Brighter Watches Light Up Sales

Much of what watch firms have added to their early spring 1995 collections is whiter, brighter and lighter – even when referring to price.

Expanded use of dial lighting technology, white dials, brighter straps, sport watches with softer edges and dressier, more classic looks already were peeking out of catalogs in the weeks before generally broader debuts at the late April Basel ’95 – World Watch, Clock and Jewellery Show in Switzerland. In addition to the luminescent glow at watch counters, consumers are beaming at the greater number of mid- and low-priced models now available.

Here’s a preview of the major categories that appeared to dominate the year’s early introductions: Well-Lit Watches, Dress/ Sport and Luxury.

SPORTY OR DRESSY?

Crossover watches – which mix sport and fashion – have created a great deal of interest nationwide.

“For women’s models, sport is definitely where the action is,” says Susie Watson at Timex. Watch firms which feature sport-related advertising or sponsor well-known sport stars have added dressier versions of their split-second chrono-based standards. Likewise, fashion lines have added sporty models that look good with Lycra workout togs.

Retailers can take advantage of the dual billing by positioning these watches as something that consumers require. Sport fans in search of fashion may prefer a brand they already wear – but with the dressy look. Loyal fashion buyers may like to round out their collections with a new sporty watch.

In either case, retailers report strong response to established sport watch brands that advertise heavily in consumer media as well as lesser known models that may be new on the sport watch scene. And though advertising has cultivated an “active” image for sport watches, they also can be worn for work and formal affairs. Here are examples that meet these demands.

From the fashion-oriented Anne Klein division of E. Gluck Corp. comes a gold-tone or gold-and-silver-tone sporty watch (#1) with white dial, Roman numerals, sweep second hand, additional markers on the bezel and water resistance to 100 feet. Suggested retail: $150. Anne Klein, Division of E. Gluck Corp., 29-10 Thomson Ave., Long Island City, N.Y. 11101; (800) 937-0050.

Zodiac added three watches to its Swiss Formula collection (#2). The women’s model (left) features a gray dial, stainless steel case, luminescent hands and marker and blue sharkskin strap. Also shown are a men’s stainless steel case and bracelet model (center) and a midsize stainless steel case model with phosphorescent dial. All watches feature unidirectional rotating bezel, screw-down crown, tempered mineral crystal and water resistance to 660 feet. Suggested retail (from left): $215, $275 and $215. Zodiac Watch Co., Division of Wittnauer International Inc., 145 Huguenot St., New Rochelle, N.Y. 10802; (914) 576-1000.

Seiko expanded its collection of “sporty dress” watches for women and introduced a dressier model in its Kinetic collection. The new classically styled automatic Kinetic watch (#3) features a reserve energy indicator, gold electroplate case, burgundy leather band and water resistance to 99 feet. Retail: $250. Seiko Time, 1111 Macarthur Blvd., Mahwah, N.J. 07430; (201) 512-3000.

Citizen introduced a number of watches with white dials – a feature it says customers are increasingly requesting. These two new models in Citizen’s Del Ray collection (#4) feature a white or black dial with black subdials. The sport chronograph collection incorporates a stronger fashion element for 1995. These stainless steel 12-hour chronographs feature rotating elapsed time bezel, date and water resistance to 100 meters. Citizen Watch Co. of America, 1200 W. Wall St., Lyndhurst, N.J. 07071; (201) 438-8150.

WELL-LIT WATCHES

Hardly a shot in the dark, the well-lit dial has made its way from low-cost sport watches to dress, fashion, funky and serious sport models.

“We want it to be as standard as water-resistance,” says Susie Watson, advertising and public relations manager at Timex Corp. The company recently incorporated its two-year-old Indiglo dial lighting feature in upscale Nautica chronographs. One style (#6) features a white face and brown strap; the other has a black face and black leather strap. Both versions have Swiss movements, stainless steel cases and heavyweight padded leather straps; they retail for $295. Nautica Watches, Park Rd. Extension, P.O. Box 310, Middlebury, Conn. 06762; (800) 367-8463.

The enhanced, miniaturized Indiglo technology also has been added to the entire Essentials line and to more than half of all Timex watches, says Watson. This spring, Timex plans to add Indiglo to its line of miniwatches for women. Timex Corp., P.O. Box 310, Middlebury, Conn. 06762; (800) 367-9282.

A Seiko sport watch that features Lumibrite technology shines on the cover of the company’s spring catalog supplement. At least 10 of the 83 Seiko models new this spring feature Lumibrite. Seiko Time Corp., 1111 Macarthur Blvd., Mahwah, N.J. 07430; (201) 512-3000.

Swatch, meanwhile, held several New Year’s Eve parties where its Loomi illuminated watch glowed for the first time in public. The Swatch Scuba 200 Loomi (#5) is one of the company’s first in a series of lighteddial watches. It is shock-resistant and water-resistant to 660 feet; the dial illuminates at the press of a button. Suggested retail: $55. Swatch, 35 E. 21 St., New York, N.Y. 10010; (800) 879-2824.

Also new among lighted-dial watches is the Perry Ellis Date-Lite (#7), which comes packaged with three interchangeable nylon mesh straps with leather trim in a wood gift box. The white dial lights at the push of a button, features luminescent hands and is surrounded by a brushed stainless steel case. The watch is water-resistant to 100 feet and has a 10-year limited warranty. Suggested retail: $65. Perry Ellis Watches, 482 Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Center, N.Y. 11570; (516) 763-1935.

Pulsar introduced seven new models with Lumibrite. The company says Lumibrite technology causes the watch to glow brightly for hours after two minutes of exposure to the sun or 10 minutes of exposure to indoor light. Models (#8, from left) include a men’s and women’s sport pair with one-way rotating elapsed timing bezel and screw-down case back, retailing for $150 each, and a railroad-approved expansion bracelet model made of stainless steel ($110). Each is water-resistant to 330 feet.

Pulsar Time, 1111 Macarthur Blvd., Mahwah, N.J. 07430; (201) 529-2400.

LUXURY IN SLEEK STEEL

Polished stainless steel has the look of a precious element but carries a lower price tag. Its use in luxury watches and chronographs gives suppliers greater flexibility in prices and features.

Long used by sport watch firms, stainless steel also has gained a following among luxury firms and stylists in recent years. Tiffany, Cartier, Omega and a host of other luxury brands have introduced full lines that feature steel-only or gold-and-steel mixes. Look for even wider use of the metal at this year’s Basel watch fair.

Raymond Weil’s Parsifal GMT and Parsifal Chronograph (#9) feature a steel case. The Parsifal GMT (top) has a handmade movement with sapphire crystal, transparent sapphire case back, 24-hour hand to read the time in a second time zone and a bidirectional rotating bezel engraved with the names of 22 cities. The Parsifal Chronograph has a hand-assembled movement, transparent sapphire glass case back, tachometric bezel for reading average speed, start-stop button and zero reset button. Both models are water-resistant to 165 feet and have genuine crocodile straps. Suggested retail: $1,600 each. Raymond Weil, 587 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017; (212) 355-3350.

Chanel Inc. added three stainless steel versions of its signature quilt design watch this spring. The model shown (#10) features a quilted steel bracelet with flexible links, black lacquered face set with black onyx, quartz movement and water resistance to 99 feet; retail is $2,450. The same watch with a leather strap is $1,300; an 18k gold version with leather strap is $2,550. Chanel Inc., 5 E. 57 St., New York, N.Y. 10022; (212) 688-5055.

Stainless steel is accented with gold-plated bezels and bracelet details in three additions to Wittnauer’s Laureate collection (#11). The women’s calendar sweep model at left with 16 diamonds is $795 suggested retail. The similar men’s models (center and right) have no diamonds; they retail at $495 each. All three come in men’s and women’s versions. Wittnauer International Inc., 145 Huguenot St., New Rochelle, N.Y. 10802; (914) 576-1000.

The latest addition to Baume & Mercier’s Malibu series is a women’s model (#12) made of stainless steel and 18k gold with 28 diamonds on the bezel and a mother-of-pearl dial with 11 diamonds. Suggested retail: $4,900. Baume & Mercier, 663 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022; (212) 593-0444.

Eighteen karat gold bezels join stainless steel bands and cases in Lassale’s Couture series (#13). The men’s model at left has a white dial, Roman numerals and gold accents. The women’s model (center) has a black dial with stick markers. The alarm chronograph has a white dial with date and 18k accents. The entire line includes five men’s and two women’s models. All have sapphire crystals and water resistance to 99 feet. Suggested retail (from left): $1,195, $850 and $1,495. Lassale, 1111 Macarthur Blvd., Mahwah, N.J. 07430; (201) 512-3000.

WATCH THIS SPACE

Shelf space at jewelry stores and jewelry areas in department stores is tighter than ever this spring. To entice the retailer and to attract the consumer, a few watch firms have created some unique attractions at the point of sale. These can include everything from unusual displays to special gifts given away with the watches. Here are a few recent examples.

· The new Speidel 20/20 Collection of fashion watches is packaged with a genuine leather eyeglass case. The case highlights the bold numbers on the seven models in the new collection (see photo.) A showcase display features the case.

· Several watch brands report continued success with a presentation of changeable bezels or additional straps. Alfex and Christian Dior have used a multiple bezel set for years. Fendi’s new Prisma women’s watch features four additional colored straps, and many Anne Klein watches are sold in sets that include either additional straps or bezels.

· This past fall, Perry Ellis introduced its newest America fashion watches in a wooden box that also included a sample bottle of a Perry Ellis Fragrance or a pair of suspenders.

· The Jaz Time division of Seiko offers a gift-with-purchase option (a jazzy pen) to all its retailers. It also packages each watch in a music box. Seiko’s Lorus Lumibrite models are featured in a rotating shelftop display with a light that keeps the watches glowing at all times.

· Expect continued use of the limited-edition watch this year. Their exclusivity appeals to devoted collectors and adds flair to the entire line. Retailers often give special attention to these short-term items because they can generate quick sales and attract a few new, hopefully repeat, buyers. Some limited-edition watches are released for specific events (such as Swatch’s Olympic collection, Citizen’s America’s Cup watches or Omega’s celebration of the first moon landing). A growing number are being sold as charity fund-raisers (AKTO’s Ending Hunger watch and Movado’s Children of the World watch).

· Sector Sports Watches offers each of its retailers a full-length videotape that features the eye-catching action of the athletes it sponsors. Footage of kayakers, parachuters, free divers and sailers are shown at the showcase on a VCR and monitor that Sector also will provide. In addition, the firm distributes its No Limits World consumer magazine to retailers who then pass it on to their customers.