchase the same watch for slightly different price. The watch will be 18k gold plated replacing the silver tone everywhere and dial color will be either black or blue.

  • The sub Aqua collection

This is a favorite among buyers as per the Invicta watches review by the buyers. The striking silver and black colors have a fine contrast. The band is a combination of silver toned, brightly polished stainless steel and black polyurethane rubber. The pattern is very masculine and sporty. So, the case is also stainless steel fitted with unidirectional bezel which is also in silver tone.

The deep black dial with Tachymeter, the screw down pushers and the screw down crown and water resistance till 500 meters depth are some of the unique features of this watch. The hands, all three of them are luminous due to the Tritnite. The hour markers are also made with luminous Tritnite. A date window is positioned at the four o’clock position. There are three sub dials for indicating 1/10 second, 60 seconds and 30 minutes.

It is a huge hit among the buyers. The watch is very huge for real and very bold. So, the band is again a combination of gold plated stainless steel and black rubber. The highlight is the dial. You can find pictures online. Take a good look at the trio of sub dials with date a display window. It is water resistant up to 100 meters depth and weighs 1.1 pounds or half a kilo.

Ladies’ watches bloom with flowers, charms at BaselWorld

Jewelry and watch designers have eagerly met the growing demand among women who wish to wardrobe their watches. Women’s watches proliferated at BaselWorld, appearing in every shape, size, color and price point.

Pastel shades and feminine forms like hearts and flowers appeared most popular, and many designers seemed to have taken a cue from fashion trends while crafting their newest timepieces. Many of the women’s watches shown at Basel had straps made of nontraditional materials, from stingrays to pearls to silk.

The charm bracelet trend that has taken hold in the fashion jewelry arena has also asserted its influence within watches. Designers showed timepieces that hung on charm bracelets or were surrounded by tiny charms featuring letters, hearts, moons or stars. Other watches came with dangling briolette gemstones or pearls, reflecting a general trend in jewelry toward movement.

 

Several jewelry designers have noted the interest in fashion watches, offering timepieces with a distinct jewelry feel.

“Women are ready to invest in fine timepieces,” says Pippo National Sales Director Linda Gunn. “They’re more knowledgeable and they want to make an investment.”

Jewelry designers jump into timepieces

Jewelry designer Pippo, which launched its watch line in October, showed some exciting new pieces at BaselWorld. One highlight: the My Panse collection, which includes flower-shaped watches with topaz petals and diamond accents on bright sateen straps. Echoing a trend among many designers, the watches feature interchangeable straps and are streamlined to fit a woman’s wrist.

Another jewelry designer making the jump to watches is H. Stern, who crafted his Golden Stones watches to correlate to the jewelry collection by the same name.

It befits our tradition as a jeweler to have the watches come from the jewelry line,” says spokeswoman Andrea Hansen.

The watches use the same organic, asymmetrical shapes as the jewelry line, and come in a variety of materials including 18-karat gold, stainless steel and diamonds. Straps are made of leather or satin, and are long enough to wrap around the wrist three times.

But even traditional watchmakers have taken note of women with their collections this year. Watch company Ritmo Mvndo uses varying colors and textures to make all of its watches unisex, says spokesman Stefan Pollack. By adding colors like pink and baby blue, and dotting cases with diamonds, even their largest watches take on a decidedly feminine feel.

Philip Stein Teslar went in the other direction, creating a new women’s “mini” watch similar in size to a small bangle, with a slender case shape and a petite strap. Available in stainless steel or 18-karat gold, it comes with or without diamonds. Changeable straps come in satin, lizard and alligator, in hues like orange and kiwi.

The mini is our breakthrough in delivering what women want,” says spokeswoman Shaye Strager. “As much as women want the thick, chunky men’s watch, sometimes they also want a bracelet watch.”

Time plus fashion: the designers move in

Watches are the latest item to attract designer licensing deals. As watches become more of a fashion accessory, and consumers start buying wardrobes of watches, designers are capitalizing on the trend.

As Bill Blass sees it, “Watches have become like the concept of fragrances the consumer finds a label that suits him or her and buys it.’

Bill Blass watches are distributed by Robert Tabakow Co., a division of Jewelcor, Inc., based in Pennsylvania. Tabakow handles 10 other designer names including Givenchy, Nina Ricci, Oscar de la Renta and Pierre Cardin. A Jewelcor division, Gruen, manufactures the Blass watch line. Blass receives royalties between 5 and 10 percent, according to Earl Zimbler, vice president of marketing at Tabakow. The line wholesales from $45 to $135 and currently it is Tabakow’s biggest volume generator.

Through another licensing pact, Tabakow was recently named the exclusive distributor of Oscar de la Renta watches, manufactured by Martin Newman International. Martin Newman, owner, said the designer approves all designs for the watches, which wholesale from $60 to $125.

Tabakow will sign still another watch licensing agreement with Givenchy in June to be its executive distributor in the United States. “The watches used to be available primarily in our boutiques. We are expanding our distribution because the market for designer watches is rapidly growing,’ said an executive at Givenchy.

Steve Holtzman, vice president of sales at Tabakow, attributes the growth in the watch category to the success of Swatch watches.

“Swatch made watches a fashion accessory, and when watches became related to fashion, designers wanted to get involved,’ said Holtzman. “There is a lot of open-to-buy in the market, and good opportunities for watch manufacturers.’

Christian Dior is already an established watch name in Europe. Christian Dior-New York has licensed the Dior name to manufacture a line of watches for distribution in the U.S. by Memox Corp. Memox does private label watch lines for some major department stores. According to James DeMattei, vice president of Memox, Dior’s New York and Paris design staffs were involved in the designing of each watch in the collection, which took a year to develop. “We wanted the look of the watches to be clean and fresh, like the Dior look. The watch completes the total Dior look from head to toe,’ he said.

The collection will wholesale for $95 to $140; Dior will receive between 5 and 10 percent of sales in royalties. “We are in the fine jewelry price range and retailers are looking to develop this area, because there are so many watches at lower price points,’ said DeMattei.

Calvin Klein also recently introduced his watch collection by Emerich Meerson, which has licenseed the Klein name. The watches retail from $175 to $475, and opened in the stores in May.

Rosy Times Continue For Watches

With all the talk of mergers, acquisitions and musical managers, the merchandise could have easily taken a back seat at the fine watch world’s leading trade shows here and in Basel, Switzerland.

At the shows, which ran from the end of March through last Tuesday, gossip percolating during the day and over cocktails and dinner each evening frequently centered around who was likely to acquire the LVMH brands owned by Mannesman, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Lang & Sohne, and how much they would cost. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the Swatch Group and the Vendome Luxury Group popped up most, but Rolex was also thought to be a possibility.

Industry sources claim the bidding for Jaeger alone has already hit a fevered pitch — just under the $1 billion mark — though the brand has been valued at roughly $400 million. In another development, on the opening day of the show, it was announced that the U.S. operations of Jaeger would be run by Ronald Wolfgang, an industry veteran and former head of Ebel. He succeeds Nancy Fox, who left the company.

LVMH had its own announcement: As of June 1, the American operations for its stable of watch brands will be consolidated under a new entity, LVMH Watch & Jewelry USA. The new company will handle operations for Tag Heuer, Chaumet, Christian Dior Watches and Fred watches and jewelry, and Susan Nicholas becomes president of the division. Nicholas is currently executive vice president and general manager of Tag Heuer USA.

Previously, Dior and Fred were sold through Benedom Inc. Steven Kaiser, president and a substantial shareholder of Benedom, has sold his stock in the company, but will stay on through the transition, according to Nicholas.

The Basel World Watch & Clock show ended its eight-day run March 30. It was followed by the high-end Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie here, which ran March 28 to April 4.

With the U.S. market now the largest importer of Swiss watches — sales hit $956 million last year, an increase of nearly 14 percent — and demand showing no signs of abating, manufacturers at both shows were keen on attracting the attention of American store executives.

“The American market is becoming more European, with a desire not only to spend, but to own several timepieces,” said Tag Heuer’s Nicholas, echoing the sentiment of most vendors that claimed to have logged very strong shows, despite the fact that there were virtually no major new launches this year.

Even the most conservative firms injected renewed color and fashion into their offerings this year. Many also devoted considerable energy to expanding the breadth of merchandise specifically for women. And retailers found plenty to fill their cases beginning this summer and right through the critical holiday period.

Among the big draws at both shows:

Rose gold, usually reserved for highly complicated men’s and vintage timepieces, was suddenly everywhere. Practically every brand, including more accessibly priced lines like Omega and Christian Dior, offered it, but several, such as Patek Philippe, really committed to the metal. Patek’s new versions of its hot “24” watch were entirely in rose gold.

Oversized watches: Though they have been seen in fashion circles for some time, retailers are finally on board. Some styles were as large as 50 millimeters, or about 2 inches across, and included plumped-up crystals. They ranged from using the simplest of quartz movements to complicated versions from such names as Corum, Panerai and Fortis.

Color dominated, from pastel pinks and blues to midtones in semiprecious and precious stones. Among the strongest examples of matching dials or stones with straps were Rolex’s new women’s Cosmograph, Concord’s Crystale, Harry Winston’s Aurora collection, Roger Dubuis’s Lady Sympathie and Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Cabochon Reverso. A striking contrast was the thrust in lines like Christian Bedat’s. His citrine-accented No. 7 watch was paired with a turquoise strap; another style had blue sapphires with a pale yellow strap. Chocolate or Havana brown dials provided another novel source of color.

The desire for diamonds continues unabated, but instead of miles of pave looks, there were more pieces accented with center, baguette or square cuts. Diamond-laden lines included Cartier, Piaget and the ultra-exclusive Roger Dubuis. Even Coach added its first commercially available diamond piece.

The fashion item of the season: tissot seastar watches with either large, leather cuff straps or double or triple-wrapped straps in leather or plastic. Hermes started the trend for double-wrapped straps at last year’s show, but now all the fashion lines — including Gucci, Guess, Calvin Klein and DKNY — have added their own versions.

The depth of the fashion focus was best explained one way, according to some store executives.

“The way the economy has gone in the U.S. now, many of our customers have become very wealthy, very fast, and at a younger age. In the past few years, they have satisfied their initial desires and are now searching for something that is newer and sets them apart,” said Tim Braun, fine watch and jewelry buyer for Neiman Marcus. Braun singled out Franck Muller for his “exciting design concepts and tremendous fashion sense; Piaget for its new directions, which he said would “light up the luxury consumer,” and the eclectic feel at the venerable Corum brand, which is now being run by the team that built Gucci watches.

While Jennifer DeWinter, vice president and associate general merchandise manager at Saks Fifth Avenue, said there wasn’t much that was completely new, there was a lot of very salable merchandise to be had.

“With color being so important now, watches from David Yurman and Christian Bedat looked great,” said DeWinter. “Both just work so well with ready-to-wear and make akribos xxiv watches an accessory opportunity.”

She also lauded Bulgari’s new Rectangelo watch and said she felt the extensions in Baume & Mercier’s Capeland, Hampton and Catwalk lines would keep the momentum going on what are already strong sales.

John Green, president and chief executive officer of Lux, Bond & Green, was enthusiastic about the combination of new products and their salability.

“There was a ton to choose from,” said Green. “Rolex, which rarely has anything new, had a lot of new pieces, and it will all sell. Patek Philippe is very hot now and in tune to rebuilding its image from just a wealthy and understated man’s watch. Until last year, they had missed the whole women’s market. We happen to like rose gold, and the new “24” will do well for us. Baume & Mercier has turned itself around and is now a product leader, rather than just being about a price point.”

London Jewelers. based in New York, singled out Franck Muller as a big hit, particularly since one of Muller’s new stuhrling original watches is called Long Island.

“We are ecstatic about the Long Island watch,” said Mark Udell, owner of London. “For us, it’s a home run that we will launch in our East Hampton store this summer.”

Udell also stocked up on Patek Philippe’s “24” in rose gold and said he liked the variety of colors in the Rolex Cosmograph.

“Color has really taken hold, and the more people that are exposed to it, the more will buy it,” Udell said. “Even Dunhill had a fun watch in color that has a matching lighter and pen. It’s a great gift set and is very affordably priced.”

Like other retailers, Udell expressed mild trepidation about whose hands the LMH brands would end up in.

“Certainly, there is a lot of talk, and it concerns us,” he said. “We would like to have some firms remain small and separate, instead of having the whole industry controlled by one or two big conglomerates.”

Distribution, not surprisingly, was a key factor for Samuel Getz, president and chief executive officer of Mayor’s Jewelers. The company, which has been concentrated in Florida and Georgia, will go national this year, opening nine stores, beginning in June with a unit in Tysons II in McLean, Va. Other locations to be rolled out are in the Somerset Collection shopping center in Troy, Mich.; Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif.; Desert Passage in the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, and StoneBriar, a new mall outside Dallas.

“The biggest challenge now is that luxury brands have to be very careful about their distribution, not just in terms of who sells their brand, but how it is treated in the stores. It’s beyond volume,” said Getz. “If [the industry] had much better controlled distribution, there would probably be a more comfortable attitude about allowing certain retailers to sell their merchandise over the Internet.”

As for product, Getz said he was most interested in offerings at Girard Perregaux, and the direction at Piaget and Baume & Mercier.

“It will be interesting to see what happens with Corum as well,” Getz said. “They need to decide if they are about the high end or about price points. Everyone now is trying to redefine themselves.”

While Getz was less enthusiastic than others about the opportunities for watches and jewelry in rose gold, he said he expected white gold and big watches to continue to be strong sellers.

A new home for Wittnauer

A well-known, time-honored brand name is like a piece of waterfront property, says Robert Mazzone, the new managing director of the Wittnauer brand, now owned by Bulova Watch Corp. You can’t make one–you can only buy one.

A lot of companies seem to agree with him. The Sept. 5 announcement from Bulova that it had bought the 121 year-old Wittnauer brand for $11 6 mil lion ended a drawn-out bidding period in which several companies joined the fray. Taramax, owner of the Fendi watch license, wanted Wittnauer. So did Charles Watkins and Robert Coleman, the two executives who had been in charge of the brand since they bought it from Westinghouse in 1996 through their company, Composite Holdings. At least one other investor group was said to have bid for the brand.

The scene was reminiscent of the bidding flurry that preceded Composite Holdings’ successful offer five years ago. Then, North American Watch Corp. (now the Movado Group), was rumored to be interested, as were Bulova and at least one other citizen dive watch company.

Why do so many people want Wittnauer? It’s more than the brand’s long history and well-known name. Just as important is the brand’s ability to generate sales without a lot of promotional hoopla. As recently as 1995–when SMH U.S. (now the Swatch Group) took over U.S. distribution for Longines, breaking up the longtime Longines–Wittnauer duo, Wittnauer was a “cash cow,” says one former Wittnauer executive. It produced at least as much sales volume as Longines and much more profit, he says.

This despite its having, through much of its history, a much lower profile than Longines. Albert Wittnauer founded the brand in 1880 as a less expensive, for-the-U.S.-only alternative to Longines, for which he was the U.S. distributor. Wittnauer seldom received as much promotional support as its more glamorous sister.

Some say Bulova accutron will have its work cut out to make Wittnauer a cash cow again. Composite Holdings cut the brand’s advertising budget and had problems delivering product on time, sources say. Bulovais now evaluating the line’s stock keeping units to determine which ones did well. By spring, the company will have a full range of new models, most in the $395 to $795 range, and chiefly in the dress or dress-sport mode. The line will be Swiss; Bulova did not purchase Wittnauer’s assembly plant in Puerto Rico.

Mazzone vows that from now on the brand will get the advertising support it needs. “Wittnauer is a jewel in the rough,” he says. After some polishing, he maintains, it will surely sparkle.

As gold prices rise, retailers say gold watch sales follow

As the boom in all things luxury continues, retailers and manufacturers report heightened attention to gold watches from consumers who seek to make high-quality purchases.

We always sell more women’s gold watches than men’s gold watches because they’re given as gifts,” says Marcos Salerno, owner of Salerno Fine Jewelers in Elizabeth, N.J.

Salerno sees strong gold watch sales in both white and yellow gold–particularly those by Festina, a trend he attributes to the brand’s lower price point. Festina representatives say they have received similar feedback from other retailers.

The gold business in general–in yellow and white, but particularly in yellow–is going crazy right now,” says Phil Schwetz, Festina vice president, sales and marketing.

According to Festina President Larry Lichs, the rising price of gold and the inherent value of an 18-karat gold watch have helped drive the demand.

“People see [gold watches] as an investment,” he says.

Many retailers and manufacturers who spoke with NATIONAL JEWELER report rising sales of gold watches, although the color, price range and gender preferences seem to vary by retailer and region.

Representatives of Swatch brands Omega, Longines, Breguet and Tissot report higher demand for gold watches overall, as do those from luxury brands Patek Philippe and TAG Heuer.

“Yellow is strong, but on some models, we almost sell as many white gold as yellow pieces,” says Breguet U.S. General Manager Jean-Marc Bories. “The more esoteric the watch, the likelier it will be white. Yellow gold is safe, conservative, mainstream.”

At Tourneau, top sellers include white gold day-date Rolexes, rose gold pieces with complications from Jaeger-LeCoultre and Zenith, and ladies’ watches from Cartier and Patek Philippe, reports Senior Vice President Andrew J. Block.

“We are seeing a continuing trend in high sell-through of gold watches,” he says.

Jeff Horlacher, owner of Horlacher Jewelers in Colby, Kan., has upped the number of gold watches offered from his private-label brand, due to greater demand.

“Gold watch sales definitely seem to be higher,” he says. “I have been surprised by how well they have done lately.”

Horlacher says yellow, white and rose gold watches all sell well, with most falling into the $1,000 to $3,000 price range.

“We have been selling the daylights out of gold men’s watches,” says Sean Dunn, owner of J.R. Dunn Jewelers in Lighthouse Point, Fla. “People are really into bold watches these days.”

Men tend to prefer yellow gold watches, while ladies’ gold watches generally sell best in white, he says. Dunn’s top-selling brands include Breitling, Rolex and Corum, with gold watches routinely commanding $20,000 to $30,000 at retail.

Gold watches by Rolex, Patek Philippe and Cartier are in demand at Rummele’s Jewelers of Green Bay in Green Bay. Wisc., says manager David Tomaschefay.

“Men keep buying the watches in our market,” he says. “Guys used to buy gold chains and necklaces, but now they just buy watches. If a man owns one high-end watch, he probably owns three or four.”