Brunner, Lich Tapped for Egana of Switzerland, Festina USA

Two U.S. watch industry veterans—Franz Brunner and Larry Lich—have been tapped by two foreign brands to build sales and public awareness in the U.S. market.

Franz Brunner has been a watch executive for more than 30 years. The former owner of the Nicolet and Lucien Piccard watch brands, he was a sales and marketing executive with Helbros and the Jules Jurgensen when tapped in summer 2003 to be executive vice president of Egana of Switzerland (America) Corp., Pompano Beach, Fla.

EganaGoldpfeil, a global marketer of upscale lifestyle goods based in Hong Kong, brought Brunner on board to overhaul its nascent U.S. watch operations, especially its German-made Junghans watches, one of Europe’s best-known timepieces. Brunner’s U.S. responsibilities also include the Pierre Cardin, Paolo Gucci, Field and Stream, Carrera, Cerrutti 1881, and new National Geographic watches.

Brunner says Junghans has been “largely restyled for the American market,” with more emphasis on what he calls “lifestyle styling.” The Pierre Cardin fashion brand has been repositioned as a “very affordable gift watch at $29.95,” primarily for the winter holiday season but also for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. It’s sold through department stores and jewelers.

For Field and Stream watches, Egana is positioning them as men’s gifts, available through gift and outdoor stores, and—for the first time—department stores.

Plans for Cerrutti 1881 call for its launch here in 2005 as an upscale Swiss watch, priced at $500 to $1,500 and sold in jewelry stores.

Another new direction for Egana is its new watch line for the National Geographic Society ($85 to $600, retail), the first time the 116-year-old nonprofit scientific and educational organization has licensed its name for a timepiece. Part of each sale goes to its exploration, conservation, research, and education programs, says Brunner, who oversaw development. Primary retailers are jewelry stores, outdoors stores, and department stores.

Larry Lich was named to the new post of president of Festina USA in June by the Festina-Lotus Group, Barcelona, Spain. Active in the U.S. watch business for 40 years, he previously was senior vice president of sales and marketing for Fossil’s Swiss watch division, longtime U.S. vice president of marketing and sales for Raymond Weil Swiss watches, and director of national accounts at Seiko and Bulova.

Festina USA formerly concentrated on chains. Now, says Lich, it’s expanding marketing to independent jewelers and working on national recognition. There will be greater focus on its Swiss-made stainless-steel watches ($100 to $500), spotlighting various collections and price points. There also will be more promotion of its 18k gold collection ($500 to $2,000). “No one else has anything like it,” says Lich. “Most gold lines start at $1,500, and gold-plated ones sell for $400 to $1,000.”

Lich is creating a national sales force—”professional watch people who know how to develop relationships with jewelers”—and expects to have a full-time staff of eight soon.

Festina is official sponsor of the renowned Tour de France cycling race, and he plans to raise Festina’s profile in America by spotlighting that connection and reaching out to cyclists. “It’s a huge market, taking in every age group,” Lich says. Festina USA will work with local jewelers to support local biking events, leveraging its association with cycling to build business for jewelers.