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Akwa's Blog

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.


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.

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.”

Counter attack as more and more fake watches appear on the streets, brands look for ways to fight back

Lots of people buy fake watches – even O.J. Simpson – forcing brands to take a multifaceted approach to protecting their trademarks.

Simpson was in the news this month, again, after it was discovered that a Rolex Submariner watch he turned over to the court to pay off part of the judgment he owes the family of his late wife was actually a fake. According to media reports, Simpson’s civil attorney said up front that the watch had potentially dubious origins.

If even celebrities are sporting fakes, it begs the question, how legit are the sources of many consumers’ watches?

Watches enjoy a unique place among consumer products, says Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University in New York. More than any other wearable item, watches evoke images of iconic brands, family heirlooms and, often, a decidedly masculine image. Although women have many ways to express themselves through fashion, men are sometimes forced to rely on a watch to signify all the things a woman’s shoes, bags and jewelry do, she says.

Watches are not just frivolous fashion,” Scafidi says. “There is a real cultural moment around watches right now.”

The increased popularity of timepieces of all kinds has given counterfeiters more to prey on, says Brian Brokate, partner with Gibney, Anthony and Flaherty. Brokate works with Rolex and other luxury and apparel brands on anticounterfeiting efforts.

As of mid-2007, watches and watch parts were responsible for 10 percent, or $11.5 million, of counterfeit goods seized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The only categories that accounted for a larger share of seizures in the first half of this year were footwear and apparel.

Few categories seized, however, saw the dramatic increase that watches did. Watches and parts accounted for only 3 percent of goods seized, or $1.2 million, for the first half of last year. For fiscal year 2006, the most recent full year for which data is available, watches accounted for 2 percent of seizures. Those goods had a domestic value of $2.8 million.

As the number of watches seized by Customs increases it would seem to follow that more watches would be found in known counterfeit trading areas such as Manhattan’s Canal Street and Los Angeles’ Santi Alley.

A visit to Chinatown’s jewelry and accessories booths lining Canal Street reveals a long list of brands available. Readily accessible along the street are watches bearing the names or trademarks of Patek Philippe, Panerai, Dolce & Gabbana, Emporio Armani, Montblanc, Hublot, Puma, Swatch, Breitling, Chopard, Luminar, Corum, Omega, Rado, Herms, Franck Muller, Paul Frank and others.

Noticeably absent from booths are popular brands such as Rolex and Cartier. Both brands have very active anticounterfeiting enforcement programs. As a result, sources said, those brands are not always displayed up front. Instead they are often offered in a whisper to passersby, or are available on request in some stalls.

“One of [the anticounterfeiting program’s] goals is to keep the counterfeit watches out of the eye of the consumer,” Brokate says. “To be truly effective, you have to deal with the visibility problem.”

Enforcement efforts also focus on warehousing, storage and sources of fakes. The bulk of fake watches used to be manufactured in Chinatown with trademarks applied to blank faces there, Brokate says. Now the trend has shifted to a reliance on people who carry completed product in from boroughs such as Queens, where they are stored in a warehouse or other storage area. That way, he says, even when raids are conducted, only a small number of goods are confiscated.

That trend was apparent during a recent visit to Chinatown. In more than one location, Rolex watches were produced on request. One vendor, a young woman operating a sidewalk stand with a number of counterfeit watches on display, pulled out small bags of fake Rolex, Cartier and other brands after customers bought one of the brandless watches on display. One male vendor had such a small amount of product that he didn’t have a stand, and was instead doing business on a street corner in front of a restaurant.

Counterfeit watches and jewelry are much easier to hide than handbags or shoes because of their size. Sometimes watches are found inside fake handbags or secreted in a drawer, Brokate says. In online situations, hiding counterfeit goods is even easier. Web sites offering counterfeit watches or purportedly genuine watches are difficult to track, and consumers are less likely to be able to tell if goods are genuine, sources said. A Google search for “replica watches” generates more than 2 million hits.

Luxury watch brands are faced with three major threats to the integrity of their intellectual property, sources said. In addition to counterfeit watches sold in physical locations and on the Internet, some brands have been in court over genuine watches that have been altered by a third party to look like a more expensive model of a similar watch.

Cartier has been particularly active in fighting the after-market altering of watches. The brand filed a number of lawsuits over the last few years against jewelers who allegedly added diamonds to stainless steel models of Cartier watches to make them look like the gold or platinum versions.

Caption(s): Shoppers view counterfeit watches in a booth along Canal Street. / Anticounterfeiting programs work to keep fake watches out of consumer view. / Counterfeit watches representing many of the major brands are readily available on Canal Street. / As of mid-2007, watches and watch parts accounted for 10 percent of goods seized by U.S. Customs.

Calling a stone cutter a stone cutter

I was excited recently to receive another catalog from a company that identified itself as being “among the largest manufacturers and importers of the highest quality” precious and semiprecious stones. To me, this indicated that the company creates and imports stones.

But when I called to determine which stones were manufactured or man-made, I learned that by “manufacturing” stones, the company really means cutting them.

I have been creating J since 1971, and I am tired of hearing stone cutters claim to be manufacturers! If that were true, then a handmade jewelry artist/creator would also be a manufacturer, and that is the last thing I would want to say about myself, as the creator of one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Let a stone cutter be a stone cutter, let lab-created stones be manufactured stones. Stone cutters, stop claiming to be something you are not.

In a world of limited natural resources, a new demand is growing for gemstones that are not dug up out of the ground. My customers are thrilled to learn about the lack of destruction connected with lab-created stones: that fewer mountains are torn up, fewer streams polluted, and fewer miners underpaid for long, backbreaking hours of work. There will always be a demand for mined stones, but the more we learn and the more environmentally conscious we become, the more attractive man-made, manufactured stones become.

Bob Moon

Once in a blue moon

Barrington, Ill.