Daily Archives: October 2, 2015

The top 10 watches/jewelry brands ranked by consumer awareness

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It’s a booming business for the world of fine watches. What’s boosting those bottom lines? The tiniest of details, including minute repeaters and tourbillons, one of the most highly regarded and expensive watch mechanisms. In addition, products that are sold in limited quantities are highly coveted among consumers. “Limited edition is one of our fastest-growing categories,” Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, vice president of Chopard, told WWD in April. Candy Udell, president of London Jewelers, agreed. “The very upper end is really driving the market,” she said. Below, a look at top brands inwatches and jewelry based on consumer awareness, updated from its original printing in July’s issue of the WWD 100.

1) TIMEX

Consumers who were very familiar with this brand: 68.8 percent

Even this well-known Middlebury, Conn.-based watch brand, which has prided itself on well-made items at fair prices, has added diamonds into its collection for women. “These timepieces bring the extravagance of hand-selected diamonds to an affordable accessory, meant to be gorgeous but versatile,” said the company. The brand also has introduced its Hi-Ti line, a fashionable yet sporty collection for women that uses lightweight titanium on resin straps and a digital face.

2) SEIKO

52.1 percent

Coming it at number two is Seiko, the 126-year-old watch brand that continues to introduce innovative products within its collections. Recently, the brand has offered its Elite collections, which feature the Sportura, Arctura and Coutura collections – all of which have unique incentives, including tachometers, chronographs and solar conversion panels. In October, Seiko – headquartered in Tokyo – relaunched its Web site to feature its own line of watches to the site’s visitors. Stated the company: “For the past several years, Seiko’s global Web site has witnessed rapid expansion in the number of visits; in 2007, so far the increase over 2006 is more than 30 percent. This surge in demand is a reflection of the growing importance of the Web as a source of ‘consideration’ information for prospective buyers of Seiko.”

3) SWATCH

42.4 percent

In August, Swatch Group reported a 39.4 percent jump in earnings for the first half of the year, boosted by continued demand for watches and jewelry worldwide. The Sweden-based company said earnings rose to 460 million Swiss francs, or $377 million, on sales that gained 17 percent to 2.7 billion Swiss francs, or $2.2 billion. “With its 18 brands in all price categories, the Swatch Group continues to benefit from strong worldwide demand for watches and jewelry,” the company said. Current watch collections for the brand include Sweet and Fantasy, Spirit of the Night, Winter-Sport, Olympic and Puzzle Motion.

4) FOSSIL

41.4 percent

In November, Richardson, Tex.-based Fossil announced its most recent financial results: For the third quarter ended Oct. 6, net sales increased 19.6 percent to $358.6 million compared with $299.7 million in the same period a year ago, while gross profit grew 26.2 percent to $187 million. Mike Kovar, senior vice president and chief financial officer, stated, “Successful innovation in our watch offerings, capitalizing on the worldwide acceptance of our portfolio of watch and jewelry brands and expansion of our direct-to-consumer businesses are providing us with a sustained platform for growth in sales at increasing rates of profitability.” Fossil lets consumers design a watch at the “Watch Bar” section of its Web site.

5) ROLEX

41 percent

Headquartered in Geneva, Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsford and first became known as Rolex in 1908. With 4,000 watchmakers in more than 100 countries, the company continues to expand its long history of innovation with its limited edition jeweled styles, which feature sapphires and rubies. In addition, the brand’s oversize watches – which are created for both men and women – are also highly coveted by consumers.

6) BULOVA

40.4 percent

Founded in New York City in 1875 by Joseph Bulova, a 23-year-old Bohemian immigrant, Bulova remains an American-owned-and-operated company to this day. In order to cater to its luxury consumer base, Bulova has developed its new Caravelle collection, which features diamonds on a stainless steel bracelet. They can be worn during the daytime right into evening. Other popularwatches for the brand can be found within the Accutron and Wittnauer collections.

7) CITIZEN

38.9 percent

This watch company was established in 1924 in Tokyo. Today, it remains focused on sporty yet sophisticated timepiece offerings. The brand features its Eco-Drive technology, which uses a solar conversion panel and energy cell as the power provider for its quartz watches. Additionally, Citizen manufactures collectors’ watches, including the Skyhawk Collection, which bears the colors and logo of the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron.

8) CASIO

38 percent

This electronics giant, with headquarters in Tokyo, fuses digital and analogue technologies into its Waveceptor and Dress watch lines. In addition, it has expanded its G-Shock series to include a line of watches that are “dressy enough to be worn with a business suit and casual enough for other occasions,” Dave Johnson, senior general manager of the Casio timepiece division, told WWD in a statement in July. He added, “A watch is an essential style element for any consumer, and Casio is paying attention to these kinds of details with this new line.”

9) SWISS ARMY

35.7 percent

Though the Swiss Army knife remains the centerpiece product of Schwyz, Switzerland-based Victorinox’s business, the brand also features a vast collection of fine watches, as well. A military-inspired look remains popular for the watch collection, and prices for its limited edition pieces can run consumers into the tens of thousands of dollars. For example, its Legacy-Rserve de Marche Platine, which is limited to 60 units, is currently listed at $19,500. The timepiece carries a new mechanical self-winding movement equipped with a power reserve indicator and is decorated with perlage and Ctes de Genve finishes.

10) TIFFANY

33.4 percent

Known best for its fine jewelry for the masses, New York-based Tiffany & Co. also has hit it big in the world of fine watches. The brand has ramped up its evening watch collections with a number of different diamond styles. Paloma Picasso, for example, who designs a line for the retailer, created a limited edition watch within her Queen of Hearts collection. And The Tiffany Mark collection carries The Tiffany Mark round watch, which features a quartz resonator, round brilliant diamonds, 18-karat white gold and a black satin strap. The Tiffany Mark small bracelet watch is offered in stainless steel, with self-winding hour, minute and second hands and a date window.

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New Ideas Have Swatch Ticking Again

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We went from being a dying brand six months ago to having a huge success with the chronograph watch,” said Chris Keigel, vice president of sales for Swatch Watch USA, here.

Indeed, Swatch, fueled by the chronograph, probably has had one of the most dramatic turnarounds in U.S. brand merchandising annals.

Since its introduction in mid-June, the chronograph, retailing for $80, has sold out in department stores across the country. Swatch has kept the distribution limited, but that’s the way Swatch likes it, and apparently that has only helped to whip up the excitement. The chronograph is currently sold in only 300 of Swatch’s total 3,000 U.S. doors.

“That figure will eventually double, but we will always keep it somewhat limited,” said Keigel.

“We’ve had 100 percent sell-through on the chrono, and my only concern is that we’re not going to have enough for the holiday season,” said Helen Welsh, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of women’s accessories and handbags at Saks Fifth Avenue.

“When we launched the Swatch chrono this summer, the response was absolutely incredible,” said Joanne Hart, fashion director of accessories at Macy’s Northeast.

Hart said the chrono has been a huge success because “it has the same mechanisms found in high-price watches, plus the whole active and sport watch area has been a phenomenal category.”

Swatch’s parent firm, SMH, Inc., based in Biel, Switzerland, declined to cite any figures, but industry sources estimate Swatch currently has worldwide sales of $300 million to $400 million.

Swatch Watch USA’s 1991 volume is estimated at more than $50 million. Keigel said sales are 50 percent ahead of 1990.

Worldwide, our business has been growing at a phenomenal pace, with a growth rate of 20 percent, but we’ve had some problems in the U.S.,” said Ernst Thomke, acting president and chief executive officer of Swatch Watch USA and a creator of Swatch. He divides his time between Biel and New York.

Keigel said sales in the U.S. declined 10 percent annually between 1987 and 1990.

When Swatch was first introduced in the U.S. in 1983, the $25 plastic watch took the market by storm. It changed watches from functional, basic timepieces to fashion accessories.

Watch executives cite several reasons for the downfall of Swatch. One reason is that the market was flooded with plastic fashion watches. After a couple of years, the consumer grew tired of the look.

Thomke said the failure of the short-lived apparel line, which was introduced only for the U.S. in 1986 and discontinued in 1987, was another reason Swatch watch sales dropped.

He said the apparel failed because the firm tried to expand too quickly and ran into problems with production and quality.

Swatch opened in-store shops in department stores across the country to house the apparel and watches, along with Swatch novelty products.

“When we phased out apparel, we lost an enormous amount of real estate in the department stores, and our visibility dropped dramatically,” said Thomke.

The high turnover in management also may have been a factor in the brand’s decline. Thomke is the seventh president in five years at Swatch Watch USA.

“People in the U.S. didn’t believe in Swatch anymore, both internally and externally, and we needed to rebuild confidence,” said Thomke.

This week’s launch of Swatch’s newest watch was another indication of the brand’s popularity today.

Swatch said hundreds of people lined up outside stores in New York, Los Angeles and Minneapolis to purchase the new Swatchetable, the firm’s newest art series, designed by France-based artist Alfred Hofkunst.

The Swatchetable was launched at the Dean & Deluca, an upscale food store here, on Tuesday. Hundreds of people were waiting outside for the store to open while the press had a preview and breakfast inside the store.

The three oversize watches are made to look like a red chili pepper, a cucumber and an egg on a strip of bacon. Only 9,999 units were made of each design. They retail for $100 each.

In eight U.S. cities, the watches are being sold exclusively at fruit and vegetable markets. A total of 5,250 of the watches were sold to retailers. The other watches went on sale in Europe in the spring.

The collectible Swatch watch craze, which started in Europe in 1989, also helped bring Swatch into the spotlight again.

Limited-edition Swatch watches, created over the past eight years, are commanding high prices this year in the U.S. as well. One of the hottest collectibles here is an art series of four watches designed in 1986 by artist Keith Haring. The Haring Swatches originally sold for $50 and are now commanding prices in excess of $2,000, according in Edward Faber, president of The Aaron Faber Gallery, here, which has been selling a wide range of old and new Swatch watches since June.

What’s the next hot style on the horizon for Swatch? A watch featuring a built-in electronic pager will be introduced next spring, and others are on the drawing board.

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