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Why You Should Stock Vintage Watches

The astonishing price paid recently for a 1933 Patek Philippe is a dramatic sign of the growing demand for old quality watches.

It was the sale of the century for vintage watches. What has been called the world’s most important watch was sold for the highest price ever paid for a timepiece–and it took just minutes. The object was the exquisite 1933 Henry Graves supercomplication pocket watch, created by Patek Philippe of Geneva, Switzerland. The sale took place last December at Sotheby’s in New York City (Up Front, JCK, February 2000 p. 25).

Bidding opened at $2 million and quickly passed Sotheby’s presale high estimate of $5 million. “The mood in the room was amazingly electric,” recalls Hank Edelman, president of Patek Philippe USA, an unsuccessful bidder who hoped to win the watch for his company’s Geneva museum. As bids accelerated, “people were standing up, holding their breath.” Many of the world’s top collectors were in attendance, and others conveyed bids through a bank of 25 telephones, five times the usual number.

When the final bid–a jaw-dropping $10 million from an anonymous bidder–was hammered down after less than five minutes, there were gasps from the audience. The price of $11 million (the $10 million bid, plus Sotheby’s commission and taxes) had set a new record, tripling the previous alltime high of $3.2 million, paid in 1989 for Calibre 89, another supercomplication by Patek Philippe.

A unique masterpiece. Why such a high price? “It’s simply the most important watch ever made,” says Daryn Schnipper, director of Sotheby’s watch and clock department.

Some might argue the point. A recent panel of watch experts, for example, called 1933’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual the watch of the century, while others consider Calibre 89, with its 33 complications, the most intricate watch of modern horology. But there’s no argument that the Graves is one of the world’s most unusual timepieces and a masterpiece of Swiss craftsmanship. “It’s the Mona Lisa” of the watch world, says Bruce Shockey, editor of the Vintage Wristwatch Report.

The sale also illustrates the high regard watch connoisseurs have for Patek Philippe and caps a decade of record prices for the company’s vintage watches. Those records include the most money ever paid for a wristwatch, $1.9 million (from an anonymous Middle East collector) for a 1922 18k men’s watch (the first with a split-second stopwatch controlled by the crown); and a record $1.7 million in 1966 for the 1939 Calatrava platinum astronomic wristwatch with minute repeater (i.e., the watch strikes hours, quarter hours, and minutes when activated by a pushpiece).

Customers of the 151-year-old Geneva firm have included Queen Victoria and Albert Einstein; the company was experimenting with quartz watch technology as early as 1948. It’s precisely handcrafted watches tend to hold or increase their value more than most other fine watchmakers’ products. One new Calatrava, Patek Philippe’s best-selling model, for example, sold at a 1999 Hong Kong auction for much more than its original retail price.

The Graves sale, while unique, isn’t isolated. Other high-priced and record-breaking sales of antique timepieces indicate that interest isn’t limited to a single brand. “History tells us that every time records are broken, it affects prices for better stuhrling womens watches review watches,” says Edelman. Shockey agrees. “We’re seeing drastic increases in value for the creme dela creme in watches,” he says.

In the past six months alone, an extraordinary 1820 Piguet and Meylon heart-shaped musical automaton watch sold for $1.4 million, a world record for such timepieces, and an 1835 automatic Symparhique clock by Breguet, one of the greatest clockmakers in history, sold for $5.7 million, three times its pre-auction estimate and a world record for any clock.

Other established and admired brands–such as Rolex, Gerald Genta, Vacheron Constantin, Breitling, and Universal-also are doing exceptionally well. A rare Lange & Sohne platinum wristwatch with tour-billon escapement, made in the 1990s, recently sold for $72,900. Although not a record, that was double its pre-sale estimate. Even timepieces by newer luxury watchmakers like Franck Miller (1983) and Christian Bedat (1996) are doing well at auction and “should become even more important in the future,” notes watch expert Ovaldo Patrizzi, chairman of Antiquorum Auctioneers.

Growing demand. “The [vintage timepiece] market has been strong” since the late ’90s and is getting stronger, says Schnipper. Recent high-profile sales are one reason. “The more prices go up, the more people’s consciousness is raised, the more collectors come out, and the more interest there is in collecting [fine timepieces],” she notes. A sign of that ongoing growth is the Graves sale itself. “It’s questionable whether we would have gotten $10 million a year ago,” says Schnipper.

Economic factors, too, are spurring this market. The strong economy (reminiscent of 1989, the last time vintage watch sales surged), booming stock market, and growing prosperity have created nouveau riche collectors who can afford these mechanical marvels.

Patrizzi points out that many of the newly affluent made their fortunes in electronics, computers, or the Internet and are fascinated with the origins of today’s technology. Collecting handcrafted mechanical timepieces is a natural outgrowth of that fascination. “Horology was the beginning of our modern technology,” Patrizzi says. “Automation began in the 14th and 15th centuries, with clock mechanisms that struck hours and showed dates.” Owning vintage and antique watches is like owning pieces of the history of technology, he notes. Collectors also appreciate the artistry of unique timepieces, the horological equivalents of rare Rembrandts.

World arena. Today’s rapidly evolving technology is turning the vintage watch market into an international arena. Web sites, e-mail, telephones, faxes, and TV make it possible for both domestic and foreign connoisseurs to participate in today’s major watch auctions, whether they live in Dallas, Milan, or Tokyo. More than 1,000 viewers, for example, see reviews akribos watches, followed live broadcasts of Antiquorum Auctioneers’ year-end, record-breaking auctions in Geneva. Antiquorum’s Web site provides direct access to its computerized catalog of collectors’ watches and up-to-the-minute sales information. Vintage watch e-tailers, such as Ashford.com and Miadora.com, are also doing well.

Patrizzi believes internationalization is a healthy trend for the vintage watch market. “Due to strong, ever-growing interest from collectors in the Middle East, the United States, and Europe, the watch auction marker is on an excellent path [of growth], with high-end pieces commanding exceptional prices and even middle-priced ones in demand,” he says.

The media spotlight on record-breaking sales affects the vintage watch market in other important ways. Schnipper notes that some impressive watches are coming to marker as “more [collectors and connoisseurs] bring fine timepieces our of vaults and safety deposit boxes.”

Shortly after Sotheby’s history-making auction last December, for example, Patrizzi received “three important pieces, worth $500,000 to $1 million each” for Antiquorum’s April 2000 watch auction. “People hear the news, discover they have a fine watch, and ask us, ‘Is this for collectors?'”

Some luxury watchmakers want to influence future collectors and auctions. “More and more, the watch collection business starts the moment a watch leaves the factory,” Patrizzi notes. “The orientation of more luxury [watch] companies is to produce limited series of under 1,000 pieces–not 20,000–so you have something rare on your wrist immediately.”

The impact of record sales on collectibles’ prices dissipates at the $1,000 to $10,000 level, Shockey notes. Still, the value of timepieces in this category, too, is rising 5% to 10% annually. In a recent interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Robert Fraga, owner of Precision Time stores in Salt Lake City, noted that vintage and antique timepieces have become increasingly popular. Classic “tank watches,” introduced by Cartier during World War I and copied by others, are frequently sought, as are men’s watches from the 1930s and ’40s, Fraga said.

News of record-breakers even aids retail sales of luxury watches. Says Edelman, “It makes people think when deciding whether to buy a fine upscale watch like Calatrava, telling them they can get something that lasts 30 years and keeps its value.”

The Time Museum

The Time Museum in Rockford, Ill., the source of the Graves super-complication, was open for only 28 years, but it possessed one of the world’s great timepiece collections.

Documenting 3,000 years of progress in measuring time and developing timekeeping devices, it was founded in 1971 by industrialist, financier, and watch expert Seth Atwood, who had been fascinated with time since college. Atwood noted that he’d traveled to “hundreds of places … [many] not found in tourist guidebooks … gathering time-related artifacts.” His collection, housed in the basement of a Rockford resort motel owned by an Atwood firm, rivaled the British Museum’s clock room as well as famous collections in Europe.

The museum closed in March 1999, and in October almost 1,500 of its artifacts were sold to the city of Chicago, which will display them in its Museum of Science & Industry and Adler Planetarium. The rest- 91 masterpieces like the Graves watch-were sold at Sotheby’s last December. The auction, which saw multiple records shattered, was the greatest watch sale of the 20th century, a tribute to Atwood’s vision and collecting genius.

The One-of-a-Kind Henry Graves Supercomplication

By the early 20th century, Swiss luxury watch firm Patek Philippe, founded in 1851, was world-renowned for the quality, precision, and craftsmanship of its watches. Its many clients included two competitive U.S. watch collectors, banker Henry Graves Jr. and auto maker James Packard. Fascinated by fine horology, each sought to outdo the other with their watches, says Alan Banbery, curator of Patek Philippe’s museum in Geneva.

Packard kicked off the competition in 1916 with a pocket watch with 16 complications. He upped the ante in 1927 with a watch that had 10 complications and a star chart. Unwilling to be outdone, Graves secretly contracted with Patek Philippe in 1925 to make “the most complicated watch [ever made] … and in any case, more complicated than that of Mr. Packard!”

It was the horological equivalent of ordering the first flight to the moon. Although Patek Philippe was one of the world’s finest watch firms, it “had never been tested like that before,” says Daryn Schnipper, director of Sotheby’s watch and clock department. Its master watchmakers spent three years in research and five years designing, producing, and assembling the one-of-a-kind watch. It was delivered to a delighted Graves on Jan. 19, 1933. Graves died in 1953, and the watch eventually was acquired by the Time Museum in Rockford, III.

The sleek, slightly plump pocket watch weighs 1 lb., 3 oz. and has some 900 parts, including 430 screws, 110 wheels, 120 movable parts, and 70 jewels. In addition to hours, minutes, and seconds, it has 24 horological complications. Among them are hours, minutes, and seconds of sidereal time (based on the earth’s rotation in reference to a fixed star); sunrise, sunset, and star charts for the night sky over New York City, Graves’s home; day, date, and month; moon phases; perpetual calendar (to 2100); chronograph, with split seconds and 30-minute and 12-hour recorders; striking mechanism; and–the piece de resistance–a Westminster chime based on the fifth bar of the aria from Handel’s The Messiah, “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth.”

The $11 million sale of Henry Graves’s supercomplication pocket watch (shown here with its mean time dial) makes it the most expensive timepiece in history.

This rare 1923 men’s gold wristwatch, the first with a split-seconds chronograph, was sold for $1.9 million in November by Antiquorum Auctioneers, setting a new world record price for a wristwatch. It entered the Guinness Book of Records on Dec. 6, 1999, as “the world’s most valuable wristwatch.”

The Calibre 89, developed over a nine-year period by Patek Philippe to mark its 150th anniversary in 1989, is the world’s most intricate watch, with 33 complications. Patek Philippe purchased it at auction in 1989 for its Geneva museum for $3.2 million, making it the second most expensive timepiece in history.

The strong interest in vintage and antique timepieces isn’t limited to one brand, as evidenced by a number of sales in December. “Le Coeur,” an extraordinary 1820 Piguet and Meylon heart-shaped musical automaton watch (top), sold for $1.4 million, a world record for such timepieces. An 1835 Breguet Sympathique clock (center), made for the Duc d’Orleans and containing his original pocket watch, sold for $1.5 million, three times its pre-auction high estimate and a world record for any clock. A rare Lange & Sohne platinum wristwatch with tourbillon escapement (below), made in the 1990s, sold for $72,900.

Bulova Accutron returns as high-tech luxury watch

Accutron by Bulova, one of the best-known and technically advanced brands of the 1960s, has returned as an 18k goldplated luxury watch.

New Accutron models are designed in the U.S. and made in Switzerland. They retail for $395 to $1,095, and are intended to make Bulova Corp. an active player in the competitive 500-$2,000 segment of the luxury watch market.

Launched in 1961, Accutron quickly became a symbol of U.S. technology, thanks to a unique tuning fork mechanism that guaranteed the most accurate timing then available in commercial watches. This technology and the styling made Accutron one of the most successful watches of the era: 22 million were sold through 1982, when it was discontinued because of the success of quartz watches.

However, the brand name remained firmly lodged in the public mind. A 1990 national survey of consumers ranked it seventh among 20 leading brands (behind Timex, Seiko, Bulova, Rolex, Citizen and Gucci) even though it hadn’t been sold for almost a decade. “We recognized the Accutron name continued to have tremendous equity [with consumers] and symbolized technological achievement as well as design innovation,” says Paul Sayegh, executive vice president of Bulova.

Accutron kept its stylized tuning fork logo, though new models use quartz technology. Five collections feature 26 styles, all with three-tiered cases-its signature design. Empire models have square cases and round bezels; Reflection, round cases and integrated bezels that carry through to strap or bracelet; Millennia, all-strap angular and curved case designs. Boulevard is based on classic Accutron designs; Whisper features ultra-thin models.

The line comes with a limited 25year warranty. Each owner receives an engraved brass warranty card with his or her name and the watch’s serial number; owners’ names are kept on computer file at Bulova headquarters.

A three-stepped display stand is available featuring a three-dimensional model of the Accutron tuning fork logo cast in brass and plated with 14k gold.

  • Resources: Bulova watch reviews men
  • Contact: Bulova Corp., One Bulova Ave., Woodside, N.Y. 11377; (800)-A-Bulova or, in New York, (718) 204-3309.

Taxpayers bear much of risk in Bell Helicopter venture

Millions of dollars of Canadian taxpayers’ money is flowing down to Fort Worth, Tex., in a costly – and seemingly risky – attempt to bring jobs to Canada.

Just over a year since the Canadian Government announced its deal with Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. of Fort Worth, there is growing concern over the $275-million that the Canadian and Quebec governments are sinking into the deal.

The point of the project is to create jobs by enticing Bell Helicopter, one of the world’s largest helicopter manufacturers, to produce a new line of helicopters in Montreal. But critics charge that for their substantial investment, Canadian taxpayers are receiving no firm job guarantees and little prospect of making back their investment.

Myron Gordon, a finance professor at the University of Toronto, argues that Canada is paying too large a portion of the risky, upfront costs of the project. This is the first money that is spent and it is the most exposed. If the new line of helicopters does not sell and the plant closes, the upfront money has already been spent and is not retrievable. “What shocks me is that they (Bell Helicopter) are actually getting more money than they’re putting in,” Mr. Gordon said.

Canada is putting in a total of $275-million, while Bell is committed to investing $238- million. But while all of Canada’s investment goes into the upfront costs, only $134-million of Bell’s investment does. The rest of Bell’s investment provides the working capital for the project.

Mr. Gordon said the investment is particularly risky because it is not clear that there is going to be a significant market for the new line of light, twin-engined helicopters Bell plans to build in Montreal.

Bell is trying to break into a market that is already dominated by foreign competitors. Most industry observers think that Bell’s new product will not offer a dramatic technological improvement over other models currently on the market, which suggests Bell may have trouble penetrating the market enough to make its new Canadian operation a success. Furthermore, the best camera drone market in general is depressed, with little sign of recovery in the foreseeable future.

While venturing into a crowded market in a depressed climate is a risky proposition, Bell has managed to arrange the deal so that Canada bears most of the risk, according to Mr. Gordon.

The risky money in Bell’s Canadian venture is the $409-million needed to cover upfront costs for research and development, tooling, plant facilities and training. Of this, Canada pays $275-million, or about 67 per cent.

But Mr. Gordon argues that the deal may be even worse for Canada than it looks on paper. Using figures provided by the federal Government, he points out that, of the $409- million, there are $193-million in hard costs and $215-million in soft costs.

The hard costs involve money Bell will actually have to pay out to other people and companies in salaries, construction, facilities or equipment. The soft costs cover the expense of the research and development. These are internal costs within Bell and only Bell really knows how this money is spent, Mr. Gordon said.

Clifford Mackay, director-general of the federal Government’s electronics and aerospace branch, said Canada has a staff that closely monitors the expenditures Bell makes on R and D.

But Mr. Gordon said it would be difficult for Canadian authorities to really know how much of the Canadian money allocated for R and D will actually be spent specifically for this line of helicopters. It could easily blend in with R and D the company is doing for its other lines of helicopters, he said. “Whether it’s money that is spent in addition to all the other R and D they do or whether it’s just an accounting entry, we don’t know,” said Mr. Gordon, who has looked at this kind of problem in studying technological joint ventures in China.

If, for instance, the technology had already been developed, Bell could be getting an unusually good deal. With the $275-million it receives from Canada, it could pay all the $193-million in hard costs to build its new operations and train its Canadian staff, and still have $82-million left over, Mr. Gordon said. “If the technology is already all done, they’re going to be walking away with $82- million,” he said.

This charge was levelled in the House of Commons last January by Michael Wilson, who was then finance critic for the Conservative Opposition. Mr. Wilson, now Finance Minister, told the House at that time that an internal document of the Department of Regional Industrial Expansion indicated Bell had already done the $215-million worth of research for the best rc quadcopter and would only be putting a small amount of new money into the Montreal project.

Former industry minister Ed Lumley replied that he did not really remember the figures. He said, however, that Canada had spent some funds buying Bell’s technology.

Mr. Mackay, from the federal Government, said he is not aware of the document Mr. Wilson referred to in the House last year and Mr. Wilson could not be reached for comment.

Bell will be producing three models of the light twin-engined helicopter in Canada. Mr. Mackay said that for the last two of the three models, more than 75 per cent of the R & D will be done in Canada. But for the first model, almost all R and D is being done in Fort Worth, largely financed by Canada. Of the over-all $215-million in R and D costs on the three models, Mr. Mackay could only say that more than 50 per cent will be spent in Canada.

He acknowledged that Canadian funds are now being spent in Fort Worth, where Bell is testing a preliminary model of the helicopter to be made in Canada.

He said he could not disclose how much Canadian money has been spent on the project so far.

Jim Schwalbe, president of Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Inc., said in an interview that Bell was doing new R and D specifically for the helicopter model to be produced in Canada. But he also conceded that the costly basic dynamic systems to be used in the new helicopter had already been developed under a military program financed by the U.S. Government.

Mr. Schwalbe also said that in the contract Canada recognized $14- million (U.S.) for research Bell had already done on the new helicopter.

Invicta watches to make every event memorable

As we all know that women’s have the tendency to purchase a new outfit, footwear or any other accessory for any occasion. On the other hand, men buy only the things that are quite necessary for them and appropriate for that particular event. This is very much true when it comes to the matter of wrist watches. In this regard, Invicta watches make a beautiful timepiece for any sort of occasion where they can find themselves very attractive.

Prior to buying watches, it’s better to go through invicta watches review men which help to buy the best one. Here are some examples of the same-

Office

Every working man should know how much time they have when before leaving for office from home or before attending any other event. So, for all these purposes office watches should just not only be reliable, but also should include a style that complements the man outfit.

One such time piece is Men’s force quartz stainless steel case and leather strap watch. This simple designed watch comes with round and stainless steel, silver tone case, black matte dial and silver tone Arabic numbers. The black genuine leather strap is designed with ivory stitching and also fits the men’s wrist up to 9.5 inches.

Night out with friends

When you are planning to move out with your friends, it’s very much important to be aware of time before the last minute call. Apart from that, you can have something on your hands, so that you can view other things even in the dim light of bar and club. In a guy’s night out, sporting is something which must be very attractive and thrilling.

Invicta watches 8926’s croduba automatic stainless steel bracelet watch is an ideal choice of today’s man. This has a unidirectional bezel which sits at the top of the stainless steel case. This timepiece sweeps around luminous Arabic

Dating

When you are planning to spend your day with your women, then you would notice each and every minute detail of your evening. It would really look odd if you wear a cheap watch or sports watch. So, you should choose a wrist watch which enhances your style and radiates confidence.

When you are going out for dating, the watch that you are supposed to wear is a blue sunray dial along with rose tone Arabic numerals, which gives overall classic look and timeless quality. It looks utmost fashionable without being showy.

Playing sports

Most people don’t like to remove their watch before starting any game. So, you need a wrist watch which is very simple as well as comfortable. It should also have sufficient durability to withstand any hard hit over the watch and also without troubling others with cumbersome edges of the watch.

The invicta watch which is ideal for sports is men’s sea vulture Swiss made Quartz chronograph polyurethane strap watch. It is preferred by most of the sports people not just because of its sleek and lightweight design, but also because of the functions which are set into the case side, so that there is no chance of sticking of any foreign particles.

Thus, invicta watches review gives better idea regarding which watch to purchase.

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High tech watches leap into future

The watch industry is embracing high technology with new products such as wristwatch pagers and miniature computers. High tech functions are becoming increasingly important in the marketing of watches, and companies such as Swatch and Citizen are creating products to meet that consumer demand. For example, Swatch has Swatch the Beep pager/watch, Seiko has the MessageWatch pager/watch, and Citizen has watch that can store diving data in a tiny computer.

Flashy high tech is making a move into the watch industry.

As functionality becomes an ever-bigger factor in selling watches, a number of companies are rolling out what could be called watches of the future.

While some of the features bring to mind Dick Tracy or Agent 007, many in the watch business say the moment is right for times that make life easier and more convenient.

Swatch introduced its newest version of a wristwatch pager, Swatch the Beep, this year, while Seiko is in the midst of rolling out its MessageWatch — a pager watch plus other features — to 20 major U.S. markets this year and next. In the computer arena, Citizen recently rolled out a sports watch that can download diving data into a computer, and at least one other major U.S. watchmaker that requested anonymity said it is developing a general-application watch that can also store information and download.

If you think about it, the wristwatch is one of the few pieces of electronic gear that most people wear,” said Michael C. Park, vice president of business and network development for Seiko’ Telecommunications, Beaverton, Ore., the division Seiko created to handle the MessageWatch. “It’s really the most obvious place to start introducing portable technology into peoples’ everyday lifestyles.”

Suzy Watson, trend analyst for Timex Corp., agreed, adding that her firm is gaining momentum on the technology trail.

“Technology will definitely end up on the wrist because there is the ability to miniaturize it to that point now,” Watson pointed out. “One potentially hot area, as we see it, is sensor-based watches, items that can open a garage door or start a car. We see these types of functions definitely on the brink of being possible.”

The main goal of these and other innovations, as many pointed out, is to provide functions that people want and need. In the last several years, softer-tech items such as chronographs, dual and multiple timers and improved forms of illuminated dials have become popular features in many watch lines.

“One of the big things that is happening for us right now is functional watches,” said Kim White, merchandise manager of jewelry and watches for Federated Merchandising, the buying arm of Federated Department Stores. “People are looking for watches that fit into highly active lifestyles.”

While the audience for highly specialized items such as pager watches may not be huge, White pointed out, anything that helps people save time these days is bound to attract interest. “Whether there would be a huge audience for a watch that, say, sends faxes is hard to say,” White said. “But the main point is to give people something they find useful.”

Whatever their functions, White said, these high-tech watches won’t cut into the fashion watch business. She agrees with watchmakers that this category will be, at least for the time being, an add-on watch business. However, some makers note that some of the technology could be incorporated into fashion watches.

“Our basic philosophy is to incorporate simple, truly useful functions into our products,” said Martin Grossenbacher, executive vice president of the U.S. division of Swatch. “We don’t think consumers are all that happy with watches that have 15 different capabilities packed into one, for instance. These tend to be confusing, and often people don’t understand how to use them.”

Swatch has chosen to take a position in the pager market, which it first entered two years ago with the Piepser, a tone-only pager/watch. The Piepser recorded incoming calls with a beep signal but did not have the display screen, which meant that users had to call a service number to find the number contacting them.

Swatch the Beep represents the company’s next generation pager/watch, Grossenbacher said. The item, which was developed in conjunction with MobileComm, a division of Bell South, and introduced in April, is an oversized watch with a numeric display screen that records incoming phone numbers just as a pager would. It wholesales for about $85.

At this point, the product can only be used regionally, but the company is planning to link it into a national network next year, Grossenbacher said. In addition to being carried by home electronics chains, Swatch the Beep is being stocked by some department store and jewelry retailers, he noted.

“We see the whole aspect of communication as the direction to go in as far as high-tech developments go,” Grossenbacher noted. “The next step would be a watch that could be used as a phone.”

Seiko is another company hot on the trail of the pager craze, having spent the last three years developing the MessageWatch, a digital watch with a display screen for incoming calls and information. The pager receives numbers of up to 16 digits as well as messages such as “call home” and “call office.” For an extra fee, users can subscribe to a service that runs everything from breaking news to lottery numbers across the display.

“The sky is the limit as far as the informational applications go,” said Seiko’s Park. “When we first started test-marketing the watch, it just had the pager capabilities and we found that people wanted more. It’s the ‘information is power’ idea.”

The MessageWatch, which wholesales for about $50, is now being sold only in Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash., and so has just regional applications. But, Park said, “our current goal is 20 U.S. markets in two years, and we’re in the middle of negotiations with radio networks around the country.”

Seiko’s aim is to eventually put together its own international network into which its watches can be hooked.

Computers are developing as the technology of choice for others such as Citizen, which launched its PC-compatible Hyper Aqualand dive watch last spring. This watch contains several sensors that record diving information while the wearer is underwater. Later, the watch can be hooked into its own communication unit, an interface device that, when connected to a computer, allows the information recorded by the watch — such as dive times, maximum depths and water temperatures — to be downloaded into the computer’s system.

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Fashion’s big names are getting their hands on watch lines, hoping to broaden their brand cachet on the main floor

When it comes to determining the time these days, there are a number of high tech options at any woman’s disposal, from her cell phone to her iPod, BlackBerry or Palm Pilot. Nevertheless, watches continue to go beyond their functionality to bedazzle consumers, and now a whole new group of designer brands is taking note.

In the past year alone, more than a half-dozen brands have inked watch deals, with high-wattage names like Michael Kors, Jennifer Lopez, Perry Ellis and, most recently, Marc Jacobs leading the charge and giving main-floor regulars such as Anne Klein, Kenneth Cole, Guess and Emporio Armani some new competition.

Jacobs and Kors, along with Bollman Hat Co., makers of Kangol hats, have sealed licensing deals with Fossil. Lopez’s Sweetface Fashions has teamed up with E. Gluck for JLo watches. SII Marketing International, a division of Seiko Instruments, is hoping its line for Perry Ellis will build on renewed interest in the brand now that hot designer Patrick Robinson is in charge of the creative direction. Also, Givenchy is getting refreshed through a new distribution deal with the SWI Group.

But can designer clout turn into big sales when main-floor watch real estate is already at maximum capacity? A hot name with an established commercial audience in other product arenas, such as apparel, doesn’t necessarily guarantee the public’s appetite for a watch emblazoned with the same name.

“Everyone wants to go where there have been significant successes,” said Charles Kriete, president of the Geneva Watch Company, maker of several highly successful licensed watch brands, including Kenneth Cole and Tommy Bahama. “Everyone envisions being the next Gucci, but it’s rarely that easy.”

Kriete added that there needs to be a clear message. “You need to be able to practically picture what the watch will look like even before it’s made.”

For newcomers to the watch business, this is an ambition they all hope to achieve.

MARC JACOBS

Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs, acknowledged that the development of Jacobs’ watchesmay be an evolving process.

I recognize the challenge from when we first started working on watches [for Louis Vuitton],” he said (Jacobs also designs the Louis Vuitton collection). “The details are key: A strap or detail on the face becomes a signature.”

He added, however, “I know one thing: Every time we’ve gone through this process, you learn as you go.”

Duffy couldn’t be too specific about the details of either the Marc Jacobs Collection or the Marc by Marc Jacobs watch lines, both of which are slated to bow in May of next year, but he did say their own love for watches was part of the reason why he and Jacobs decided to proceed with the license.

“We experimented with watches at Louis Vuitton, and they have become very interesting to Marc and I,” said Duffy. “Neither of us started wearing a watch until we were 30, but in the last 10 years I’ve started collecting them. We all wear watches; it’s an emotional decision.”

Duffy said both brands will include women’s and men’s watches and that they will expand upon the aesthetic of both the collection line and the diffusion line.

“Collection is really known for understated fashion. It’s about luxury, but not with a bang — more like a whisper,” Duffy said.

For Marc by Marc Jacobs, he said, “We’ll have a blast; we can go crazy with whatever colors or prints we do each season.”

Duffy said the watches will go into Jacobs’ own stores, then into key Jacobs retailers like Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.

JLO

Andy Hilfiger, president of Sweetface Fashions, said he’s not worried about main-floor competition. He compared the ebb and flow of brands in the watch world to the rotation at Top 40 radio stations. “Just like with the radio, a new song comes on, another one goes off.”

Hilfiger said adding watches to JLo’s product categories was in response to the popularity of the watch, as well as an effort to expand upon the line’s lifestyle statement.

“Part of it is about building the whole lifestyle, but in both the music and fashion worlds, watches are a big accessory,” Hilfiger said. “Everyone wears cool watches. Jennifer is definitely a big watch wearer, and the designs reflect Jennifer’s lifestyle.”

The watches launched at better department and specialty stores this month for holiday, and the looks draw from Lopez’s glittering stage style, with many bright colors and crystal accents. The line will range from $70 to $195 at retail.

MICHAEL MICHAEL KORS

Michael Michael Kors watches, which hit major department stores this month, also build on Michael Kors’ lifestyle, accentuating what many have called his “carpool couture” sensibility.

“Michael Kors brings a sense of realistic fashion,” said Alex Cushing, brand manager for Michael Michael Kors at Fossil. “It’s achievable and understandable, yet sexy and still fashionable — and also has a ton of quality and value.”

Cushing said the line focuses on classic round and tank shapes, some with chunky buckle closures. Other features include day/date calendars, full working chronographs and a signature second hand in orange, a favorite Kors color. Retail prices range from $80 to $150.

PERRY ELLIS

Stuart Cameron, director of marketing and design at SII Marketing International, said this will be the second time that Perry Ellis is offering watches bearing the company’s name, after a previous license with Genender International ended about four years ago. This time around, however, pricing is more competitive, with the watches retailing from $75 to $110.

The design will also better match the classic feminine positioning of the apparel collection, which has received positive reviews in recent seasons, although Cameron was quick to point out that the watch collection isn’t translated directly from the apparel, but rather “tells the overall story.”

We asked ourselves what it is about a woman that is appealing; we looked at curves and lines,” Cameron explained. “The feeling is sort of Audrey Hepburn for today.”

Cameron described the Perry Ellis watch line as being centered around classic styling, with a lot of attention to detail.

“We worked closely with the team at Perry Ellis and came up with exclusive details,” he said. “We tooled everything from scratch. The crowns are unique, the hands have nice details, and the colors and dial treatments have a sheen that is very subtle.”

The 22-style women’s line, along with the men’s line, debuted at wholesale during the August accessories market, and is expected to turn up in main-floor departments for spring.

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Movado posts gain and gets coach license

Movado Group Inc. made news on two fronts on Tuesday: It reported a 12.9 percent gain in its third-quarter profits and announced a licensing agreement to produce a full line of watches under the Coach brand.

The licensing agreement is the first for the prominent Coach leather goods brand. The 10-year contract gives fine watchmaker Movado the exclusive worldwide rights to design, manufacture and distribute Coach watches for men and women.

The Coach watch collection will debut at the Basel Watch Fair in Switzerland in April 1998, and it be launched in Coach stores and fine jewelry departments of select department and specialty stores beginning that spring. In addition, the line will be sold through Coach’s catalog, which is mailed to more than 8 million households in the U.S.

After the U.S. launch, the watches will be rolled out internationally in fall 1998, according to Lew Frankfort, chairman and chief executive officer of Coach.

Watches are a natural extension of the Coach franchise,” said Frankfort, interviewed along with Efraim Grinberg, Movado’s president. “According to our consumer research, fine watches are frequently associated with leather goods. Also, both are accessories, which are often sold in adjacent and similar environments.”

Frankfort added that quality and long-term value were the reasons behind choosing the higher-end watch market instead of the more volume-driven fashion watch arena.

“Our products need to provide lasting value. Both companies agreed that we needed to produce and position the watch line at a price that would meet and exceed our consumer’s expectations. We also found through our research that our customers own watches at and above these price levels,” Frankfort said.

This is Movado’s first foray into working with an established consumer brand outside of the watch field. While neither executive would give a sales projection, Grinberg predicted the venture will be a “home run,” positioned above such watch brands as Seiko and Citizen and very competitive with such names as Gucci, Raymond Weil and even his firm’s Movado brand.

“There is a big opportunity here. We are looking for voids in the marketplace. Coach will fill a void for classic dress and elegant sport watches,” said Grinberg.

The Coach line’s retail price range — from $195 to $795 — is higher than the Movado Group’s ESQ line and lower than its Movado line.

Coach watches will feature Swiss movements and both leather strap and bracelet models. Frankfort said the watch collection will also incorporate signature Coach elements like its range of colored leathers for straps, for example.

Coach, founded in 1941, is a division of Sara Lee Corp., with worldwide distribution of its products for men and women, which include handbags, business cases, belts, small leather goods and shoes. Coach men’s apparel, launched in September 1995, is sold in select U.S. markets.

Meanwhile, Movado’s profits in the third quarter ended Oct. 31 rose to $7.35 million, or $1.22 a share, from $6.5 million, or $1.08, a year ago. Sales also advanced 12.9 percent, to $76.9 million from $68.1 million.

“Gross margins improved throughout the year, benefiting from continued growth in our manufactured brands Movado, ESQ and Concord,” said Grinberg. Gross margins in the latest quarter increased to 55.9 percent of sales from 53.1 percent a year ago.

Grinberg said the company saw particularly strong performances of its new lines. “Veneto, our recent introduction in the Concord brand, and Vizio, our new Movado watch, have been well-received in both domestic and international markets,” he said.

In the nine months, profits rose to $8.6 million, or $1.42, from $6.9 million, or $1.15, after a $600,000 one-time pretax accounting charge in connection with adoption of new accounting standards relating to amortization of advertising production costs.

Sales moved ahead 13.1 percent to $158.6 million from $140.3 million. Gross margins rose to 55.4 percent of sales from 53 percent.

Although earnings in the latest quarter beat Wall Street estimates of $1.20, Movado’s stock in over-the-counter trading Tuesday slipped 3/4 to close at 26 1/2.

In addition to its Movado and ESQ watches, Movado manufactures and distributes Concordwatches. It also is the exclusive distributor of Swiss-made Piaget and Corum watches in the U.S., Canada, Central America and the Caribbean.

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Price rite

Perhaps Bob Barker has a point. When it comes to jewelry and watches, the past year has proven that consumers feel the price needs to be right.

With the exception of Rolex, Tiffany and Swiss Army Brands, most names on the category-specific top 10 list offer merchandise less than $100, and that’s an unusual feat in a sector where upscale brands have mammoth marketing budgets, frequently bombarding shoppers with eye-catching advertising visuals in media outlets from magazines and movies to prime time television.

It’s hardly surprising that the more mainstream brands have generally fared so well. In the post-2000 economic downturn, the upscale fine jewelry and watch sector was one of the hardest hit, even though it has rebounded and is now doing well. Customers typically delayed their high-end purchases, stashed their cash and stayed home to avoid the temptations offered in lofty retail environments such as exclusive jewelry salons.

Pricing became an issue and customers turned to the Internet and more moderate chains like Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney to find deals on diamonds. Brand recognition was and remains high for value-oriented brands.

Total jewelry and watch sales in the U.S. are estimated to have been $43.56 billion in 2003, according to 2 Degrees Freedom Ltd., a London-based marketing and research consultancy that began tracking jewelry sales last year. According to the Commerce Department, 2002 jewelry and watch sales were $42.3 billion in the U.S., and the department predicts 2004 sales of $48.3 billion.

To capitalize on the current momentum of better values in watches and jewelry, many companies have stepped up their marketing efforts and added value to their collections by offering more innovation and teaming up with fashionable designers.

Case in point is number one jewelry and watch brand Timex. The Middlebury, Conn.-based Timex Corp. has reengineered its legendary tag line, “It Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking,” after 50 years. The updated version reads simply, “Life is Ticking.” In addition, Timex is upping its design quotient and recently collaborated with industrial designer Karim Rashid, contemporary artist Dave Kinsey and fashion designer Matthew Williamson for new limited-edition Timex XFactor watches.

Number two Seiko hasn’t been resting on its laurels, either. The company, whose U.S. division is based in Mahwah, N.J., continues to wow customers with innovations, and is launching a Sportura chronograph (stopwatch) this fall.

The fourth most recognized watch brand in America is Casio, which has snared a youthful customer with its fun G-Shock collection, and also has stepped up its innovation in recent months by introducing watch designs that use solar technology. The Japanese brand also has been building consumer recognition with its growing assortment of electronic merchandise such as digital cameras and electronic musical instruments.

Placing fifth, Swatch continues to be noticed by consumers with its fun and whimsical collections, such as the recent Bunnysutra line, which featured illustrations of bunnies in suggestive positions, causing much controversy and press hype that ultimately served to heighten brand awareness.

In the women’s sector, number six Citizen has been building momentum with ladylike designs featuring diamonds, crystals and mother-of-pearl details in styles such as Stiletto, Riva and Aviara, but it, too, is playing the techno card: Its watches run on solar power instead of batteries. Citizen is particularly known to sports fans, as it is a sponsor of major tournaments.

Swiss Army Brands, which took the seventh spot, has been equally aggressive to build market share. A depressed economy might have hurt the company, known for its signature pocketknives, but Shelton, Conn.-based Swiss Army is building consumer recognition with its watches, apparel, travel gear and kitchen cutlery.

Close behind is Fossil, in eighth place. The company has been spreading its wings by making new acquisitions, such as its recent purchase of Tempus International Corp., which operates as MicheleWatches, and acquiring the licenses for Burberry and Zodiac watches.

Number nine Bulova, meanwhile, is looking to bolster its presence in consumer minds with an ad campaign this fall featuring its new diamond-adorned sport designs, as well as a renewed effort to enter the European market, particularly in Italy and Germany.

While there’s quite a bit of action in the moderate field, the high-end business anticipates a rosier future. Many upscale retailers said the free-spending customer has returned in recent months, and they look for a strong fourth quarter with up to 20 percent gains in sales, thanks to a rising stock market and a healthier job picture.

That’s good news for the likes of Tiffany and Rolex, which are expanding their assortments this year. Number three Rolex, for instance, made a departure of sorts by launching the roaringly wild Cosmograph Daytona watch featuring yellow sapphires on the bezel and a wild, animal-print strap. The new watch will surely attract a younger, if not more extroverted, customer that usually gravitates toward fashion brands.

At number 10, Tiffany & Co., meanwhile, has boosted its engagement collection earlier with the next Legacy ring, and in September, will be launching a complete “Atlas” collection of watches and jewelry.

The Top 10: Watches & Jewelry

1. Timex

2. Seiko

3. Rolex

4. Casio

5. Swatch

6. Citizen

7. Swiss Army

8. Fossil

9. Bulova

10. Tiffany

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Women’s watches have gone from the bold to the beautiful in a return to elegance

Dainty does it. Watchmakers, after a few seasons of issuing men’s wear-inspired clunkers made feminine with the addition of crystals or different colors like pink, are returning to fine jewelry influences and petite proportions designed with the ladies in mind. The turnaround coincides beautifully with ready-to-wear’s resurgence of tailored suits, subdued colors and flirty, yet classic elements like trumpet skirts and polkadots.

Fashion dictates a smaller watch now,” said Patric Zingg, general manager of Hamilton, a watch line owned by The Swatch Group in Weehawken, N.J. Since Hamilton pioneered the concept of creating a stand-alone women’s watch collection in the early 20th century, according to Zingg, the brand’s recent transition to smaller timepieces has been seamless. “Ladylike looks are in our DNA,” he said.

One example Zingg cited is the revival of the Lady Hamilton style from the Thirties. Though designed in the same tonneau shape, the new Lady Hamilton is made of stainless steel instead of its original white gold or platinum. Two bracelet styles and a style with a leather strap in red, black or white retail between $295 and $500 at Macy’s East. A satin strap in black or white makes its debut late spring.

Zingg said one of the biggest selling factors with the new Lady Hamilton is the reasonable price. “This trend is usually represented through fine jewelry,” he explained.

Carried at Federated department stores for $58 or $72, Peugeot watches really deliver the trend for a steal. Peugeot’s biggest hit is a thin rectangular case in yellow gold with a leather strap in black, tan or turquoise. The company will add striped grosgrain ribbon for summer and leather in camel, royal blue or berry, and some possible tweeds and wools, for fall. Peugeot’s national sales manager Sean Sherman said anything white, such as a mother-of-pearl face with a white crocodile-printed leather strap, is also selling. Mother-of-pearl faces appear on gold or silver chain-link bracelets, too.

“The market overdid the bling-bling large trend, so it’s going back to traditional again,” said Sherman, who observed the changeover in the fourth quarter of 2004. Half the collection has more dainty proportions compared with 20 percent last year. “Smaller pieces are checking so much better that we may increase to 60 percent and reissue retro styles,” he said.

But it’s not just established watch houses with decades of meticulously kept archives that are looking back at ladylike, jewelry-influenced retro styles. BCBG, which launched its watch division in February, shows Thirties-inspired cocktail watches in materials like rose gold, stainless steel and mother-of-pearl. Leather straps are hot pink, brown, white or teal, and 40 percent of the collection is now allotted to metal bracelet watches. The looks retail between $95 and $350 at department stores including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Marshall Field’s.

“People are going back to elegant. Big watches are completely dead for us,” said Dina Crisco, a national sales manager for Long Island City, N.Y.-based Geneva Watch Company, which licenses BCBG.

Crisco attributed the demise of bold watches to oversaturation, especially when retailers splashed the look all over holiday advertisements after it had already been done to death in spring 2004. “Everyone had oversized, glitzy, pink watches, and it backfired,” she said.

Estimating more than 60 percent of Geneva’s watch business is dedicated to small and even miniature styles, Crisco predicted the trend should run through spring 2006.

Kenneth Cole, another Geneva brand that sells for $75 to $125 at Nordstrom, Parisian and Federated department stores, features classic cases and neutral colors. “Cases aren’t in those crazy shapes anymore, and we’re seeing growth in earth-tone straps, yellow gold and textured faces like mother-of-pearl,” said Crisco, whose top seller is a narrow, rectangular shape with Roman numerals and a silver or white face.

Fossil, a Richardson, Tex.-based multibrand watch company that licenses Michael Michael Kors and DKNY, experienced a jump in sales this spring due to the emergence of women’s watches with a jewelry feel, according to Brad Beach, vice president of watch design and product development. “Small and feminine is the biggest trend now,” he said of the vintage-inspired pieces.

Beach said Michael Kors combines watch materials in a manner similar to how they are working with materials in sunglasses, like mixing leather and a metal chain or white plastic and gold. The line also incorporates gold or silver mesh, identification chain bracelets and charms for items that retail between $110 and $150 at Macy’s. “Bigger watches are just sportier by nature, whereas small sizes are more versatile and can go from casual to dressy to true evening much easier,” said Beach.

Basing its collection on the spirit of romance, DKNY shrinks its cases and decorates them with stones and leather straps in girly pinks and lilacs. Fluid silver mesh, which Beach said continues to be a strong platform, sends a feminine message, as well. Watches sell for $85 to $125 at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and DKNY retail stores.

Kim Anderson-Curry, senior vice president of marketing and product for Callanen, a watch designer, manufacturer and distributor in Norwalk, Conn., said small, tailored watches are important to its Guess brand. In January, Guess introduced a smaller, elongated case with crystals on a silver-toned metal bracelet for $85. For Mother’s Day, the company plans to add a rectangular, crystal-enhanced case in stainless steel with a mother-of-pearl face and leather strap in white, pink or black for $85. It also has designed a watch on a multistrand chain with an engraved locket for $85 in silver or $95 in gold.

We see a strong fine jewelry influence,” said Anderson-Curry, who oversees accounts at Macy’s and Watch Station in addition to Guess retail stores.

Since the brand’s broad audience means it can’t walk away entirely from oversized looks, it also is doing “bold watches with feminine twists like five-strand pearl bracelets or cases of gold-toned metal and crystals,” according to Anderson-Curry.

She added, however, that Thirties-inspired watches are what’s to come. “Based on the ready-to-wear trends,” she explained, “I see the small, retro trend having a longer life than 2005.”

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Watch world: watches are making timely advances

After a couple of relatively dull seasons, the watch arena is perking up.

With new product offerings in the fashion category and more entries in the burgeoning bridge segment, watches should be a strong classification from fall through the crucial fourth quarter.

Besides obvious additions like an injection of color and more high tech functions, there is a notable turn toward seemingly disparate themes like retro, modern or feminine, fine jewelry looks. While this sudden broad array of product may initially overwhelm retailers, in the end, buyers have a unique opportunity now to reassess assortments and add some punch to their presentations.

Bridge is among the most important areas to focus on. There, vendors are banking on a scenario similar to what took place several years ago in jewelry: Sterling silver took off in stores and has now earned a permanent place in jewelry departments. With consumers upgrading the quality of their accessories purchases in general, fashion vendors are starting to place more focus on improved movements and original details and styling, rather than the stock cases, bezels and bracelets that were previously seen ad nauseum across many brands. The result is an influx of names with a fashion following, at a price point in an area known more for stodgy brands with little fashion impact.

“In our [Guess] Collection line, we’re filling a void for watches priced in the $115 to $300 range, that also offer a look not seen in fashion watches,” said Cindy Livingston, president of Callanen International, who pointed out the dearth, until recently, of any quality, branded watches between the fashion and fine areas.

“The reaction to unique details has resulted in such tremendous sell-throughs that we’re moving into an even wider assortment for the third quarter and beyond,” she said. “We will have bridge presentations in about 250 doors by the end of this year.”

At Ecclissi, the strategy is to maintain what is considered to be a leadership position in the bridge area, according to president Robert Elizondo, who recently moved most of his firm’s operations here from its longtime base in El Paso, Tex.

“There’s no question that we’re increasing our product development efforts,” said Elizondo. “We needed access to more talent and suppliers to maintain our status as one of the first with sterling silver and the broadest assortment. Stores need to be able to choose from a large number of sku’s, which we provide. Now, we’re trying to address a wider range of price points and give many buyers an opportunity [to carry the brand].”

Ecclissi’s wholesale price range has been broadened to $50-$200 from $100-$170. Elizondo said the new products should give retailers gains of “at least 10 percent.”

“We’re seeing gains of over 30 percent through a mix of same-store sales and an expanded number of doors,” he said.

Jewelry designer Alejandro Toussier is launching his first collection of watches this month, hoping to build on recognition garnered from his bridge jewelry line and satisfy a longtime passion.

“I’ve collected vintage watches for years,” said Toussier. “And when my [jewelry] customers started asking for watches, it gave me the push I needed to give them a try.

“But I wanted to offer strong design and quality for half the price, making pieces that were comparable to those retailing in the $800 to $2,000 range.”

Toussier’s debut collection features about 155 styles, some with a distinctively retro feeling, while others are clean and contemporary. All have Swiss movements and cases with Italian or French bracelets and straps. They retail from $350 to $850.

Vendors sounded a note of caution about the potential success of bridge watch departments, however. They stressed that stores must be committed to merchandising, display and especially professional sales staffing capable of selling better watches.

The concern is so great that some firms — like Alfex of Switzerland — are limiting their distribution while waiting to see how retailers handle bridge before getting too involved.

Alfex currently only sells to Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue because they are among the few retailers that have demonstrated the ability to sell bridge watches, according to Dan Bogue, director of sales and marketing at Alfex.

Meanwhile, the fashion segment is getting behind novel bracelet treatments, smaller scale and more feminine looks and new takes on sport watches.

“There are a lot of sleek, contemporary influences coming out of Japan and Asia now, and silver looks are still a definite trend,” said Callanen’s Livingston, referring to straps that are half bracelet, half bangle and often paired with rose or mink-colored faces.

Besides Callanen’s Guess brand, these looks are available from numerous other resources and will be seen increasingly as the year goes on.

At Anne Klein II, vice president Tammy Bernstein said the firm sees “a big trend for a bit more dressed-up lifestyle,” presenting a big opportunity for the brands’ classic ladylike looks. In fact, the company will launch Anne Klein II Classics — a series of signature styles featuring small-scale, fine jewelry-looking watches — at the end of May.

Bernstein said while sporty looks remain strong for the firm, “chunky sport has peaked for us.”

“Women now want simpler, more refined details in cleaner looks,” she added.

CK Calvin Klein is building on the minimal line launched last November with evolutions of its initial styles, “very graphic, active and sleek pieces,” that aptly represent Klein’s minimalist view, according to a spokesman.

The new pieces feature rubber straps where the holes are hidden, except for the one punctured by the wearer for the correct tightness. The watches are unisex, and the rubber is similar to the material used on the stopper of the designer’s CK Be fragrance, sending a strong, consistent message to consumers about the CK brand.

Also focused on maintaining brand image with the right product is Genender, which has laid out distinct characterizations for its Perry Ellis, Levi’s and Dr. Martens lines.

“Many fashion watches have strayed from their brand soul in an effort to maximize distribution,” said Ken Genender, president and chief executive officer.

The Perry Ellis line has an almost Fifties sensibility, with classical styling; Levi’s and its Silver Tab line are distinctly American and individualistic, with a Sixties flair, and Dr. Martens is the edgier, metal-trimmed street line.

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