Flying with public money

Canada’s aerospace industry is the darling of political men. There is something about flying machines that captures them – and the taxpayer’s pocketbook.

There remains, surely, some undescribed public benefit in the multi- billion-dollar losses incurred by Canadians to “have” Canadair Ltd. of Montreal and de Havilland of Toronto, now both up for sale. A “window on the industry” perhaps, a critical “presence” in a highly technical field, sustainable only by enormous public subsidies. The attraction seems compelling for, while we are attempting sell two aircraft companies that have become very expensive habits, we are funding two helicopter companies to take their place.

In October, 1983, Ottawa announced that Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas, would receive $275-million in federal and Quebec funds to establish a light twin- engine helicopter plant at Mirabel, north of Montreal. (Yes, that Mirabel.) Bell itself would provide $238-million – less than half. All the public money would be exposed “up front” to cover research and development costs, tooling, plant development and training. Bell would budget only $134-million for initial costs, some of which it might write off against other quadcopter reviews projects.

At the same time, Ottawa provided $100-million to Pratt and Whitney Canada Ltd., of Montreal, to help develop a new engine for the Bell Helicopter. This followed $368-million in federal money to help Pratt and Whitney develop other aircraft engines over a 10-year period.

Shortly after the Bell Helicopter deal for Quebec, Ottawa and Ontario provided $37.7-million to a second helicopter plant in Ft. Erie, Ont., backed by the German Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm aerospace company and Ontario’s Fleet Industries. The private partnership in this case agreed to put up $35-million of their own – again, less than half.

When the Bell deal was announced, former Science Council of Canada chairman John Shepherd described it as “a classic piece of industrial policy.” Starting from scratch, it aims to create a new industry in Canada, which offers one of the world’s larger helicopter markets, although almost no market for Bell’s Canadian model. In return for public funding, governments point to job creation (costing about five times as much per job in the aerospace industry as most industry subsidies). They speak of spin-offs and eventual returns from public royalties of 2 or 3 per cent on sales of best drone to buy and engines. But as Canadair and de Havilland remind us, sales can be elusive.

Bell claims some 200 down payments on its Canadian helicopter, destined for production late this year, but some observers say the present depression in the world market for this model could remain. “I look around at what people are buying and not buying and I look at what Canadian taxpayers are putting in,” says the editor of Helicopter News in Washington, D.C. “If I were Canadian, I’d be very nervous.” Nervous? Ottawa conceived and delivered this whole deal. Quebec exempted Bell from language laws and overruled its own Agricultural Lands Protection Commission to facilitate plant construction at Mirabel. The companies are optimistic that sales will be healthy. The companies may also be optimistic that, if sales are not healthy, the companies will be healthy anyway.

We’re not nervous; more likely Sisyphus.

Great features of Invicta 9211 learned from Invicta watches review

This is a mesmerizing watch from Invicta that you can find in the market, the watch case is around 40 mm thick in diameter without considering the crown. You can find the case to be very much solid and is without a doubt made up of high quality stainless steel. If you check the back of this watch, you would find serrations that is same like an oyster. You can find an engraving on the back of the watch that says Invicta 9211 along with the logo of the brand Invicta in the center of the back case. The face of the watch would have omate sunburst that would comprise of detailing on top of the elegant white background. You would be able to find the logo to be embossed in silver and would be placed on the face and it looks like the logo is sitting on it with great pride.

Features of the Invicta 9211 as per the Invicta watches review

You would be able to find three sub dials on the watch along with one mail dial. These three dials would be chronograph sun dials and are positioned in a much symmetrical fashion in the face of the watch and is considered to be styled with silver. There is coating of luminescent trinity on the hands so that it would glow when in darkness thus making this watch to be used in almost any type of conditions. It would just have to be exposed a tiny bit of sun light and the user can read the time very easily in pitch darkness as well. The luminescent trinity can glow for about 20 hours with one time exposure to sunlight, which is a great feature to consider. The date on the face of the watch is considered to be positioned near the hour number 4 thus offering a unique type of look when compare to other models of the same brand.

Important aspect to consider for underwater divers from Invicta watches review

The users can find three different crowns on the watch and each of them are used for each type of sub dials. Top crown among the three crowns would start the stopwatch on the press and the bottom one would be used to reset the timers or the hands that are associated with the stopwatch. The crown that can be found on the center is mainly used to set type the date and time of the watch. The screwed down crown would help the user to reinforce water resistance when required. According to the Invicta watch reviews that can be obtained from the users, the crowns have to be screwed down before diving into the water so that water resistance would be enabled.

The crystal that can be found on the face of the watch is recognized to be made up of crystal that is of reflective mineral which also happens to be a great scratch resistant. This would offer very high level of durability to the watch and can be used in various type of conditions as well. They are much more resistant than the sapphire type of crystal or fusion type crystal scratch models.

New watch lines off and running

In the watch market, it pays to be new. Retailers report that the watch category remains strong, especially for new entries.

“We have found that in general, it’s the new items in watches that are selling the best,” said Steve Shonebarger, vice president and general merchandise manager for Mayor’s Jewelers, which operates 20 fine jewelry and watch stores throughout Florida. “If it’s new and unique at a great price, it’s going to sell.”

Shonebarger said watch sales are up slightly — less than 5 percent — over last year.

Watch business at Fortunoff’s is up 10 to 15 percent from last year, according to Helen Fortunoff, a principal of the Westbury, N.Y.-based retailer.

A watch is a practical and yet glamorous gift, and in these times, that element of practicality is important,” she pointed out. “The high-tech, very macho looks are selling, and Swatch chronographs are still blowing out.”

Among the new entries is Franchi-Menotti, a Milan-based watch firm that has done about $350,000 in its first three months of selling to the U.S. Sales are projected to hit $1 million in the first year, according to Boaz Hirshberg, president of Empire Watches, here, the North American distributor. The line was introduced in Italy almost two years ago.

The watches wholesale from $160 to $825, and some styles are chronographs and have a compass.

One of the reasons we brought in the Franchi-Menotti line was because of our Italian promotion, but we also liked the styling of it,” said Richard Caniglia, vice president and director of fine jewelry at Bloomingdale’s, here. “The story behind the watches — that this firm used to make watches for the Italian military — is a great selling point, and the bulky look is definitely what people are attracted to.”

Fortunoff said Modern English, a line of watches with colorful textured fabric bands, is among her top performing new lines.

“Modern English is fun. It’s being bought as a second or third watch for casual living or given as a gift to someone young in spirit,” said Fortunoff.

Modern English has sold more than 30,000 watches at $22.50 wholesale in its first four months in business and expects to sell between 350,000 to 400,000 in its first year, according to Jon Rashotsky, president of the Wellesley, Mass.-based firm.

The watches are manufactured in Hong Kong by Penta Star and are sold through Modern English, a division of Gem Time. The line is being shown at Maryesta Carr, an accessories sales representative firm here.

Fortunoff cited Rado’s new La Coupole Ceramique watch as a particularly strong seller.

“The Ceramique line does well because nobody has anything like it,” said Shonebarger of Mayor’s. “The Rado name is also very recognizable, which is important now.”

The collection, the latest in Rado Watch Co.’s line of ceramic watches, will eventually make up 30 percent of the firm’s volume, according to John Hubacher, president of the firm, a division of SMH U.S. Inc., here. The line wholesales from $475 to $550.

Hamilton Watch, The Lancaster, Pa.-based division of SMH U.S., has had initial success with a line of watches based on designs the firm created for the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II.

Ron Jackson, executive vice president and brand manager, said, “Based on the reaction to the line so far, we expect it to make up 10 to 15 percent of our total volume by the end of its first year.”

The line of watches commemorating the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage manufactured by Swiss America Watch Corp. here, has taken in $450,000 in orders in its first two weeks, according to Bernard Sonnenschein, vice president.

Sonnenschein said the line, which is just being shipped to stores now, is expected to generate $10 million in volume over the next year, and $18 million in total by the end of 1993. The watches carry the name Nobel, which is Swiss America’s trademark, and run the gamut from $20 wholesale for a goldtone stainless steel watch to $3,000 for a limited edition watch featuring an 18-karat gold medallion face.

Bulova’s new Accutron line, introduced in stores in October, has exceeded the firm’s sales expectations by 20 percent, according to Phil Shaw, vice president of marketing. The line wholesales from $198 to $548.

Timegear International, Inc., a Los Angeles-based watch firm, has booked 120,000 units of a new item consisting of a watch face sold with three interchangeable bands — a leather band, a goldtone chain band and a faux pearl band — at $28 wholesale. The firm expects to sell more than 240,000 units in its first year.

Luxury is the prime factor for american consumers

CONSUMERS WANT TO GO NOWHERE BUT UP, AND THAT’S reflected in the growing interest in watches and jewelry, particularly in timepieces with many complications, designer names and jewelry accents — namely diamonds. Further boosting sales, women and men are buying these baubles for themselves instead of waiting to receive them as gifts.

The jewelry and watch industry is a $43.6 billion business and, according to Jewelers of America’s Cost of Doing Business Survey, watches represent 5 percent of total fine jewelry sales. U.S. diamond jewelry sales reached $31.5 billion last year. According to a recent study conducted by the Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council, of the nearly 90 percent of female respondents who own diamond jewelry, almost 70 percent purchased it for themselves. Half of the 500 men surveyed own diamond jewelry and half of those were willing to buy more for themselves, a 23 percent increase over JCOC’s 2004 study.

According to the Platinum Guild International USA, dollar sales of platinum in the U.S. rose 9.6 percent in 2004 from 2003 and they’re expected to remain steady in 2005.

U.S. gold jewelry sales increased by 4 percent in 2004, to approximately $17 billion, the strongest growth for the category since 1999. Gold also showed a 5.6 percent sales value growth in the final quarter of 2004, according to a study conducted by NOP World, a market research firm, sponsored by the World Gold Council.

Titanium has also gained ground. Firms like Sector and Rado have included the metal, which is lighter in weight than stainless steel, in their watches.

It’s clear that the luxury companies, like Tiffany, 10th on this list, have met the challenge. But main-floor vendors have soared when it comes to meeting consumer demand, especially the leader of the pack, Timex.

Timex makes fashion a top priority and teamed with the sex-charged Italian house of Gianni Versace this year. The collaboration resulted in the Vertime watches that were launched at the Basel Watch Fair in Basel, Switzerland, in April. The line fuses technology and glamour, like the piece Donatella Versace wears — a white ceramic rendition encrusted with diamonds.

Number-two Seiko is going after the sparkle in a woman’s eye — or perhaps on her wrist. The brand developed a diamond-setting system that allows larger stones to be put in more elegant settings, retailing from $375 to $695. Seiko also unveiled its Spring Drive technology, 28 years in the making. The watch features one-second-per-day accuracy, a continuous-sweep second hand and a power reserve of 72 hours; most mechanical watches store power for 40 hours.

Third-ranked Rolex launched the Rolex Prince line of watches, part of its Cellini range. For the first time, a Rolex watch has a transparent case back that reveals a guilloche decoration on the movement echoing the dial.

Bulova, number four, recently launched a sport watch line called Marine Star. It’s also been including more diamonds in its collection, for a more sophisticated look.

Swatch, number five, has amped up its Bijoux jewelry collection, which has doubled in sales this year in the U.S. The line features high-end jewelry influences like enamel-like details and crystal-studded cocktail rings made of base metal or sterling silver. Yet Swatch has also jumped on the jewelry trend, and launched the Swatch Skin Diamond watch with 174 diamonds set in its face.

Citizen, at six, and Casio, at seven, have turned their focus to the latest technologies and fashions. Citizen has its sights set on its Eco Drive technology for watches that never need a replacement battery; the watches use natural or artificial light as an energy source. The company has also created charm watches, which are increasingly popular with women, and Swarovski crystal-encrusted watches.

Citizen also has versions of its Ladies’ Stiletto and Elektra watches with hand-set diamond details. The company launched the men’s Calibre 8651 moon phase titanium flight watches and 300M divewatches.

Casio launched its Oceanus watches in May. They use an Atomic Solar movement and keep perfect time, the company claims. Casio is also expanding its Baby G mostly digital watch line and has partnered with sportswear company E.vil, to create Baby E.vil, a limited-edition watch that will be exclusive to Federated Department Stores.

Banking on the trend of classic video game influence in apparel, number-eight Fossil is launching the Big Tic watch collection this fall. The watches take inspiration from Eighties video games with digitally animated dials featuring bouncing flowers, scrolling digits or robots walking across the face of the watch. Some styles feature games like Centipede, Breakout and Asteroids from Atari. Fossil also introduced a Palm OS wristwatch under its own moniker this year. Corporately, the maker ofwatches for Burberry, Diesel, Michele and Michael Michael Kors scored another coup when it nabbed a license with Marc Jacobs International to develop and distribute fine and fashion timepieces under the Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs names.

Number-nine Swiss Army recently unveiled the ST 5000, a navigation watch with built-in lighting and directional compass. The watch, with luminous hands and numbers, is available with a black or silver dial. It features a rotating compass rose and a black synthetic rubber strap.

Tiffany & Co. is often thought of as classic, fine jewelry, but the venerable brand is expanding in hopes of tacking on a few more adjectives — like cutting-edge, avant-garde and retro. Its 2005 collection includes a 233-carat Bahari tanzanite brooch wrapped in leaves of diamonds set in platinum, and a black opal and peridot bracelet in 22-karat gold resembling an ancient Roman mosaic. The Tiffany Grand watch also launched this year, with a rectangular case and a geometric black and white dial.

1. Timex

2. Seiko

3. Rolex

4. Bulova

5. Swatch

6. Citizen

7. Casio

8. Fossil

9. Swiss Army

10. Tiffany

Timely innovations: fashion watches keep on ticking

The fashion watch industry has enjoyed a period of strong growth that is expected to continue through the 1995 holiday season. Sales of watches in 1995 are up to 20% better than in 1994, and 1994 was a growth year. The major factors that have kept the sector growing have been new styles and products. New lines from Timex, including licensed Timberland and Joe Boxer items, will debut for the season. Outdoor styles will be prominent, and gift-with-purchase promotions will become more popular.

Fashion watches show no signs of slowing the fast pace set over a year ago as the all-important holiday period begins. Unlike other segments of fashion retailing plagued by a shortage of fresh ideas, the watch category has been driven by a seemingly endless pipeline of line launches, limited editions and strong fashion trends.

Retailers are optimistic. Sales this year are running roughly 15 to 20 percent ahead of last year at many stores, marking the second year in a row of significant doubledigit gains.

Fourth-quarter offerings this year should add to the excitement. Several firms are launching divisions and licensed collections, in addition to items timed for the peak holiday selling period.

The category as a whole will see freshness from Guess Athletic, Defender watches from Fossil and Durasteel watches by Armitron, all new divisions of their respective parents. This is in addition to Timex’s licensed collections for Timberland and Joe Boxer — both of which have experienced exceptionally strong sell-ins, according to Susie Watson, Timex’s marketing director.

The top-of-counter Guess Athletic line is being positioned to fill a void in the market for brand name sport watches in the $48 to $55 price range, said Mickey Callanen, president of the Callanen Group, which produces the Guess watch line under license.

We believe that the line will fill a niche that could eventually account for as much as 15 percent of our total business,” Callanen said.

The Athletic line, scheduled to be shipped in November, is somewhat younger and hipper-looking, he said. It features waterproof sport watches in rugged, outdoor looks with alarms, dual time zones, lap timers and Indiglo illuminated dials — “all the buzzes and whistles associated with true sportwatches today,” as Callanen put it.

Fossil’s Defender collection is a “classically styled, durable watch line in stainless steel with a lot of special functions, heavily inspired by retro airplane cockpits,” said Merk Harbour, the firm’s marketing manager. It will retail in the $65 to $130 range.

Armitron‘s Durasteel line features solid stainless steel case and bracelet watches that are “ultra durable and hypoallergenic,” said Jerry Dickowitz, vice president of marketing for E. Gluck, which manufactures Armitron.

Also on tap are commemorative items from the Looney Tunes line by E. Gluck, limited edition pieces from Nautica and a Star Trek series from Fossil. There are many new takes on the two prevailing trends of the moment — rugged athletic and outdoor looks, and dressy, small-scale feminine styles.

Looney Tunes character watches have been a continuous growth area for E. Gluck, Dickowitz said. He expects this collectible series to further feed consumer demand. The initial series will include four styles that commemorate classic cartoons dating back to the 1940s. Each watch will be packaged in an 8-mm movie canister and will retail for $55. Additional styles will come every few months.

Watson said the Nautica sterling silver tank watch with a black or brown alligator band will be limited to 4,000 numbered units — 2,000 of each color. They will retail for $295.

Fossil’s Star Trek and Next Generation collector series is being offered under an agreement with Viacom. The first watch in the series will feature a molded dial of the USS Enterprise and will be packaged in a Starfleet emblem-shaped box. The buyer will also receive a molded coin of the USS Enterprise and a certificate of authenticity, Harbour said. The watch will retail for $85 and be limited to 15,000 numbered pieces.

On the trend side, Anne Klein and Anne Klein II, Liz Claiborne and Carolee will offer wide assortments of smaller-scale, dressy, feminine styles, many of which are trimmed in Swarovski crystal and have the look of fine jewelry.

Practically every firm will offer rugged outdoor looks to draw interest from the twentysomething crowd that participates in activities like mountain biking, snow boarding and in-line skating. Many will use either resin, rubber or rough-looking leather bands and offer a myriad of functional features.

While gift-with-purchase programs aren’t exactly a new phenomenon in fashion watches, this year they have increased. They are offering more than basic merchandise, and many will hit selling floors earlier.

Timex will roll out gwp’s for its Essentials, Joe Boxer, Nautica and Timberland lines in September. Consumers purchasing an Essentials watch will receive a selection of gourmet coffee, tea and cocoa. Joe Boxer buyers will get a bright yellow inner tube suitable for the snow or water. And Nautica purchasers will take home a baseball cap. The Timberland premium hasn’t yet been determined.

Liz Claiborne has created exclusive arrangements so that each store offers a different gift; these programs will run from the fall through the end of the year. Buyers of Liz Claiborne watches will receive such gifts as a Liz Claiborne bracelet, fragrance or umbrella.

The new dawn of digital – fresh looks in watches just may turn LCDs into the latest must-have accessory

Once the wrist wear of the future, digital watches quickly became a fad of the past. But now these iconic accessories are experiencing a revival with new versions that are – dare we say it – cool.

People are yearning for items from the past,” says David Johnson, vice president of Casio Timepieces, a division of Casio, a multibrand watch and electronics company in Dover, N.J.

The digital watch was invented in 1971 by Peter Dimitroff Petroff, a NASA engineer. He licensed it to the Hamilton Watch Co., which marketed it as the Pulsar. The Pulsar sold in 18-karat gold for $2,100 in 1972.

Johnson says Casio later advanced the novelty by creating a digital watch with an automatic calendar in 1974. Today’s Casio watches also feature multiple time zones and atomic time, a system that receives signals from a tower in Colorado to update seconds throughout the day.

“Now you don’t even have to reset your watch for daylight savings,” he says.

Johnson reports Casio’s styles have remained fairly consistent, yet digital watches in many of the company’s other brands, including G-Shock, Baby-G and Sweet Poison by Baby-G, follow the trendsvia colorful or printed straps. Casio watches retail below $100, while Baby-G and Sweet Poison run around $100 and G-Shock costs $79 to $250.

“This niche is geared toward an individual who’s more interested in sporty technology with lots of functions,” says Sebastiano DiBari, managing director for Sector Group USA, a multibrand watch firm in New York.

Sector’s Pirelli line produces women’s “anadigi” watches, which combine analog and digital time movements and have bright rubber straps, for $790.

Penguin watches, which are manufactured, designed and licensed by Austin, Tex.-based Seiko Instruments USA, introduced its first digital timepiece with a limited-edition model last fall.

“Penguin’s heritage is rooted in the Fifties and Sixties, so the [retro] trend is right for us,” says senior product designer Maggie Andreani.

Spring’s collection of 21 styles includes both digital and anadigi time movements. One 24-karat gold-plated digital version features an etched penguin decoration on the flat front and two time displays at the edges so the wearer and someone sitting across from the wearer can read it, says Andreani. Another anadigi watch has gold penguin wings for hands, and a small liquid crystal display that can show seconds and the date. The dial comes in either fake walnut wood or cream aluminum, while the band is either leather or a gold-plated chain-link bracelet. Retail prices range from $125 to $165.

“I think this trend has some staying power,” says Andreani. “Plus, as a designer, it’s a great opportunity to revisit something that’s been overlooked for so long.”

Now that consumers have warmed up to technology through cell phones and BlackBerry devices, Barbara Korn, vice president of luxury brands at Richardson, Tex.-based Fossil Inc., says the digital trend should be further explored. “It’s an important component for those searching for functionality or a cool new look,” she explains.

The Marc by Marc Jacobs watch collection, which is produced under a license with Fossil, launched its first assortment for fall with a women’s digital watch, cleanly styled with a purple or blue patent leather strap.

Andrew Lippman, vice president of marketing for Middlebury, Conn.-based Timex, says other advancements in digital watches could further interest fashionable consumers. These range from multiple alarms, heart-rate monitors and barometer and temperature readings to color liquid crystal displays.

“Because digital faces are easy to read, they’re embraced by sports enthusiasts and children. But with more sleek and chic designs, more consumers are adopting them,” he says, adding digital watches now represent 25 percent of sales of all watches worldwide.

Swiss watchmakers are adding a feminine touch to their men’s styles to cater to a growing market


“Until recently, women didn’t really have much of a choice in the world of watches,” said Paul Ziff, president of LVMH-owned Zenith in North America. “Basically, they could either wear a man’s mechanical watch or a ladies battery-driven quartz watch.”

Judging from the attention Swiss timepiece manufacturers devoted to women at the recent Basel and Geneva watch and jewelry fairs, change is in the air. Ostensibly driving the development is that women are buying more men’s watches, especially oversized models.

Manufacturers have responded to the trend by introducing large models tailored to women, then adding bling, such as diamond bezels, or mother-of-pearl faces and straps in colorful exotic skins.

“For a woman to wear a big watch has become a real fashion statement,” said Mark Udell, co-owner of London Jewelers, which runs five stores in the U.S. “It definitely says something strong about the lady and her personality.”

Udell estimated that 30 percent of the watches he sells to women are designed as men’s pieces.

“Women want larger-case watches,” said Andrew Block, senior vice president of marketing at Tourneau, which operates some 25 stores across the U.S. “In fact, we’ve seen a trend from the watch manufacturers toward referring to their watch by size — small, medium and large — instead of by gender.”

Corum, a high-end Swiss manufacturer, has started to operate along similar lines. Chairman Severin Wunderman said some of the company’s recent creations, such as watches with hand-painted enamel faces, “are sold to the tune of 75 percent to women.”

“That very large watches are in vogue today helps the situation,” Wunderman said. “But one of the reasons women are buying men’s watches is very simple: Women’s models are very few and only a minority of manufacturers is making them.”

Some manufacturers are going farther, betting women will be wooed by more special features inwatches such as perpetual calendars and chronographs.

At Basel, Zenith even introduced a tourbillon, a sophisticated mechanical movement that compensates for the effect of gravity on time. It costs about $250,000.

For its part, Tag Heuer reported strong demand for its ladies chronographs, and Patek Philippe introduced an annual calendar for women that retailers praised.

Hank Edelman, president of Patek Philippe in North America, said he expects women to buy more complicated watches, because people don’t only buy one watch, but think of them as one of many accessories in their wardrobe.

“It’s also a question of knowledge and awareness,” he said. “A woman can be just an interested in a mechanical watch as a man. Women have been ignored in some regard.”

Several retailers and manufacturers question whether women will take to complicated mechanical timepieces.

“We believe the jury is still out regarding women’s acceptance of watch complications,” Block said. “The sell-through on these watches isn’t as strong as in the men’s category.”

Wunderman said, “Complications for women I feel will be very short-lived. Women prefer quartz pieces, which don’t need a person to be an engineer to make them work. Also, $150,000 to $200,000 for a complication piece is a hard sell [for] a woman to get her husband to buy — at least in my world.”

Thomas Morf, chief executive officer of Carl F. Bucherer, said, “Ladies look at design first, then they look at the brand. They don’t care if its mechanical or quartz. If it fits their style, those details matter little.”

The time factor – change is in the air: leather straps return and the bridge segment emerges in fashion watches

There’s movement in fashion watches, and it’s not just the ticking kind. The fashion watch classification, once reserved for a handful of players such as Guess Watches, Anne Klein, Kenneth Cole, Fossil and DKNY, meant placement on the department store’s main floor, next to fashion jewelry and handbags. These companies offered colorful product to go along with each season’s clothing, and the retail price rarely exceeded $150.

In recent years, however, the success of watch upstarts such as TechnoMarine, Locman, Ritmo Mundo and Michele Watches has added a new layer to the fashion watch arena. These companies are creating watches with the same kind of whimsy as the traditional fashion watch companies, but at price points between $1,000 and $3,000.

Real estate rising

The higher prices-per-square-foot are a boon to retailers who are trying to maximize on restricted real estate in tough times.

“Retailers are always looking to increase their margins and their average unit retail of the goods, and that’s harder to do when traffic is slower,” said Marci Gordon, chief marketing officer at watch maker M.Z. Berger, which manufactures Elgin and Gruen and such licensed lines as Via Spiga and Lee. “If there are not as many units purchased, they want to see more substantial pieces going out the door at the department store level.”

Perhaps that’s why so many fashion firms were quick to react: Several have entered the category at more luxury price points, including Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, and others, like Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent and Bill Blass, have relaunched their lines at the high end.

YSL’s watches, for instance, are emblematic of the designer’s legacy in licensing; the brand was licensed to Cartier and then sublicensed to Citizen, which flooded the market with $95 YSL timepieces. Since Gucci Group took control of the company in 1999 and began its repositioning effort, watches were one of the 152 licenses slashed and then relaunched to compete with the likes of Chanel and Hermes at prices from about $1,400 to $7,000.

Bill Blass, meanwhile, offered main-floor fashion watches with core price points under $100 in a license with Gruen throughout the Nineties. But this fall, it’s relaunching at price points that go as high as $3,000 — in a license with manufacturer Omni Watch & Clock. “This is the first time the company is trying to enter the market at the higher end of the fashion watch spectrum,” Michael Groveman, chief executive of Bill Blass Ltd., said in June. When asked why, Groveman didn’t hesitate: “Money. But a quality collection like this also helps the name Bill Blass and all the products that bear the Blass name.” Industry sources said a higher-end Bill Blass watch business could rake in between $3 million and $5 million in the first year.

But not everyone agrees that the only way is up.

“Many companies see an opportunity because they see a lot of product with companies that has been successful in $3,000 to $6,000 range — and people are trying to emulate the success of Michele Watches and TechnoMarine,” said Dennis Phillips, president of Taramax USA, the authorized U.S. distributor for the Fendi Timepiece Collection. “Generally, a person who will purchase a product at that price point wants a traditional luxury watch brand and not necessarily a designer or a fashion name. We are staying in our price range from $295 to $1,795.”

In the last three years, Taramax pulled the Fendi line out of department stores to focus exclusively on offering fine jewelry stores an entry price point to a watch with Fendi’s luxury name attached to it.

“We found that department stores have become very promotional as far as watches,” Phillips noted. “That hurt us and supported our decision to go into the jewelry stores. We feel we are a welcome price point for jewelry stores, because they don’t want to walk away from under the $1,000 price point.”

Cindy Livingston, president at Callanen International, the licensee of Guess Watches, said: “TechnoMarine, Michele and Locman have added a bridge between fashion and luxury, and they have done a great job. I don’t think that we compete with them…there is space for the middle price point.”

To succeed in today’s more competitive environment, many agreed that the product needs to differentiate itself from the others to trigger sales. “There’s just so much product out there, and there is a lot of same product, and the goal is to really be differentiated at the counter,” said Livingston.

Among the key challenges is the continuing struggle by brands to secure real estate on the main floor. “Real estate is a challenge,” said Gordon at M.Z. Berger. “The industry has ebbs and flows and the jewelry classification is very strong right now. When jewelry is going through a peak,watches lose a bit of real estate to jewelry.”

Case study

Packaging, she added, is the key method to snare consumers. M.Z. Berger makes the Radio Yota watch, which comes with a transistor radio as packaging, and Space Yota, which is packaged inside a toy space-ship. “It’s very important to give consumers a reason to buy and draw them into the department visually,” she said. “You have to be able to tell a story.”

Tom Fosorile, senior vice president of sales at Bulova, noted: “The retail customers are looking for more collections of watches. The collections improve watch merchandising and provide more case appeal.”

Case appeal, indeed, is something many firms are hoping for with the return of leather straps after a decade of metal bracelets topping trends.

“The market was driven by metal bands and ladies jewelry styles, and the trend has gone back to leather straps and cuff watches, therefore giving the entire classification of watches a new lease on life with regards to color and styling,” said Livingston at Callanen. “The cases in stores look different now. They have a much more exciting presentation in stores based on color, shape and fabric. It’s not just metal or steel.” Gordon at M.Z. Berger agreed: “Leather is coming back, and embellishment is important on watch bands, whether it’s studs or contrast stitching.”

For fall, a variety of looks will dominate the sector, including larger square or rectangular cases.

“Oversize cases and dials allow more design area and you could do larger digits, graphics, and color blocking because you have more space on the dial to work with,” said Livingston.

Interchangeable straps will be another trend. Fendi, for instance, is offering the Slide watch, which features five different colored straps that slide under the case, for $495. The Slide is packaged as a gift set featuring the watch on a black strap and four extra straps. “A woman can change her strap to accessorize the outfit she is wearing,” said Phillips.