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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.