Industry / Podcasts

The Jewelry District, Episode 122: Watches of Switzerland’s Roberto Coin Acquisition, JCK Show Highlights


JCK editor-in-chief Victoria Gomelsky and news director Rob Bates react to Watches of Switzerland’s recent acquisition of Roberto Coin Inc. As the hosts discuss the slow growth of brands in the jewelry space, Victoria gives the fascinating backstory on Shinola’s Gomelsky watch as an illustration of the challenges of launching a new brand. Victoria covers the exciting activations to look out for on the JCK show floor, all in the name of love—this year’s JCK theme. Both hosts also run down the education sessions that you won’t want to miss this year.

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Show Notes:
00:48 An upcoming press trip to India
05:10 Watches of Switzerland’s recent acquisition of Roberto Coin Inc.
11:45 The story behind the Gomelsky watch brand
15:50 What to look for at the JCK show
19:30 Education to add to your show calendar

Episode Credits
Hosts: Rob Bates and Victoria Gomelsky
Producer and engineer: Natalie Chomet
Editor: Riley McCaskill
Plugs: @jckmagazine;

Show Recap
All Eyes On India
Victoria looks forward to her upcoming press trip with Ben Bridge to India, where she will visit Mumbai, Surat, Jaipur, a tiger reserve in Rajasthan, the Taj Mahal in Agra, and Delhi over the course of 10 days. While this will be her fifth trip there, she is thrilled to go at a time when the world’s eyes are on India: The economy is booming and their election is coming up. But India has always had great importance to the jewelry industry. So much of the product that Americans are exposed to comes through India—whether the stones have been cut or the finished jewelry has been manufactured there.

Watches of Switzerland Buys Roberto Coin Inc.
Rob shares his thoughts on Watches of Switzerland’s recent acquisition of Roberto Coin Inc., which includes distribution rights for the brand in the United States, Canada, Central America, and the Caribbean. While WoSG purchased only part of the Italian brand’s operation, it marks a big move into the jewelry sector for the watch retailer. Some might also see it as a reaction to Rolex’s purchase of Bucherer. Since WoSG’s business is heavily dependent on Rolex, when Rolex announced it was buying Bucherer, Watches of Switzerland’s stock went down. Perhaps this prompted the group to diversify into jewelry, Rob suggests.

In a presentation, Watches of Switzerland named Roberto Coin the sixth-largest jewelry brand in the United states. The other five were Tiffany, Cartier, David Yurman, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Bulgari. All are owned by large conglomerates except for David Yurman. The thing to watch, Rob points out, is that WoSG will now be selling to its competitors. “That might make some people uneasy, but I assume if it’s a profitable product, people will continue to carry it,” he says.

One theory is that this could be part of an overall exit strategy for Roberto Coin, and WoSG was not in a position to buy the entire company. Another is that WoSG might simply have greater resources and could help bring the Italian jewelry brand to the next level. The structure of the deal would make it harder for any other company to take over Roberto Coin in its entirety other than Watches of Switzerland.

Slow Growth in the Branded Jewelry Space
“It is interesting for a group that’s founded on watches to see opportunity in jewelry,” Victoria comments. “For 20 years, the idea that jewelry [has been] so largely unbranded, how much room there is for more global brands to acquire and merge and take a bigger chunk of that pie.”

Victoria uses the Gomelsky sub-brand of Shinola watches as an example of how difficult it can be for a small brand to launch and gain the name recognition it needs to succeed. Even with the solid foundation of Shinola backing it up, the sub-brand that was named after Victoria didn’t last more than a few years. “You have to have a sustained effort over years and probably commit to not being super profitable at the beginning,” Victoria explains.

The Story Behind the Gomelsky Watch Brand
In 2013, Victoria made an appointment to see Shinola at Baselworld. It was the new watch brand’s first time exhibiting there. Tom Kartsotis, the former co-owner of Fossil watches, had founded Shinola with the dream of reviving the American watchmaking tradition. Victoria, who expected a publicist, was surprised to meet Kartsotis, who led her through all the Shinola watches himself at the appointment. When they came to the only women’s watch Shinola made at the time, Kartsotis informed her that they didn’t yet have a name for it. He then asked what Victoria’s last name was and proposed that that be what they would call the watch brand: “The Gomelsky!” he proclaimed. Victoria thought it was an odd joke and didn’t think much more of it.

Later, at the local watering hole for American retailers and press at Baselworld, she talked to the Shinola publicist and found out that Kartsotis, in frustration that his team hadn’t come up with a name for their women’s line, had said he’d name it after the next person who walked into the booth! Lo and behold, that person was Victoria. Rob’s takeaway from this story? “Anything can happen at a trade show.”

What to Look for at the JCK Show
Speaking of trade shows, the hosts share some tips about the upcoming JCK 2024 show. (Luxury opens Wednesday, May 29, and JCK on Friday, May 31.) Victoria spoke to Sarin Bachmann, group vice president of RX’s jewelry portfolio, to get the scoop on what to look out for:

The theme this year is love—a sentiment that is inextricably tied to many facets of the jewelry industry. So all the activations on the show floor have to do with different kinds and expressions of love. In fact, a feature story in the 2024 issue of JCK focuses on people who have found love at the JCK show.

Puppies, Pride, and Petals
Don’t miss the puppy love section: Saturday, June 1, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. on Level 2 near the Clockwork area, there will be a pen of puppies to frolic with. If you need a dopamine hit, head there! It’s sure to be wholesome, fun, and very “un-Vegas.”

Visit the Love Is Love Lounge, a pride-focused lounge on Level 2 by the hallway on the Luxury side, which will feature a tattoo activation on Saturday, June 1. While the bold can opt for real ink, airbrushed tattoos are available for the more cautious. There will also be a love-locks fence sponsored by Stuller, which will provide custom engraving services on the locks. Come back before you leave the show to pick up your engraved lock to take home.

There will be a sustainability garden wall for taking pictures—a perfect photo op to show the beautiful jewelry attendees have discovered on the show floor and encourage traffic to their stores at home. The show will be filled with these and more thoughtful and sweet moments, all in celebration of love.

Victoria notes that it must be hard to keep reinventing a trade show, but each year the RX team does a great job of getting a feel for the zeitgeist and comes up with ways to delight people and get their customers excited.

Education to Put on Your Show Schedule
Victoria looks forward to the Sustainability Summit on Thursday, May 30, at 11 a.m. in the San Polo Ballroom on Level 3. It will be led by Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability and institutional affairs officer of Kering. It will begin with a fireside chat, followed by a panel discussion between people both in and outside the jewelry industry, led by a Harvard professor.

Victoria also highlights the 101-level education series that’s tailor-made for newcomers to the industry, which can be found in the meeting rooms on Level 1 on Thursday, May 30.

Looking for education led by the hosts? Rob will moderate a session on security measures as part of the 101 back-to-basics series that he recommends for anyone—not only industry newbies. You will always pick up a good tip; there’s always something new you can do to keep safe. And it’s a great reminder of what the best practices are for safety.

Victoria will be leading a panel covering the latest from the colored gemstone market on Sunday, June 2, at 10 a.m. on the Level 2 Showcase Stage. On the same day and stage at noon, she’ll also lead JCK Talks Trends from the Floor, bringing insights directly from the bustling show booths.

Renowned boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard will be doing the keynote at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, June 1, in the San Polo Ballroom. And the Sunday-night party will be headlined by Flo Rida on Tao Beach.

Rob highlights the Spotlight on De Beers breakfast on Friday morning, which will be headlined by Al Cook, the group’s CEO and our recent podcast interview guest. Both hosts remarked on how personable he was at our last episode. Though Cook didn’t break any big news on the podcast, Rob found the way he phrased his answers interesting. And he also teased some updates we can expect to hear more about at the JCK show.

Any views expressed in this podcast do not reflect the opinions of JCK, its management, or its advertisers.

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By: Natalie Chomet

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