Supplier News

SPORTS EVENTS HELP PROMOTE WATCHES

The element of time, critical to both sports and watches, helps join them commercially. Also boosting the connection are booming sales of sports watches. Watch firms not only are linking their brand names to sports, but also creating special models to commemorate specific events. The partnerships benefit both parties – along with retail jewelers who sell the product.

“We use sports as a metaphor for success,” explains Fred Reffsin. He’s executive vice president and general manager for Heuer Time and Electronics Corp., Springfield, N.J., which distributes the Swiss sports watch Tag Heuer in the U.S. His firm has been linked to sports during much of its 135-year history. It currently sponsors individual athletes, including top U.S. slalom skier Matt Grosjean and Indy car driver Eddie Cheever. The firm also was official timekeeper for the 1994 Indianapolis 500.

Here are a few recent sponsorships – some continued from previous years and some new.

When Andre Agassi defeated Michael Stitch at September’s U.S. Open in New York, fans were treated to high-tech electronic images of Agassi on a scoreboard outfitted by Citizen, official timer for the Open for the second year (see photo). Women’s champ Arantxa Vicario received a similar spotlight. Citizen’s scoreboard (which featured electronic imaging throughout the event) and courtside, stadium and grandstand clocks were seen by 500,000 visitors to the event and by millions of television viewers in 125 countries.

Citizen also is official timer for the America’s Cup yacht race this May in San Diego. To celebrate, the firm last year announced a line of watches called Stars & Stripes, named after defending U.S. champion Dennis Conner’s craft. Citizen also created a limited edition series of 500 individually numbered watches.

Each fall, Breitling USA sponsors the Breitling World Cup for aerobatics during the Airshow in Orlando, Fla. Competitors, including Breitling-backed Swiss pilot Christian Schweizer, appear from all over the world.

Omega Watch, a division of SMH (US) Inc., New York, has been title sponsor for the Omega Gold Cup, one of 11 yacht race events on the World Racing Circuit. The 1994 Omega Gold Cup, held in Bermuda in October, featured 24 teams. The competition offered a total purse of $100,000, with the winning skipper earning $30,000 and an Omega Seamaster Professional Chrono Diver Watch. The winning crew also received Omega watches.

In addition, Omega is official timekeeper at the BOC Challenge, held every four years and known as the world’s longest race for an individual in any sport. Qualified skippers are challenged to sail alone around the world, making mandatory stopovers along the way. The latest edition started in September in Charleston, S.C., and will finish about nine months later at the same port. Prizes for the 27,000-mile race total $250,000; each skipper also receives an Omega Seamaster watch.

Two medal winners in last year’s Winter Olympics continue to draw attention to watch brands. Last fall, skater Nancy Kerrigan (see photo) made a number of appearances for Seiko Time, Mahwah, N.J., at Fortunoff stores in New Jersey and Long Island where hundreds of fans lined up for autographs. Her appearances highlighted the new Seiko Ladies Kinetic watch and served to remind the public that the watch company served as official timer of the Winter Games.

Gold Medalist Dan Jansen (speed skating, 1994 Winter Games) spent time last fall helping launch the Swatch Historical Olympic Games Collection of nine commemorative watches representing past games as well as the upcoming 1996 Games in Atlanta. Swatch, a division of SMH (US), is official timekeeper of the event.

Wittnauer International, New Rochelle, N.Y., renewed its contract as the official watch of the Dallas Cowboys football team. The company sponsors Brad Sham, the host of a popular radio program that recaps each Cowboys game. Star players visit with Sham as he presents the game’s most valuable player award, whose winner receives a Wittnauer watch.

Swiss-made Sector Sport Watches (distributed in the U.S. by Artime USA, New York) sponsors a number of men and women engaged in what it terms “extreme” sports. These include rowing and kayaking, parachuting, skiing, mountaineering, free diving and sailing. Sector formed a No Limits team of 13 individuals in 1990. Many are featured in videos shown at Sector retail outlets to promote the brand and in No Limits World, its glossy four-color magazine. Each athlete also wears (and field tests) Sector watches.

WATERFORD ANNOUNCES LICENSING PROGRAM

Waterford, the 200-year old maker of fine crystal, has announced plans for a comprehensive licensing program with Equity Management Inc., Schaumberg, Ill.

The program will expand the trademark into additional luxury categories consistent with the Waterford image. These include fine fragrances, personal care products, leather goods, home furnishings, timepieces, gourmet wine, liquor and beverages, women’s fashion apparel, crafted jewelry and eyewear.

Waterford announced the program as part of a strategic plan to expand its strong brand equity and increase consumer exposure to the Waterford trademark by leveraging its image as a lifestyle brand. Waterford is a registered trademark of Waterford Crystal Ltd., Kilbarry, Waterford, Ireland.

SUPPLIERS ON THE GROW

Gem Resources Inc., Minneapolis, opened a new 5,000-sq.-ft. office/showroom in Plymouth, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. The new facilities house areas for heat treating, crystal growing and color enhancement of silicate materials and other minerals. The showroom is open by appointment only. Gem Resources Inc., 4011 Washington Ave. North, Minneapolis, Minn. 55412; (800) 588-8515.

Michael Anthony Jewelers, Mt. Vernon, N.Y., purchased the assets of F & F Creations, New York, for an undisclosed sum. The firm’s line of small 14k gold earrings has been added to Michael Anthony’s product line, although a few customers of the former F & F line may continue to receive merchandise under previous agreements, according to Alan Corn, chief operating officer of Michael Anthony. F & F’s molds, models, customer list and several employees were moved to Michael Anthony’s Mt. Vernon headquarters.

Crystal maker Baccarat Inc. opened its new U.S. headquarters at Forty One Madison in New York. The new showroom was designed by French designer Yves Taralon and created by U.S. architect Robert de Lauriers. The design echoes Baccarat’s flagship Paris store with elegant white maple fixtures, chandeliers and wall sconces. The interior includes three galleries for traditional and contemporary crystal and an area for Gien faience and Haviland Limoges porcelain, distributed in the U.S. by Baccarat. Baccarat, 41 Madison Ave, 14th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10010; (212) 686-1203.

G.B. Suisse Co. of Canada is the new exclusive agent of Daniel Mink Watch Corp., Miami Beach, Fla. G.B. Suisse is setting up authorized retail agreements with Canadian fine retailers to sell Daniel Mink watches. Interested Canadian retailers should contact Brian Talbot (Toronto) at (905) 542-2130 or Gina Caron (Montreal) at (514) 444-9008, or call Daniel Mink at (800) 221-6465.

In other news, Daniel Mink Watch Corp. took part in a salute to America sweepstakes on Wheel of Fortune, the highly rated syndicated TV game show. The firm provided 400 of its Cowboy watches as the show’s fourth place prize. (The first place award was trucks; second was trips to Alaska; third was American eagle pendants.) The shows aired last November, giving the firm on-air audio and visual exposure for 15 seconds each night for two weeks.