Industry / Podcasts

The Jewelry District, Episode 48: Watches of Switzerland, Alex and Ani, and Marketing Innovations


You’ll hear JCK editor-in-chief Victoria Gomelsky and news director Rob Bates talk about Watches of Switzerland, Alex and Ani, and marketing innovations.

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Show Notes
00:55 Victoria talks about her trip to New York to see Watches of Switzerland’s new campaign.
07:02 The jewelry industry is doing well.
09:25 Rob explains how Alex and Ani declined into bankruptcy.
16:49 Victoria discusses her article for The New York Times in which she talks with top minds in marketing.
20:14 The president of research and strategy at the New York–based company PSFK told Victoria about developing technology called “digital twins.”

Episode Credits
Hosts: Rob Bates and Victoria Gomelsky
Producer and engineer: Natalie Chomet
Plugs: Zing by Jewelers Mutual,

Show Recap

New York Is Back! Plus Watches of Switzerland Shows Off

Victoria and Rob kick off the podcast by talking about Victoria’s recent trip to New York, her first visit to the city since the pandemic started. She was in New York for a press trip, sponsored by Watches of Switzerland to celebrate its newest campaign: Anytime, Anywhere. The brand showed off its watches in a spectacular video created by a creative director hired specifically for the job. Watches of Switzerland will have an Airstream parked in the Hamptons in New York through August to show off its watches. Victoria and Rob also briefly talk about how New York has changed since the beginning of the pandemic and where peoples’ dispensable income is going.

A Thriving Industry

Rob says lab-grown and natural diamonds are doing well. The fear was that these two industries would cannibalize each other, but so far that hasn’t happened. Retail sales are up, and people are ready for the pandemic to be over. Victoria pivots to mention a company called Threads Styling, a chat-based platform with an Instagram account. If consumers like what they see, they can start a chat via WhatsApp with a personal shopper and talk about the pieces they’re interested in. Now, the company has its own shop on Instagram. Rob mentions Signet is also doing well.

Alex and Ani and Bankruptcy

Victoria gives a quick counter to all the optimism we’ve heard so far of booming retail sales: Alex and Ani has gone bankrupt. Rob explains the brand was once one of the biggest in the industry, valued at over a billion dollars. However, last month it filed for Chapter 11. Alex and Ani’s interim CEO has said the company faced three main problems: macro trends driving customers away from brick-and-mortar retail, explosive growth in the early 2010s that resulted in operational challenges, and significant turnover in management. Rob also explains the company’s link to a spiritual healer and the ways in which its mobile app used customer data.

What’s Next for Watches

Victoria held a trio of interviews for an article called “What’s Next for Watches”—which ran in The New York Times on June 19—asking her interviewees what’s coming in the watch industry and retail at large. The first person she spoke to is an expert on consumer psyche, who held conversations with consumers on what they need to feel good about purchasing something. He says brands need to be able to convey a sense of stability, truth, timelessness, and authenticity—all things that the luxury watch industry has expressed well.

Digital Twins

Victoria also spoke to the president of research and strategy, at the New York–based company PSFK, who discussed an omnichannel approach of meeting customers where they are. He also spoke about a concept called “digital twins,” where every manufactured product would have a digital version that sits in the cloud with all of its data. This setup would allow, say, a watch manufacturer to track anomalies in its watches or problems in a specific customer’s watch—giving it the capability to inform its customers that they should bring their watches in for service. This technology could be especially valuable in the automotive space.

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