Affordable luxury watches are stars of 2003 JCK Show

Jewelers encountered quite a few curves–specifically, an abundance of tonneau-shaped timepieces–at the recent JCK Show ~ Las Vegas 2003. Also catching their eyes were a number of new-to-America Swiss-made watch brands and new, affordable diamond watches and gold collections.

New tonneaus of all kinds-elongated, squat, slender, in steel or gem and gold-were offered by many exhibitors in all price categories. They included Fendi’s stylish ana-digi Grand Tonneau, European Company Watch’s luxury -priced Legionnaire tonneau; Daniel Mink’s expanded Tonneau collection, with entry-level Art Deco models, with or without diamonds; Charriol’s Columbus ladies’ and Extra Large tonneaus, Oris’ large (38mm x 48mm) steel day/date collection; Cyma’s Imperium tonneau, and Piaget’s new yellow gold ladies jewelry tonneau watches (“our most successful style,” said a spokeperson).

‘Affordable luxury.’ More new watches sparkled with the sheen of gold and/or the glint of diamonds, as more mid and upscale brands unveiled stylish “affordable luxury” lines. Among such new gold collections are Baume & Mercier’s 18k watches (produced specifically for the U.S. market), Roven Dino’s hot-selling 18k series, and Festina’s Century and 18k Gold collections. Spokesmen for Festina and Roven Dino both noted they manufacture their own cases and bracelets, enabling them to offer quality gold watches at “affordable prices.”

Affordable diamond watches are also getting more display space. “More people are looking for value in diamond and diamond-look watches, so we’re moving that way, too,’ says Peter Nicholson, vice president of corporate communications of Citizen Watch Co. of America, which presented its ladies’ gold Eco-drive Stiletto line, with 36 to 42 handset diamonds, the world’s thinnest light-powered watch.

Belair, a leading producer of private label watches for jewelers, unveiled its new diamond collection, with 183 full-cut VS quality diamonds. Bulova, which has increased its average retail price by $10 in the past year as focusing on more diamond watches and complications its collections, debuted its Accutron York, which includes several diamond watches. Other eye-catchers at JCK 2003 were Lancaster’s fashionable, affordable Italian-design diamond watches; Dior’s Riva Sparkling, with diamonds set in square steel cases, on woven leather straps; Rado’s high tech ceramic Sintra watches with diamonds (“a new emphasis for us,” says brand manager Caroline Faivet), and Technomarine’s luxury-priced full pavé watches. A small but growing number of collections also include men’s diamond watches, such as Zodiac’s new Ambassador series. However, as one watch vendor noted, “gents diamond watches are popular, too, with women who will buy and wear them.”

Big and bigger. Prominent trends at recent Swiss watch shows in Basel and Geneva were apparent at JCK Las Vegas, too. One is the popularity of large and oversized watches. Among many in this increasingly crowded category are Fortis’ B-42 chronograph alarm (Helvetia Time); TAG Heuer’s unisex 39mm Carrera (with mother of pearl dials); Piaget’s limited edition 40mm Las Vegas; IWC’s enlarged 38mm Portofina; Caravell by Bulova’s larger-case watches. Zodiac’s stylish new 44mm V-6 series; Gevril’s 44mm Glamour, on colored straps, with diamond sides and bezel (part of its Avenue of the America’s series); Pierre Kunz’s 44mm Roca, on blue teju straps; and big watch Ritmo Mvndo’s new 37mm Piazza. Omega’s 38mm Constellation Double Eagle, is a bigger, more masculine counterpoint to its Constellation My Choice ladies series promoted by model Cindy Crawford.

A niche within this big category is very large watches, usually gold, colorful and decked with diamonds and gems, which are popular with TV, movie, athletic, and music celebrities. Newcomers with such watches at JCK include ICE-Tek and Giannto.

Another trend here is the increasing popularity of mid-priced mechanical watches, usually automatic but also some hand-wound versions. Fresh examples at the JCK Show included cK’s Bold men’s watch and Zodiac’s Ambassador series (both automatic); Daniel Mink’s hand-wound Tempus collection (with left-side crowns); Zenith’s first ladies line, the automatic Chronomaster Star El Primero; veteran Swiss brand Alpina, which has always and only made mechanical watches; Festina’s 43mm dual-time automatic, Manhattan; the Dunhill’s new automatic RPM with tachymeter; and Glycine’s steel retro-style automatic Eugene Meylan, named for the founder of the venerable Swiss watchmaker.

Watches with so-called “screen” or “east/west” (horizontal) case designs were less obvious in Las Vegas than at spring’s Swiss watch show, but there were some standouts. Among them, Baume & Mercier’s new Hampton City-U.S. jewelers responded strongly to it, because “they like the different size and shape,” said U.S. president Fred Refsin; Charriol’s stylish new Actor, on saffron -yellow straps; Visace’s oval Hippodrome (its design based on the ancient Roman arenas); and Roven Dino’s Madison.

Also notable in styling is more use of carbon fiber dials (Bulova, Ritmo Mvndo, Grimoldi), woven strap brackets (Dior, Concord), stingray bracelets (Zodiac, Technomarine), and “metallic” dials (Charriol).

New and different. Jewelers and other watch retailers looking for the new and different found much to choose from at the JCK Show. Swiss-made upscale and luxury newcomers to the U.S. watch market included the contemporary Bill Blass line (by Omni Watch & Clock Co.); Burberry, known for its stylish fashions and accessories; the sporty and fashionable Trebor Collection (Mouawad); and veteran Swiss brand Alpina (ITG LLC). Stylish, new collections making their U.S. debuts in Las Vegas included Seiko’s striking, re-designed Actura, Oris’ Altier watches, with three-layer cases, and the stylish and classic Carlton and Bennington series of Concord.

Of interests, too, were these exhibitors. HourPower LLC, owned by two women, provides customized watches, with whose see-through backs open for engravings, pictures, even medical reminders. Ewatchfactory will customize Disney watches with customers names, with minimal number required. Philip Stein Tesler, a stylish fashion watch distributed by Viewpoint Showrooms, contains two “teslar chips” which allegedly protect wearers from the harmful effects of electromagnetic fields, reducing stress, hyper activity, headaches, depression, and anxiety.