Time trends

April 1999

Feature:April 1999

Time trends

Battery-free quartz and new materials lead the way for many new models

Many jewelers expect the same trends that fueled strong watch sales in 1998 to continue this year, fanned by interesting introductions at the major watch fairs in Basel and Geneva this month and next.

Steel continues its triumph in all price and product ranges and has even helped to boost sales of other white metal watches: platinum, silver and white gold. But there's much more to look for this year in addition to steel:

  • Big: Larger sizes for men.
  • Women's watches: Look for the number of women's watches to grow, notably with mini and sport models.
  • Titanium: For men and women, this metal remains very hot, traditionally with sport models but now with fashion too. Boccia, for example, introduced an all-titanium cuff watch for women.
  • In-touch: Also make note of the watch-sized paging and communications devices rushing to market. Some are made by watch companies (or their related electronics divisions), including Swatch, Citizen, Seiko, Timex and Casio. Most of these will be sold by electronics retailers, but your customers may ask you about them. With additional training, your staff may set up a good business in the high-tech realm.

Four more trends are likely to become very important this year: battery-free quartz watches, diamond watches, pocket watches and the use of man-made or unusual materials. Here's a closer look at each of these trends.

Seiko's Kinetic Arctura chronograph is an example of several continuing trends. It's battery-free, has a unique look and uses metal injection molding with an unusual material (urethane). Also the deployant clasp is in demand at many retail watch counters. Retail, $1,995.
Seiko Corp. of America, Mahwah, NJ; (201) 529-5730, www.SeikoUSA.com.
Titanium is no longer limited to sports. Boccia's successful all-titanium design line points to a bright future for the metal in timepieces.
Boccia, Framingham, MA; (508) 620-8755, www.boccia.com.

Quartz – No Batteries
With a kick-start by Seiko's Kinetic and Citizen's Eco-Drive several years ago and ETA's subsequent introduction of the Autoquartz, battery-free quartz watches are rapidly becoming a big category for retailers. The category now extends from dress to sport and includes diver watches and chronographs.

Many familiar companies have models that use battery-free technology in one form or another. These include Bulova, Festina, Movado, Ventura, Belair, Gruen, Oakley and most Swatch Group brands. "With the major companies placing so many consumer ads, people are more knowledgeable than ever about battery-free watches," says Chad Schreibman, co-owner of Alson's Jewelers, Cleveland, OH. "The features also appeal to our salesforce, which makes them easier to sell."

Primarily, the technology allows you to offer alternatives to standard quartz watches and to tout the hassle-free aspect of no battery replacements. It's true this will reduce the traffic generated by watch owners needing new batteries. But the category is still small compared with standard quartz or automatic watches, which still require service visits. "Plus the goodwill and satisfaction generated when we sell these watches creates a stronger customer bond than the need for a battery," says Schreibman.




Movado's Viziomatic was among the first outside the Swatch Group to use ETA's 100-day "autoquartz" movement. Retail, $1,195 for the strap model, $1,795 for the bracelet model.
Movado, Lyndhurst, NJ; (201) 460-4800, www.vizio.com.




New to Citizen's Eco-Drive line are chronographs with 80-day power reserve, including a titanium model shown at the bottom. Price range, $295-$550.
Citizen Watch Co. of America, Lyndhurst, NJ; (201) 438-8150, www.citizenwatch.com.

Mido places the Autoquartz movement from its sister firm ETA (both part of the Swatch Group) into this Multifort model. Retail, $350.
Mido, Redondo Beach, CA; (310) 212-6436.



Festina adds chronographs to its Mecaquartz line this year. These are available with nylon and leather straps or steel with Graflex bracelet. Retail, $395-$495.
Festina, Nanuet, NY; (914) 623- 8525, www.festinausa.com.


Diamond watches saw a very strong upturn in 1998 thanks to new models, new design directions and lower prices. The trend should continue this year.

"With diamonds, there is more flash and an added dimension that women appreciate very much," says Uwe Koenigsberger, president of Brokoe Mfg. Co., a gold watch- and jewelrymaker. The company's primary watch brand, Cristian Geneve, has diamonds on nearly every model in its karat gold collection for women. "Retailers can sell these quickly because the diamonds add a huge value without necessarily a substantial cost increase," says Koenigsberger.

Luxury brands such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin have known this for years and have added even more diamonds. Meanwhile, Omega's new line of Constellation Jewelry watches hit stores with a splash last year, along with handmade diamond-intensive designs, such as those manufactured by Christopher Designs, New York City. Fashion-forward watches also reach new consumers when diamonds are placed in the bezel or dial, say many suppliers and retailers. Examples include Cyma, Baume & Mercier's Catwalk, Gucci's "G," Delance, several Cartier styles and Bertolucci's Serena collection.


Here are Bulova's new women's models, two of which feature diamonds. Retail (from left), $225, $325 and $299.
Bulova Corp., Woodside, NY; (800) A-BULOVA.

Cover watches are hot, and this women's handwoven mesh 14k model is even hotter with diamonds. Suggested retail, $2,200.
Brokoe Mfg. Co., Glen Head, NY; (516) 759-5353.




With one understated diamond at 12 o'clock, this Accurate Watch for women outsells a similar piece without a diamond. Retail, $550.
Accurate Watches, Houston, TX; (800) 889-0952, www.accuratewatch.com.








Pocket Profits
For many retailers, pocket watches are a secret weapon. They sell primarily as gifts, feature keystone-plus margins, require little showcase space and appeal to men and women in all age groups. "A pocket watch sale also takes nothing away from a wrist watch sale," says Tissot U.S. President Jack Carpenter. "The consumer comes in looking specifically for a gift pocket watch."

Perhaps this explains the boom year for pockets. Import figures show a substantial increase from Switzerland last year; another increase is expected this year. "Fine retailers can sell fine pocket watches easily," says Michael Shapiro, whose company, Exclusive Time, sells Aero Swiss Pocket watches in the U.S. "We have seen very strong increases in the past year."

Pocket watches that sell for under $100 are a hot fashion trend for girls and boys, say larger retailers. Ken Genender, president of Genender Inc., agrees. His company's Levi's and Silver Tab brand pocket watches have sold tens of thousands of units since their introduction last spring. Students of all ages clip them to their belts and backpacks.


Starting from the left:
This classic two-time-zone, goldplated pocket watch from Tissot is $695 retail.
Tissot, Weehawken, NJ; (800) 284-7768, www.tissot.ch.

This is from a collection of pocket watches and gift sets from Jules Jurgensen.
Jules Jurgensen, Bala Cynwyd, PA; (800) 220-1233.

Hot items with students, these SilverTab pocket watches come with clasps and in varying styles. Retail, $55.
Genender International, Wheeling, IL; (847) 279-2080.

Material Mania
Expect more new materials to become part of the watch vocabulary. Like titanium just a few years ago, materials now entering the watch world may soon become common in straps, bracelets, faces, crowns, crystals and movements. Influences range from the automotive industry to sporting equipment to eyewear.

As with titanium, many new materials improve durability or are antiallergenic. Others provide a unique look or design. Natural rubber or nylon, for example, are being added to or combined with leather in new watchbands. In addition, Dupont Kevlar is being used as part of a sporty bracelet, and faces polished from carbon fiber are shining in a few new models.










Starting from the left:
With its tough black Dupont Kevlar band, Baume & Mercier's Hampton K draws strong responses and sales.
Baume & Mercier, New York; (212) 593-0444, www.baume-et-mercier.com.

Maurice Lacroix's Tiago series features this model with a hand-polished carbon fiber face.
Maurice Lacroix, Encino, CA; (800) 794-7736, www.mauricelacroix.com.

Zuccolo Rochet & Cie offers these sporty bracelets made with natural rubber and nylon in several colors.
Montres USA, Holbrook, NY; (888) 694-1333, www.montresstraps.com.

– by Michael Thompson

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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