Ebel’s ‘Renaissance’ Revamps Watch Lines, Marketing

Ebel, one of the best-known Swiss luxury watch brands, unveiled colorful fresh looks for its watches at the 2003 international watch and jewelry show in Basel, Switzerland. The Ebel “renaissance” included a new watch line called Tarawa, new looks for the Beluga and 1911 lines, a new advertising campaign, and new in-store displays and packaging.

The design makeover caps an overhaul begun in 2000 of the 92-year-old brand’s organization, operations, and products.

In North America, Ebel will use its revamped products and marketing to reach younger affluent adults, including more men and Latinos. Tarawa watches and Ebel’s new packaging, displays, marketing, and advertising were scheduled to be available to retailers here in May.

The changes were outlined by Randi Shinske, president and chief executive officer of Ebel USA, and Chafik, artistic director of Ebel S.A., in interviews with JCK.

‘Artistic DNA.’ According to Chafik, “Ebel’s new artistic vision is really a renaissance—a return to Ebel’s roots, a reinterpretation of its artistic and emotional DNA. We’re bringing more emotion and more color, not only for Ebel’s products, but its displays, its advertising, the whole environment of the brand. It is integrated into the whole global brand strategy.”

The stress on color began in Ebel’s haute joaillerie white gold and colored precious stone “Gems of the Ocean” series, introduced last summer. Ebel’s high-end jewelry watches will be “the brand’s laboratory,” says Shinske, for new design concepts and styles, which later can be applied to its other collections. Tarawa, for example, Ebel’s new full collection for men and women, began as part of the “Gems of the Oceans” series.

Samples of the new looks for Beluga and 1911 were shown at Basel. Ebel’s other reconceptualized lines will be unveiled over the next 12 months. “All collections will be affected by this new breeze,” says Chafik. The brand’s name logo also has been redesigned to be “more current,” he says.

Marketing outreach. Ebel USA will use the design and color makeover of its products and marketing to attract “younger, more hip” affluent customers in the 25-to-35-year-old age group, says Shinske. (Ebel’s traditional customers are age 30 to 45.) As part of that effort, she adds, Ebel is reaching out for the first time to young adults of the U.S. “hip-hop and Latino communities.” With a customer mix of 70% women and 30% men, Ebel also is making a conscious effort to attract more male customers, she says, with additional watches that are “a little bigger, bolder, and a little more technical”—features that also appeal to many women.

Ebel has 384 doors in North America, almost all in the United States. The company plans to increase that number to 400-450 doors in the next five years, with most of the additional outlets in Canada and the western United States. The main goal, however, isn’t more doors, but rather to build more business for the stores in its network, says Shinske.

The brand also plans to add in-store “Ebel corners” in five more retail jewelry stores this year. It already has two in Alpha-Omega stores in the northeastern United States.

As part of its marketing effort, Shinske held a meeting in Napa Valley, Calif., at the end of February with officials of 10 of Ebel USA’s key retailers. They reviewed the U.S. market, discussed ways of marketing to consumers, and previewed Ebel’s new products and marketing.

Ebel is owned by LVMH, the French luxury goods conglomerate.