Concord Repositions as High-Niche Brand

Luxury watch brand Concord is repositioning itself—as an even more exclusive luxury brand, with innovative, edgy designs and its former lines reduced to one, the new C1. This fall, in advance of its 100th anniversary in 2008, it is officially re-launching itself worldwide with its new watch, tighter distribution, and a new global ad campaign promoting its new brand identity, the C1, and its new logo: “The Watch. Reconstructed.”

Chrono Rsoe Gold 3.3 mm-thick sapphire crystal, 
7 side screws, three-level dial and 16.7 mm-thick case 
composed of 53 components.

Concord began in 1908 in Switzerland, and became known for technical expertise and private label fine watches it then made for leading jewelers like Cartier and Tiffany. In 1969, North American Watch Co. (now Movado Group Inc.) bought Concord, taking it to new accomplishments. In 1979, Concord unveiled the elegant Delirium, the world’s flattest watch. In 1980s, came Concord’s Mariner luxury sports watch and the sophisticated Saratoga. During the ‘90s, Concord debuted Saratoga Exor, one of the most expensive watches made at the time, and added the stylish Veneto and La Scala lines.

Following the successful 2005 re-launch of its Ebel luxury brand, MGI decided to re-invigorate Concord and give it a wider international presence in the very high-end luxury niche. Vincent Perriard was tapped in June 2006 to be president of Concord worldwide to oversee its repositioning. In the previous decade, he was involved in repositioning luxury brand Audemars Piguet and Swatch Group’s mid-priced Hamilton brand, and before Concord, headed Brand DNA, specializing in business strategies for luxury brands. Joining Perriard were Stefan Feltgen as Concord’s worldwide marketing director, and Alex Grinberg as Concord USA president, at its Paramus, N.J. offices.

Concord’s several lines were trimmed to only one, the new C1 (“C” for “Concord” and “Concept,” “1” for first collection). Its creation returns Concord to what Grinberg calls its “original DNA” as a very high-end, innovative Swiss brand, incorporating “modernity, technical know-how, daring, ‘the unexpected,’ and edgy designs.”

Concord’s retail outlets worldwide shrank from 500 to 120 (30 in the United States), while its watches’ retail prices rose from a former entry at $3,500 to now $9,400 – $12,000. Its market, says Perriard, are “hardcore watch aficionados and enthusiasts.”

Concord also moved its headquarters from New Jersey to Bienne, Switzerland. Though always Swiss-made, Concord’s ownership by a U.S. company over four decades gave it an “American” identity. “To be a truly international high-end Swiss brand and have immediate access to the best resources to build a very special, high-end watch, including complex movements, we have to be in Switzerland,” Grinberg says.

The C1 chronograph collection debuted at this year’s international BaselWorld watch and jewelry show in Switzerland, and arrives in stores now through early 2008. The C2 is planned for 2008 and the C3 in 2009 (Also planned: limited editions and more complex mechanical movements).

The automatic C1—a COSC-certified chronometer—has a steel case 44mm wide, 16.7mm thick, and comprised of 53 engineered components of steel and rubber; with structural styling, using edges and angles; a tri-level carbon fiber dial, and water-resistance to over 600 ft. One world-first is C1’s titanium-tipped vulcanized rubber strap-to-case attachments, connected directly to the case by self-blocking screws for a comfortable fit for any size wrist and better shock absorption.

C1’s initial production run is 1,200 watches. That could increase to under 2,000 next year. Growth will be “minimal,” based on demand, Grinberg says.

C1 is a masculine timepiece, but women’s versions could be added as early as Spring 2008. Perriard anticipates a 70/30 male-to-female ratio in future business.

Concord’s “The Watch. Reconstructed.” ad campaign launches worldwide in late October, initially in trade publications to introduce the C1 and what Perriard calls the “ultimate watch construction” to connoisseurs and collectors of fine timepieces.