Watch Watch

Pulsar Set to Relaunch Into the Stars

Inspired by the celestial origin of its name, Pulsar is preparing a major relaunch this fall that will feature light-powered watches, titanium watches and jewelry styles. In addition to 70 new styles now being shown to retailers, a large-scale marketing program and print and television advertising campaign is set to commence. Its tag line: “Discover Your Own Star,” complete with a new Pulsar logo.

Cheri McKenzie, vice president of advertising at Seiko Corp. of America, Mahwah, N.J., says the “top to bottom” relaunch was created to solidify Pulsar’s image and is based to a large degree on the success of Solar Pulsar, which debuted last year to strong consumer reaction. “The four models we started with completely sold out last year,” she says.

Taking its cue from this response and noting that Pulsar earned more revenue even with flat unit sales last year, its parent, Seiko, is backing the relaunch with marketing and advertising on the scale that has proven so successful for Seiko’s Kinetic models over the past several years.

Sales of the Kinetic line, which last year accounted for 25% of Seiko brand earnings in the U.S., have heightened Seiko’s average sales price and image. Likewise, Seiko executives in Tokyo and the U.S. have targeted the Solar line to do the same for Pulsar.

“In the U.S., we realized that Pulsar needed a clearer and distinct brand image,” says Larry Sussberg, senior vice president of sales of Seiko Corp. of America, the U.S. division of the Japanese parent. The goal this year, in addition to stronger brand image, is a 10% increase in unit sales and a 15% increase in dollar revenue.

The campaign

The campaign is global and will take its images from the stars, notably a Pulsar, which is a certain type of lightwave-emitting solar entity (depicted in the new graphic logo). Pulsar’s solar technology will be the focus of its ads in other countries. But in the U.S., the brand’s largest market, that high-tech focus will be softened for an equally critical emotional appeal, says McKenzie.

The “Discover Your Own Star” tag lines for print and TV ads focus on individual choice of style while reminding consumers about the advantages of the light-powered watches.

McKenzie says Seiko has earmarked marketing and advertising budgets well above Pulsar figures from recent years to help cover the cost of the first television ads the brand has had in three years.

In addition, more men will see Pulsar ads as they get placed in media with male and female readers. Previous campaigns have leaned on Pulsar’s traditionally strong sales to women. Liberal use of point-of-purchase products, all-new window and showcase displays and a Pulsar brochure are available also. Retailers who buy eight watches receive a “Solar Shop” of displays and merchandising products.

The products

While focusing on solar technology, Pulsar is emphasizing watch collections more than in the past, says McKenzie. The Pulsar Solar line has 17 new styles (23 total), many of them made of newly developed glass-coated titanium cases and bracelets. Pulsar Solar watches are made with patented “quick start” technology that allows the watches to restart in 2-3 seconds upon first exposure to any light source. On a full charge, the men’s models will operate in the dark for three months, women’s for two months. (The watches continually charge as they are worn in any light.)

The top-end Solar Aegean collection features watches made with cast titanium, some with polished titanium accents. A Galileo line features flattened bezels and several chronographs, and the new Sierra line is a strap line with rugged features.

Women’s jewelry watches have added sporty models that feature greater water resistance than in the past and a first-ever women’s line called “Krystal Images” featuring crystal-accented bracelets and bezels. Pulsars range from $50 to $300 retail; the 14k gold line is $525-$750.

Face Up a New Premiere for Chanel

Ten years after launching its first-ever watch – the 18k gold Premiere – Chanel is celebrating with two new versions in steel and one in goldplate.

As it did two years ago with the highly successful steel versions of its Mattelesse watches, Chanel has high expectations for this new collection, which carries price points considerably below the original all-gold debut of the Premiere.

The company has widened its reach into jewelry stores and other fine retailers in the past two years and is confident this new line will fuel that interest. This steel chain bracelet version retails for $1,895. The karat gold Premiere for $8,100.

A.T. Cross Readies Watches for Fall Debut

Writing instrument maker A.T. Cross of Lincoln, R.I., will launch a line of dress watches this fall. The Swiss-made watches, which make their debut at the JCK International Jewelry Show in Las Vegas, will retail for $200 to $1,000, with the bulk of them between $200 and $400, says John Buckley, chief operating officer. The watches will have sapphire crystals and will be available in stainless steel and 14k gold versions.

About 250 retail locations, including jewelry store chains and department stores, will carry the watches this summer. Wider distribution will begin this fall, says Buckley.

A.T. Cross joins luxury writing instrument maker Mont Blanc as two firms new in the watch market. The latter introduced a high-end watch line in April.

Swiss Exports Fall Slightly Worldwide; Sales to U.S. Rise 8.3%

Swiss watch exports to the U.S. were up 8.3% by value in 1996, almost twice the increase recorded in 1995, according to figures released by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

The increase in the U.S. rate contrasts with the 1.6% drop in overall Swiss watch exports to the top 15 markets in 1996. Much of this is attributed to a surge of steel watch exports and the corresponding decrease in the export of more expensive gold and goldplate watches.

Still, the overall Swiss export figure is an improvement over a 3.6% decrease a year earlier. The improvement

followed a year-end sales acceleration, most likely due to a weakening Swiss franc in relation to other currencies. Exports increased 6% during the fourth quarter of 1996. Also, strong markets continue in the U.S., Japan, Spain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, exports were affected by sluggish economies in most European countries, including the critical French, Italian and German markets.

SWISS WATCH EXPORTS
(’96 vs. ’95, in millions of Swiss francs)

1996 % change
Hong Kong 1,324.3 -6.9
United States 1,044.3 +8.3
Japan 762.3 +12.0
Germany 617.3 -9.0
Italy 580.7 -11.5
Singapore 413.1 +4.2
France 408.0 -4.3
Great Britain 346.2 +4.8
Thailand 203.2 -15.3
Taiwan 173.7 -20.2
Spain 172.7 +7.6
United Arab Emirates 151.8 +22.5
Saudi Arabia 126.4 +6.0
Austria 110.3 -4.3
Netherlands 67.1 +7.4
Source: Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry

HIGH-END WATCH WORDS: CURVES AHEAD

Early returns from Basel and Geneva forecast a curved year for watch cases. Rounded tank styles from Patek Philippe (see “Watch Watch, JCK, April 1997, p. 48) and Raymond Weil, a notable rare tonneau from Breguet and the return of dressier styles in general suggest other watchmakers will follow with at least one non-round model to highlight this year.

Breguet’s Basel introduction (shown here), a curved-case tonneau automatic in 18k gold, is the company’s first-ever curved-case tonneau. It has taken this year’s 250th anniversary celebrations (see related story) to vary from the classic round face and cases upon which Breguet’s fame is so firmly established. Even the famed blue-steel Breguet hands have been curved to fit the shape of the watch. For more details, see the late-breaking report from Basel in this issue of JCK.

Breguet Celebrates 250 Years

Limited Editions and New Ads Set for Year

You are only 250 once, so Breguet is celebrating with more than the new tonneau noted at left. In addition to its company history book written by the seventh-generation Emmanuel Breguet (see “Watch Watch,” JCK, May 1997, p. 63), the company has released several unique items. These include a man’s regulator with the names of 48 famous Breguet clients engraved on the caseback. Limited to 500 units, the watch has already sold out, says Jean J. Jacober, the company’s chief executive officer.

In more limited numbers, Breguet released 10 units of a one-of-a-kind man’s perpetual calendar minute repeater that is powered by a tourbillon. The watch is the result of five years of research and development.

Finally, an anniversary issue tourbillon chronograph limit-ed to 20 units lets the wearer admire the ultracomplicated movement from its sapphire case back.

A new advertising campaign reinforces Breguet’s historical and technological features. Ads that will debut this fall will detail the company’s history and list a few notable clients, including Marie Antoinette, Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill. A later ad contains a partial listing of the company’s many patents, including the tourbillon and musical chronometer.

Da Vinci’s Design Doesn’t Fly, It Ticks

One of the many treasures found in the exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci’s works at the Museum of Science in Boston (See “Watch Watch,” JCK, April 1997, pp. 48-49) is this device. For centuries, it was seen only in print via Leonardo’s own Codex Atlanticus diary and always considered to be the engine for some sort of flying machine, perhaps a helicopter.

In 1995, however, Italian scholar Alessandro Vezzosi commissioned the creation of an exact model. The result: a mechanism that uses the same principle used in today’s mechanical watches. The device allows a user to “wind” it with a handwheel, create tension on a bow (much like a coiled spring) and puts into motion a vertical arbor that engages in the escapement wheel with a regular rhythm. The movement “ticks,” and its rate can be adjusted with weights.

The exhibit’s only U.S. appearance is at the Boston Museum of Science now through Sept. 1. The exhibit is co-sponsored by International Watch Co. Ltd. of Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Citizen Increases Production

Citizen reports it made 240 million watches in 1996, up 5% from 1995.

The company estimates it accounts for 22% of the world’s total production, the largest market share for completed watches worldwide.

In its annual review of watch production, the Tokyo-based company estimates global watch production increased between 1% and 2% to 1.09 billion pieces in 1996, when counting chablons, or a kit of movement parts prior to assembly.

Movado Group Sales, Earnings GROW in 1996

Firm Signs Up Junghans for German Distribution

The Movado Group Inc., Lyndhurst, N.J., says earnings totaled $12 million (up 24%) on sales of $215.1 million (up 16%) for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31.

However, earnings were reduced to $11.7 million because of a one-time charge related to hiring Junghans Uhren GmbH to distribute its Movado watches in Germany. Previously, Movado handled its own distribution in Germany.

Movado Group Inc., designs, manufactures and distributes Movado, Concord and ESQ watches and is the exclusive distributor of Swiss-manufactured Piaget and Corum watches in the U.S., Canada, Central America and the Caribbean.

Genender to Produce Perry Ellis Watches

Genender International, Wheeling, Ill., has signed with Perry Ellis International, New York, N.Y., to produce and distribute watches and clocks under the Perry Ellis, Perry Ellis America and Perry Ellis Portfolio names.

The timepieces will be made for men, women and children and will retail for $75 to $175. The line debuted last month during New York Accessories Market Week and is set to launch in department stores and specialty stores this fall.

The brand name was produced by CSC Time Corp., Rockville Center, N.Y., until last year. CSC halted production when its Hong Kong parent company’s real-estate holdings floundered.

Raymond Weil Sponsors 2 Charity Events

Raymond Weil is a new sponsor of the Connie Stevens Annual Celebrity Ski & Tennis Tournament in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Raymond Weil is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and has a U.S. office in New York City.

The tournament, which draws a wide variety of television and motion picture stars, raises money for Community Entry Services. CES provides independent living skills training for developmentally disabled children and adults. In addition to providing financial underwriting, Raymond Weil donated several W1 watches to help raise money for the event.

Raymond Weil also sponsored an Academy Awards viewing and a post-event party to benefit the Paul Sorvino Asthma Foundation Children’s Fund. The event took place at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles and included more than 140 guests.

Breitling pilots to fly

After being forced to ditch in the Mediterranean Sea just off the French coast earlier in the year, pilots of the Breitling Orbiter hot-air balloon promised to make another attempt next winter with the same craft.

A fuel leak forced the pilots, Bertrand Piccard and Wim Verstraeten, to land in water as they tried to be the first to travel around the world nonstop in a balloon.

Appointment

Swiss Army Brands Inc., Shelton, Conn., named Regina Ciarleglio national sales manager. She will oversee the Swiss Army Brand Watch and Allenby & Co. Watch Divisions.