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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Watchmakers turn back clock

Watch manufacturers are looking back in time – to the ’40s and ’50s – for inspiration for many time-pieces for fall ’90.

Resources stress modern watches with antique twists – such as mechanical operation or antique faces – are styles worth watching.

Tourneau, a watch company that retails both modern and vintage timepieces, is confident that mechanicals and quartz watches with antique faces will garner increased business. These styles conform with the retro influence in fashion, Jack Greiff, vice-president, Tourneau, said.

He pointed out that consumers develop “a sense of personal involvement with retro watches” because the life expectacy of these models is very long.

Greiff revealed at least one-third of Tourneau’s watch business involves retro looks this year, and he noted that percentage is increasing.

He noted antique-style watches “convey a sense of status and the finer things in life. They also are timely this year, no pun intended, because of the retro trend,” Greiff said. “Without the general mood in fashion, classic timepieces would not have been so popular.”

Chevignon, a resource that specializes in classic styles in everything from overcoats to accessories, will also feature antique-looking timepieces, said Joanna Hadjiyanis, vice-president of sales and marketing.

“I think retro has been growing and growing in importance because the trend toward timeless fashion is growing,” she stated.

Bernie Costelli, vice-president of sales for Perry Ellis Watches – a line that made its debut this spring – said three pieces in the 25-piece collection will convey a retro flavor. He added that the watch dial is stained rose, in keeping with the vintage look of the ’30s and ’40s.

“Buyers have gravitated to retro looks,” he said. “There is a feeling to antique-looking furnishings that tie in with what’s happening in fashion.”

Hamilton Watches, a company that has been making watches for nearly a century, now makes authentic reproductions of timepieces that debuted in 1927, according to Jim Marsh, president.

“The antique-looking watches have all the features of a modern watch with quartz movements that are built to last,” he said.

Marsh contends that vintage watches have been on the rise because today’s values lend themselves to “traditionalism” and “formalism.” These watches also echo what’s happening with retro fashion. “Mechanical watch reproductions are gaining some minor interest,” he explained, “because they are almost anti-statements to the high-tech society that we live in.”

Retailers, too, are citing some confidence about mechanical watches and antique-looking watches. The Rogue & Good Co. in Jackson, Miss., is carrying Chevignon, British Khaki and Ghurka watches that are reproductions of classic models, according to Rea Taylor, accessories buyer there.

He said that 95 percent of watches overall at the store bear the retro look – “We’ve been successful with them because they’re a great way to accessorize traditional looks.” He expects watches to make a comeback with traditional styles at the store.

At Town & Country, Woodbury, Long Island, authentic watches that date back to the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s are making their debut, according to Tom Miller, president. He predicted that although the watches are expensive and retail for $350 or more – they will find success this fall.

Miller said antiques are “interesting and timeless,” and that because fashion is becoming simpler and more elegant, refurbished Hamilton’s and revamped Rolex’s will fit right in. People also want to attach lasting value to their money these days. Miller said, rather than jumping on “flash-in-the-pan” fads.

The old-time look goes over well because it’s a good fashion statement not because it’s a retro look. These timepieces have a fashion feeling and elegance all their own.” he concluded.

Trends at Basel and SIHH

There are several recognizable trends emerging from watch companies this year, most of them are driven directly by demand from the consumer. In frying times, watch companies have had to become more end-consumer driven, and this has resulted in a remarkable range of product from which retailers can choose.

New Colors

MANUFACTURERS ARE STILL INTRODUCING new and innovative colors. Pastel colors are quite popular, as are brighter, more intense colors. Watches with interesting color combinations are hitting the market–watches that are unusual and eye catching. Movado, Hermes, Concord, Festina, Corum, MW by Michelle, Bedat & Co., Oakley and others have offerings that feature new and interesting colors.

Diamonds, Diamonds, Diamonds

THERE IS DEFINITELY A TREND towards jewelry watches, and companies like Calvin Klein, Tissot, Ebel, Ventura, Chopard, Omega, Longines, Movado, Concord and more are responding. Omega is adding diamonds to their women’s watches and to their men’s watches as well.

Though white diamonds are the dominant color, many companies are using different colors. Ventura uses some black diamonds in their diamond watches, and Chopard offers up a number of different colored stones, including chocolate diamonds.

It’s not just diamonds, either. Many companies introduced various colors of sapphires (black, blue, red, etc.), and often matched the sapphires with the dial and strap colors.

Yellow Gold Is Back

MANY OF THE COMPANIES showing at this year’s Basel Fair are adding gold to their lines. Festina is so sure of yellow gold’s reemergence, the company just built a new gold factory in Spain that is capable of producing 2000 watches a day. TAG Heuer has added gold and two-tone watches to the line, as have Tutima, Longines, Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Piaget, Chopard, Alfex and many more.

Very Large or Very Small

COMPANIES ARE EITHER GOING WITH larger watches, ones that men and women can wear, or going with the mini watches, specifically targeted at women.

Many companies have broadened their choices in large watches, making midsize watches bigger, while other companies have gone the other way, making watches smaller and more delicate.

Complicated Watches

CONSUMERS AROUND THE WORLD are becoming much more educated about the movements that go into their watches, and companies are responding with more mechanical movements in their offerings and with increasingly complicated watches. Many companies are including or expanding the mechanical watches in their lines, including Maurice Lacroix, Hermes, Movado, Hamilton, Jaguar and more.

Mechanical watches can help reinforce or establish a watch-making tradition and satisfy customers looking for more value and more of a story when buying a watch.

Maurice Lacroix introduced an entire range of mechanical triple time zone watches, called the Masterpiece Globe, one with a mechanical alarm, further solidifying the company’s place as a maker of fine timepieces.

There are so many fine brands of high-end mechanical watches, like Patek Philippe, Dubey & Schaldenbrand, Glashutte Original, Breguet, Blancpain, Fortis, Harry Winston and more represented at Basel, reinforcing the trend towards more sophisticated timepieces.

Uniqueness

GIVEN THE PLETHORA OF BRANDS in the industry today, one way to catch the attention of the consumer is to introduce a watch that no one else has, like Tissot’s T-Touch, the industry’s first touch screen watch, or Ventura’s automatic digital watch. These watches can serve as a way in for the consumer. Even if they don’t buy that watch, they are aware of the line and more apt to buy.

Other examples of unique watches are the Swatch James Bond watches, the Hamilton Men in Black II watches, the Tutima range, including their new dive watch, the DI-300, the Fortis B-42 Mechanical Alarm, the Doxa Sub300T and many more.

Classic Styles

AT THE SAME TIME That companies are pushing the boundaries of style, mechanical complications and technology companies like Corum, Swiss Army, Longines, Hamilton, Hermes and others are bringing back styles from the past, styles that connect with the customer with a taste of nostalgia, and draw in new customers with a classic look.

Corum, which has really pushed design and style with the unique and striking Bubble line of watches, introduced a new line of classic-styled watches at Basel this year, and Swiss Army Brands is going back to the company’s roots with the newly introduced Alliance line, which features high polished watches with clean, classic designs.

Increased Versatility

IT’S MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER to have watches where the straps can be swapped out or that can show a different look depending on the wearer’s mood. MW by Michele has made watch straps extremely easy to interchange, Bedat & Co. has a wardrobe of strap styles and colors to choose from, and most other companies have a wide choice of straps that can be swapped to provide the watch with a new look. Tissot has taken that a step further with the Tissot T-win, where the black dial can be turned over to reveal a white dial.

Giving customers the flexibility to change the look of their watches as easily as they change their minds is certainly a trend most companies are aware of and one that many are addressing in their new offerings.

There you have it, some of the trends apparent as a result of the 2002 Basel and SIHH shows. This should definitely be a fun year for watches.

Fashion trends bring attention to watches

Drug chains are seeing watch sales grow as timepieces make the transition from utilitarian items to fashion accessories.

Watches have been very hot for about the past three years,” says Marilyn Phelps, the jewelry and cosmetics buyer at Keltsch Bros., which is based in Fort Wayne, Ind. “Tons of articles that have been written about watches in fashion magazines have really helped sales.”

Price is another factor that drives the watch business in drug chains. “It’s an impulse category,” says Ruben Johnson, merchandise manager at Crown Drug, a 19-unit drug chain based in Advance, N.C. “Jewelry stores don’t get into the low-end watches.”

Price plays a crucial role in generating sales of watches at Keltsch’s 19 stores. “Impulse drives the sales, especially at gift-giving times,” says Phelps. “People see them in the cases and buy them.”

Keltsch switched to carrying primarily Lorus watches last August, in part because of the eye-catching appearance of the line from Mahwah, N.J.-based Seiko Corp. of America. About 20% of the chain’s sales are in fashion watches, which are merchandised as jewelry. “They’re too fancy to be used strictly to keep time,” Phelps says.

Crown’s customers also perceive watches as fashion items. “There is definitely a pickup in interest when there’s a new style,” says Johnson.

As an example, he cites the IndiGlo watch brought to market last November by Timex Corp., Middleburry, Conn. “We could have sold a lot more of them if we could have obtained them,” he says.

Horton & Converse Pharmacies, a 20-store chain based in Newport Beach, Calif., also had trouble meeting consumer demand for IndiGlo watches. “Watches absolutely are fashion items,” says merchandising manager Robin Koon. “We’ve pretty much stuck with Timex, because it has good styles and merchandising displays.”

The chain also offers watches from Swatch Watch USA, New York. However, sales of that line have declined lately. “I’m not sure if that’s because the fad has faded or because Swatches are available in so many other stores,” says Koon.

She adds that women (who account for the bulk of her chain’s watch sales) are especially interested in the products’ appearance, while men are more concerned with brand names.

Brand loyalty is more of a matter of social standing than gender among customers at lawton’s Drugs Stores, which is based in Nova Scotia, Canada. “Young professionals look for brand names and guarantees,” says merchandise manager Michael Knowlan. “Lower grades of watches are likely to be gifts and inspire little brand loyalty.”

Lawton’s offers watches in only seven of its 70 stores because of theft, a problem mentioned by other retailers. “As a general rule, watches are not sold in most of our stores because you’d have to bolt them to the counters,” says Knowlan. “A common problem is theft of the entire display.

“We put watches in high-profile stores in communities with larger populations that can support expanded merchandise offerings.”

In those outlets, lawton’s merchandises watches in show cases affixed to cosmetics counters.

Horton & Converse also keeps its watches locked in display cases. “They would walk out the door if we didn’t,” Koon says. “They are small and most cost from $20 to $60.”

Floor cases with approximately 100 watches apiece are used in many Horton & Converse stores. Others have 2.5-foot display cases near their cash registers.

Keltsch homes its watches in 5-foot cases and countertop displays in its jewelry department, which is staffed full-time to handle customer inquiries about the small, high-price merchandise.

Crown merchandises its watches in floor stands. “They only take up a couple of square feet of floor space, but they do really well for the amount of space they get,” Johnson says.