Speidel Marks 100th Anniversary

Speidel Inc., the world’s leading distributor of watchbands, is marking its centennial as a U.S. company this year by expanding its international presence and trade advertising, adding a new product category, upgrading its Web site, and creating its own museum celebrating 100 years of innovation.

The company’s history is one of fascinating and varied achievements. Begun by sons of pioneering gold-chain manufacturer Fredrich Speidel of Germany, the company has long been a leader in watchbands and is probably best known for its unique “Twist-O-Flex” band.

“Even today, no other branded watchband company attaches more watches to your wrist than Speidel,” notes president and chief executive officer Jeffrey R. Massotti. However, Speidel has been more than a leader in watchbands. Over the years, it has been a pioneering TV advertiser, sold a successful men’s fragrance, and even produced cathode-ray tubes for military radar. (See “100 Years of Twists and Flexing.”)

During the past century, the company reinvented itself for each new era. That’s happening again, this time under Massotti, who joined Speidel in 1990 and bought the company in 2002 from Hirsch Armbänder, Europe’s largest watchband manufacturer.

Since then, Massotti has sharpened Speidel’s focus on sales and distribution services. “Our ability to respond quickly to customers’ needs and the wants of the marketplace has improved dramatically,” he notes.

There’s also more emphasis on promoting and expanding the brand. One example is the successful, popularly priced Speidel watch line, introduced in 2002, which includes 75 styles, all with quartz movements, mineral glass crystals, stainless-steel backs, water resistance, and two-year warranties.

Meanwhile, Speidel has begun expanding its international presence. In Europe it took part this year for the first time in BaselWorld in Basel, Switzerland, as well as Germany’s Inhorgenta, one of Europe’s most important jewelry trade fairs. “We’re a global brand, and since the creation of and investment in our new Web site, the number of people around the world contacting us to ask where they can find our products has increased enormously,” says Massotti. In Asia, a new area for the company, Speidel opened an office in Hong Kong in March to handle Pacific Rim business, including original equipment manufacturing (OEM) work for watch companies.

Diversifying. The company also is diversifying its product base, which already includes ID bracelets, writing instruments, children’s jewelry, 14k gold earrings, neck chains, pearl jewelry, and men’s jewelry accessories. The newest category is crystal figurines, produced by Asfour, a leading supplier of crystal. Speidel, the exclusive U.S. distributor, launched the product in the United States in February.

Speidel also is “in several discussions with outsiders about franchise possibilities, especially eyewear and reading glasses,” says Massotti.

But despite diversification, Massotti is well aware of—and committed to preserving—the pillars of Speidel’s success and longevity. “We’ll remain focused on the core product—the watchbands and bracelets,” he says.

Speidel launched its centennial in January with an in-house celebration for employees and a new exhibition, completed this spring, at company headquarters in East Providence, R.I. The Speidel Museum of Innovation commemorates the company’s century of achievements. Exhibits range from an original Speidel chain-making machine to vintage ads to its state-of-the-art Web site.

Speidel is alerting the industry to its anniversary with a new trade advertising campaign promoting its products. However, one thing Speidel isn’t doing to celebrate its anniversary, Massotti says, is produce special or limited-edition centennial products. “We’re putting our money into the innovations I’ve mentioned, into developing our new Web site, and into providing the best service and products we can for our customers.”