Las Vegas 2003 Good News At Last

After several years of economic stagnation and moribund sales, pent-up demand had already begun to let loose during the winter 2003 shows, and by the time The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas opened May 30, jewelers—many of whom had canceled buying trips abroad this winter—were hungry for new merchandise. Business in all sectors at the show was solid for most exhibitors, and the general mood at the show was optimistic. Buyer attendance was approximately 19,750, said show vice president Dave Bonaparte, about the same as last year’s. Some exhibitors said traffic seemed slightly less, but everyone agreed that buying was solid. Most retail jewelers JCK spoke to at the show—and at the preceding Luxury by JCK and Couture Collection & Conference shows—reported a slow spring in the weeks leading up to and during the war with Iraq, followed by a strong rebound in May, fueling optimism for fall sales. And jewelers were ready for more than just fill-in orders: Demand for fashionable merchandise and distinctive design was strong.

Even the SARS scare, which devastated the Basel show in April, didn’t affect the business done by the Hong Kong section of the show—home to 112 jewelry exhibitors, 14 more than in 2002. “This year’s visitor traffic was better than last summer’s show, and the business overall was 3% to 5% higher, in terms of orders placed, than last year,” said B.K. Chow, general manager of the Hong Kong Jewelry Manufacturers’ Association, organizer of the delegation. In fact, a number of European retailers who couldn’t do business with Hong Kong firms in Basel (because of the Swiss government’s ban on Southeast Asian exhibitors) came to Las Vegas to do so.

Asian exhibitors were required to arrive in Las Vegas at least 10 days prior to the show (10 days is the maximum incubation period for the disease), to obtain medical certification before leaving Asia, and to be recertified by JCK Show doctors in Las Vegas before the show. Those actions allayed buyer fears of contracting the disease.

The JCK Show normally accounts for 10% to 15% of the annual business of Hong Kong’s jewelry companies, and the Hong Kong delegation has already asked The JCK Show management for a floor of suites in the Venetian at the 2004 show.

A new look. The 2003 edition marked the debut of the reconfigured JCK Show. A number of pavilions were added, and some—most notably the Design Center—were moved. Designers were thrilled with their new location on Level Two, and participants in the new pavilions were pleased to have their own identity.

T Lee of Minneapolis, exhibiting in the Design Center, said, “I wrote orders—that’s what makes me happy. “We were overwhelmed on Saturday.”

Steven Lagos of Lagos, Philadelphia, said his business during The JCK Show and the previous Couture show was very good. “Between this show and our last show, this is our best ever,” he said. “Spring was soft. But our stuff sells and I think inventories were depleted. I think people are very happy.”

Patricia Daunis of Daunis, Portland, Maine, agreed that the show was good. “I like the new location, although I think it’s a little confusing for the buyers right now. But the people that we have coming here we have worked with for years. They are serious buyers. The buyers and the key people are here.”

JCK Show management boasted two other exhibition successes this year—one in its four-year-old, by-invitation-only Luxury show that preceded the main show by three days, and the other in its first Luxury Swiss Watch Gallery, featuring more than two dozen top Swiss watch brands. Both were held in the Venetian Hotel (adjacent to the Sands Convention Center, site of The JCK Show), where exhibitors invited current and prospective customers to the comfortable setting of hotel suites, with refreshments and other amenities. Based on the success of both events, show management has secured additional luxury suites at Venetian hotel for 2004 and beyond.

Indeed, the single biggest complaint about the shows overall was too-frigid air-conditioning. But as exhibitor Sara Silber of Silber’s pointed out, that was preferable to not enough, especially when outdoor temperatures soared to record-breaking June highs of 107ºF and 108ºF.

Here’s a roundup of key trends and business from each sector:

Design and style: It’s all about color. After a season of stagnation, designers showed signs of life at The JCK Show, unveiling colorful collections that emphasized versatility and a continued focus on drop silhouettes in earrings and necklaces.

One of the biggest surprises of the season was pink. Though lines were peppered with pink going into a spring season that demanded pastels, designers and manufacturers decided to push the color in their new collections for fall—but this time, the pink is in the gold.

Long relegated to the estate and antique category, pink gold reemerged as a fresh alternative to yellow and white gold or platinum. While this is not the first time in recent years that designers have attempted to revive the metal, an industry that has welcomed such materials as steel and titanium may be poised to give the rich, warm, rose-colored gold another chance. Makur Designs, for example, featured pink gold mixed with diamonds, Michael Barin set fire opals in pink gold, Zaffiro interpreted the pink palette by setting pink sapphires and rubies into pink gold, and Takohl designer Tammy Kohl reported a smashing success with her pink gold version of the signature Treasure Ring set with a faceted rhodolite.

“We’ve had a really good show,” said Cathleen Ramos of Anatoli Inc. “There’s been excellent response to our locket jewelry—it’s one of our best sellers.” In a nice switch from the standard charm bracelet look, Anatoli’s most popular pieces were charm necklaces featuring dangling lockets grouped with other pendants. The pieces incorporated Tahitian pearls and blue topaz and are available in 14k and silver. The success of the pieces, which have an antique air about them, demonstrated both the ongoing popularity of Y shapes in necklaces as well as the continuing appeal of nostalgia.

Gemstones abounded, and designers showed more rainbow-inspired lines. Combinations of various colored sapphires was the biggest trend, with designers like Valente using the different colors as pavé in bold necklaces. Scavia mixed sapphires to accent diamonds in dramatic drop earrings that swirl toward the shoulder like tendrils of hair. Aaron Henry used the sapphire combinations on a smaller scale, with warm-hued sapphires set into stacking rings.

Semiprecious combinations also were hot, with designers like Pasquale Bruni combining citrine and amethyst, and Nina Ricci interpreting traditionally warm autumn hues—citrine, garnet, and peridot—in yellow gold drop necklaces and earrings.

Earthy browns, greenish-blues, and greens emerged as the leaders. Pale greens and sea-blue-green, expected for spring, were also a hot trend for fall, especially when combined with the rich hues of yellow gold. Jade at Judith Ripka, Peruvian opal at Michael Barin, green quartz at Robin Rotenier, green garnet at Hubert Gem Designs, and lemon citrine at Somos Creations illustrated the breadth of this trend.

Following the lead of fashion designers—who mixed warm browns with cool grays for a fresh fall combination—jewelry designers hit upon the contrast of smoky quartz and silver. Lisa Jenks went bold with chunky silver and smoky quartz combinations, using faceted stones or a smooth surface and mixing in elements such as mother-of-pearl. Scott Kay used smoky quartz—adding a twist by dubbing it “espresso quartz”—in his new sterling silver collection.

Kalan’s Lisa Medrano noted that their chalcedony, Peruvian opal, blue quartz, and apatite pieces were extremely popular, and a spokesman for Hilary Druxman said their new 18k yellow gold and emerald jewelry line did remarkably well.

Julie Berendt of Laura Gibson also attested to the popularity of green stones, particularly in one Gibson necklace that featured three braided strands of peridot, pink sapphire, ruby, and chrysoberyl. The pink and green gems played off one another, accenting the brightness and clarity of the stones.

Frank Reubel showed new pieces featuring “cashmere blue” topaz—bright royal blue in tone—that sold well alongside the now classic Caribbean blue (teal) topaz pieces. They also launched a new shade of lab-created corundum called “tropical pink” sapphire. The fuchsia stones attracted a lot of interest, said Alex Reubel, but he was especially happy with the success of their new martini-glass pendants, the “Tini” line.

Manufacturers and designers continue their obsession with drop silhouettes in earrings and necklaces. Chandelier earrings are still popular, but a new trend on the horizon is for sleeker drop shapes. In either case, the dangling earring—short for daytime or dramatic for evening—shows no signs of yielding to any other style as the hands-down favorite. Michou saw great success with its “Heirloom Collection” of rainbow moonstone and coin pearl jewelry. The company’s dangling rainbow moonstone chandeliers were a best seller, available in 18k or sterling silver with vermeil. Diana Heimann also debuted a wide range of gemstone drop earrings, from chandeliers with delicate aquamarine and tourmaline briolettes to round circles hanging from a post and dripping with briolettes on bottom.

In necklaces, lariats and simple drops have evolved into a new take on Y-shaped styles. Gurhan, for example, showed a new Y-shaped necklace with dangling briolettes and a revived scarf necklace with gemstone drops.

The romance inherent in those drop silhouettes also shows itself in the continued strength of heart shapes, though in new interpretations. Jane Taylor, for example, stretches the shape into clean cuffs and sleek rings.

Another trend that continues for fall is versatile jewelry. From adjustable necklaces and convertible pendant/pin combos, to pieces that allow movement of gems for different effects, any piece that offers more than one look is a hit. Imperial Deltah, for example, followed the lead of high-end jewelry house Mikimoto and launched a movable pearl line that features white or black pearls. The pearls can be adjusted for various placement on leather cord necklaces and bracelets.

Finally, a continued push for lower price points—along with the increasing influence of interesting, fashionable design—is driving the use of leather, rubber, and other “unconventional” materials in fine-jewelry collections. MiMi, which this spring launched a fashion-driven freshwater pearl line in the United States, took the edgy look a step further by fashioning the pearls into cross shapes and hanging them from leather cord necklaces, while Italy’s Nanis stepped up the fashion with a multi-strand leather necklace featuring bold yellow gold beads. Trendsetter Robert Lee Morris, meanwhile, gave new meaning to nontraditional fine jewelry, showing a collection that featured sandalwood beads, brass, and copper beside rough black tourmaline, carnelian, and jade.

Diamonds: Right hands in, some sightholders out. Diamond dealers at The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas remained “cautiously optimistic”—and some placed the emphasis more on the “cautious” than the “optimistic.” As Al Singer of Solar Diamonds said, “Retailers are still buying, but only if they can pay after Christmas.”

Still, the news was not all bad.

“People are conservative,” agreed New York dealer Reuven Kaufman, “but we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think there is a lot of optimism. I think we are in

for a good Christmas.” He noted that, despite the mixed economic picture, educated consumers still want better qualities and cutting.

“There is a lot of information disseminated on the Internet,” he said. “The days of the 5.9-millimeter one-carat stone are dwindling.”

The dominant diamond jewelry trend was the Diamond Trading Company-promoted “right-hand ring.” Advertising for the right-hand ring breaks this fall, exhorting women to “raise your right hand.” Although retailers gave the first designs an almost unanimous thumbs down, many felt they had to climb on board, if only because the last DTC-promoted item—three-stone diamond jewelry—was so successful. In fact, judging from the display cases, the three-stone trend still has plenty of life. Also hot: princess cuts (the No. 1 seller after rounds), ovals, and emerald cuts.

The show featured yet another new batch of brand introductions and presentations, particularly the latest trends-within-a-trend: diamonds accompanied by documented ways to measure beauty, and co-brands such as BHP’s “CanadaMark.”

But the biggest buzz in the diamond sector was the DTC’s “Supplier of Choice” program—which finally unveiled its choices. (See “Industry Shocked at New Sightholder List,” Upfront, p. 26.) Although no official list was released, dealers eagerly traded numbers and names of dropped sightholders like kids swapping baseball cards. The reconfigured roster exiled many longtime customers, and many expressed wonder that the DTC had made the announcement when it did. Ironically, some of the dropped sightholders spotlighted their new marketing initiatives at the show—initiatives that likely wouldn’t have existed without prodding from DTC/De Beers.

For diamond people, the news clouded what was generally an upbeat show, although a statement from the DTC indicated the reconfigured roster had more to do with supplies of large goods—which have dropped significantly—than any criticism of the dropped suppliers’ business operations.

On a lighter note in the diamond sector, Oved Diamond Co. promoted a special raffle drawing throughout the show, and on the last day selected the winner from a box of entries. Jeweler Darren Mack, owner of Palace Jewelry and Loan of Reno, Nev., won a pair of 1.55-ct. clarity-enhanced diamond earrings, G-SI2 color, in a 14k white gold setting, with a wholesale price of $1,675.

In living color: Crowds at AGTA. The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) ballroom opened one day early to a strong reception by attendees looking to get a jump on the main event, and the aisles were crowded with buyers. Pearls were prominent, in both quantities and qualities, and prices were mostly affordable. Top-quality strands had tickets to match but were worth the price. Gary Tarna at Hanadama displayed some fine-quality mixed-color strands of Tahitians, with one top strand of 13-mm to 10.8-mm rounds priced at $18,500. The Australian South Sea display featured two standout strands: 29 pieces of 16.5-mm to 13-mm rounds tagged at $85,000, and another 29 pieces of 17.3-mm to 13.5-mm rounds, priced at $135,000.

With the abundance of pearls by the hank, pearl suppliers with some design background were busy making up ready-to-wear pearl necklaces. Sayoko Adachi, of Adachi America in Los Angeles, was showing micro-wire designs, suspending Tahitian pearl drops from chain strung with sapphire or black diamond. David Ohlgisser at King Plutarco, also in Los Angeles, used large Australian South Sea baroques measuring approximately 16 mm by 19 mm—which he called “monster pearls”—chaining them on 18k white gold with large chunks of hammered rough morganite beads. The look was big, for an affordable price. Neal Littman got into the pearl act by showing off some 12-mm Tahitians surrounded by .7 ct. t.w. of diamonds and 144 demantoid garnets, 3.2 cts t.w.

Beads are still in vogue and were available in every gem material imaginable—and a few unimaginable. Materials ranged from diamond, ruby, and emerald to hammered blocks of chalcopyrite from Zimbabwe at the Robert Bentley Company of New York. Chalcopyrite is somewhat brittle but its beautiful iridescence offsets its lack of durability. At $2/gram, strands sold for around $200.

As for the more usual (but with an unusual twist), David Dadfarin at Shilco Gem Corp. in New York exhibited ruby-, emerald-, and

diamond-beaded necklaces, all of which were labeled as having no heat, or no oil. Amar Jain of Fine Gems, New York, showed faceted black spinel beads from Africa at $2/ct. to $3/ct.—a great substitute for black diamond beads, he noted. Peter Rohm, exhibiting in the Austrian pavilion, showed a number of coral beaded necklaces, with pink coral from numerous localities including the Pacific (especially near Taiwan), the Mediterranean, and the Hawaiian Islands. Given its current favor in fashion, coral was expected to be the gem material pushed at the show, but it was no more abundant than usual.

Diamond beads were also on display but were more expensive than they appeared. A typical strand priced at “only” $300/ct. might weigh 80 cts. and cost $24,000 per strand. Rose-cut diamonds also were seen in a number of booths, both loose and set in finished pieces. Shailesh Jhalani of Prompt Gem Importers, New York, featured a 3.98-ct. radiant-cut fancy intense yellow diamond accented by 3.5 cts. of rose cuts in a platinum ring.

Individuals as well as groups were promoting the newest December birthstone, tanzanite. Prices for what appeared to be top-quality gems were chaotic as some dealers had individual pieces priced above $400/ct., while others showed beautiful suites for less than $300/ct. And as one dealer who didn’t want to be named commented, “It isn’t selling even at that.”

Gems mined in North America sold well. Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem House and Trigem Designs in Vancouver, Wash., noted that their American gems program was attracting more attention. Also from Braunwart, tashmarine—the new find of green diopside from China—was receiving some recognition. Braunwart recently donated some fine examples of tashmarine to the Smithsonian gem collection.

Nicolai Kuznetsov was seen with Bill Larson at Pala International, showing half-kilo bags of top-color demantoid garnet rough from Russia. Quantities and qualities like these haven’t been seen for nearly a century, Larson noted.

Coated topaz, also known as Mystic topaz or Mystic Fire topaz, sold well. One exhibitor reportedly sold out his entire booth.

A “new” gem, first sighted in Tucson earlier this year, was on display: a strong to vivid saturated orangey-reddish-pink beryl from Madagascar. It may be a new mineral, but it’s more likely a new variety of beryl, notes Tom Cushman of Allerton Cushman & Co., Sun Valley, Idaho, who has the largest and finest specimens.

Equipment, Technology, and Supplies: Location no deterrent. Most of the more than 100 exhibitors at the new Equipment, Technology, and Supplies Pavilion went from near mutiny to near ecstasy during the show. At first, exhibitors—including interior design and architecture firms, CAD/CAM companies, and equipment suppliers—were upset over the remote location of the pavilion, in several first-floor conference rooms. They worried buyers wouldn’t be able to find them—or might not even look.

In fact, it was difficult to find the vendors, and many said that lack of signage was a problem. But the customers came—in droves—and nearly all the exhibitors interviewed said attendees who found them were seeking them out and ready to buy.

Three sections of conference rooms housed exhibitors, and traffic was brisk in approximately two-thirds of the exhibit space. The first section enjoyed the most traffic, which tapered down somewhat in the second section. The third section received far less traffic than the other two.

“The first day everyone was complaining that no one was ever going to find us,” Keith Kovar, a principal with GRID/3 a New York-based interior design firm, said on Monday. “Now everyone says it’s great because most people coming here came to buy.”

“It’s a much more qualified customer,” added fellow GRID/3 principal Ruth Mellergaard. “The show [organizers] knew something that we didn’t know.”

Keely Grice of Grice Showcase & Display Manufacturing Inc., Charlotte, N.C., concurred. “They walk in and they want your business,” he said. “It has been a phenomenal show. Everyone is pleased with their traffic.”

“Thursday and Friday were the two busiest days of any show we ever had,” said Richard Kaye, president of MPI Systems Inc., a Wilton, Conn.-based software and systems company for jewelers and wholesalers.

Jeff High, president of the Davenport, Iowa-based GemVision, which designs CAD/CAM systems for the jewelry industry, said, “We’re busier than stink. We’re getting well-qualified customers who are looking for technology. … Nothing but busy. Nothing but good.”

Some bugs need to be worked out for next year, said a few vendors. Darrell Warren, executive director, logistics, for Stuller, Lafayette, La., said, “We’re writing a lot of orders,” he said. “But we need to do a better job of signage and direction. We have had numerous people say they are having a difficult time finding us.”

Mickey Minagorri, director of business development for the Artco Group of Miami, concurred: “I think locating technology and service providers together is a good idea. But the implementation and logistics have to be rethought and reworked.”

Steve Adler of A3d Modeling, Rye, N.H., introduced a new rapid prototype machine with Model Masters and M2 Systems. He decided to scrap his booth in the low-traffic third section of the conference area and share the Model Master booth in the front of the first section, a wise decision. “We have been so crowded here during the past three days that you could not get into that booth,” he said.

Watches: Time for optimism. The mood was upbeat and business brisk for watch sellers, and both vendors and retailers expressed cautious optimism about 2003’s second half. This stood in marked contrast to the first six months of this year, when watch sales for many were stymied by worries about the then-pending Iraqi war, early-year bill paying, a slow economy, and deflated consumer confidence. However, the quick military victory, a possible boost to the economy from the federal tax cut, and stores’ need to replenish their watch stocks have changed the business climate.

“Business was tight, but now everyone is buying,” said Alan Grunwald, president of Belair Time Corp., a manufacturer of private-label watches whose affordable new diamond line got a strong response. “There’s a lot of confidence about the rest of the year, a good omen for the holiday season.”

“Retailers got zapped by the war, which affected consumer confidence and store traffic,” noted Ron Kappus of Cyma. “Now, there’s more optimism. Jewelers are reassured and spending more again—and spending on expensive goods. Business is coming back in a hurry.”

“There’s a good feeling at this show,” agreed Dennis Philipps, president of Taramax U.S.A. Inc., which distributes upscale Fendi watches to jewelers. “People are more upbeat, and more are buying. The rest of this year should be good for jewelers.”

Overall, most watch exhibitors in all categories did good business at the show. Upscale newcomers like Giannto (American) and Natoli (Italian) said contacts and orders gave them a strong start. Genender International, whose mass market watches include l.e.i. and B.U.M., said the show was strong, while established mid-to-upscale brands like Zodiac, Michele, Cyma, and Charriol USA all called The JCK Show 2003 “a very good show” for them.

A number of watch firms said this was their best JCK Show yet. Maurice Lacroix had “a record show in terms of orders written and visitors,” said Anthony Siragusa, vice president of sales. By the fourth day of the five-day show, Daniel Mink USA had “already written twice as much business as we did for the entire show last year,” said president Mitchell Caplan. Roven Dino Swiss, which debuted a new affordable 18k line, was “swamped with business and opened lots of new accounts. It’s been phenomenal,” said Elliott Miller, vice president, sales and marketing. “People were scared, they had to pay off bills, and the economy wasn’t as good. Now, they need merchandise, and a lot more people are writing orders at this show. It should be a good second half.”

Vendors’ comments about business and buyers were similar in the show’s new Luxury Swiss Watch Gallery, which featured brands such as Zenith, Piaget, Baume & Mercier, Dunhill, Concord, IWC, Ebel, and Corum as well as Swatch Group brands like Blancpain, Glasshütte Original, Longines, and Tissot, exhibiting on a by-invitation-only basis.

In luxurious, elegantly decorated suites, exhibitors presented their wares and marketing plans to current and prospective customers. The format got an enthusiastic thumbs-up from virtually all participants. “[This] is a relaxed setting in which we can create a special environment for the brand and our customers and be selective about who we see,” said Paul Ziff, president of the Swiss watch brand Zenith USA. “The people coming up here are serious buyers, not browsers. They’re ready to write orders, and you can qualify which customers you want to see,” agreed a Longines spokesman.

Most Gallery vendors said they did very well. Rado, the Swiss high-tech ceramic-watch company that’s focusing on its diamond line this year, “doubled the business we did last year,” general manager Caroline Faivet said. “This show’s been really great, and consumers are more confident than earlier this year.”

Several vendors speculated that business may have been boosted because some retailers didn’t attend this year’s Basel and Geneva watch fairs because of worries about travel, terrorism, European opposition to the Iraqi war, and SARS.

“Big,” “curvy,” and “luxurious” were the key words for watch design trends. Jewelers saw quite a few curves—specifically, an abundance of tonneau-shaped timepieces—along with a number of new, affordable diamond watches and gold collections.

New tonneaus of all kinds—elongated, squat, slender, in steel or with gems and gold—were offered in all price categories. These included Fendi’s stylish ana-digi Grand Tonneau; Dubney & Schandenbrand’s Aerochrono, the first chronograph of the luxury brand to use its classic Aerodyn case; European Watch Company’s luxury-priced Legionnaire tonneau; Daniel Mink’s expanded Tonneau collection, with entry-level Art Deco models, with or without diamonds; Charriol’s Columbus women’s and Extra Large tonneaus; Oris’s large (38 mm x 48 mm) steel day/date collection; Cyma’s Imperium tonneau; and Piaget’s new yellow gold jewelry tonneau watches for women (“our most successful style,” said a spokeperson).

Many models sparkled with the sheen of gold or the glint of diamonds, as more mid-priced and upscale brands unveiled stylish “affordable luxury” lines. Among the new gold collections are Baume & Mercier’s 18k watches (produced specifically for the U.S. market), Roven Dino’s hot-selling 18k series, and Festina’s Century and 18k Gold collections.

Affordable diamond watches also got more display space. “More people are looking for value in diamond and diamond-look watches, so we’re moving that way, too,” says Peter Nicholson, vice president of corporate communications for Citizen Watch Co. of America. Citizen presented its women’s gold Eco-Drive Stiletto line, with 36 to 42 handset diamonds—the world’s thinnest light-powered watch. Belair, a producer of private-label watches for jewelers, unveiled its new diamond collection, with watches featuring 183 full-cut VS-quality diamonds. Bulova, which has increased its average sale price by $10 in the past year while focusing on more diamond watches and complications in its collections, debuted the Accutron York, which includes several diamond watches.

Other eye-catchers included Lancaster’s fashionable, affordable Italian-design diamond watches; Dior’s Riva Sparkling, with diamonds set in square steel cases on woven leather straps; Rado’s high-tech ceramic Sintra watches with diamonds and Technomarine’s luxury-priced full-pavé watches. A small but growing number of collections also include men’s diamond watches, such as Zodiac’s new Ambassador series. However, as one watch vendor noted, “gents’ diamond watches are popular, too, with women who will buy and wear them.”

Finally, one could not help but notice the popularity of both the merely large and the truly oversized watches. Among many in this increasingly crowded category are Fortis’s B-42 chronograph alarm (Helvetia Time); TAG Heuer’s unisex 39-mm Carrera (with mother-of-pearl dials); Piaget’s limited-edition 40-mm Las Vegas; IWC’s enlarged 38-mm Portofina; Caravelle by Bulova’s larger-case watches; Zodiac’s stylish new 44-mm V-6 series; Gevril’s 44-mm Glamour, on colored straps, with diamond sides and bezel, part of its Avenue of the Americas series; Pierre Kunz’s 44-mm Roca, on blue Teju straps; and Ritmo Mvndo’s new 37-mm Piazza. Omega’s 38-mm Constellation Double Eagle is a bigger, more masculine counterpart to its Constellation My Choice women’s series.

Very large watches—usually gold, colorful, and decked with diamonds and gems—are popular with celebrities. Newcomers with such watches included ICE-Tek and Giannto.

Another trend was the increasing popularity of mid-priced mechanical watches, usually automatic but also some hand-wound versions. Fresh examples at The JCK Show 2003 included cK’s Bold men’s watch, Hamilton’s new 1930s-inspired Mount Vernon men’s collection, and Zodiac’s Ambassador series, all automatic; Daniel Mink’s hand-wound Tempus collection (with left-side crowns); Zenith’s first women’s watch, the automatic Chronomaster Star El Primero; veteran Swiss brand Alpina, which has only made mechanical watches; Festina’s 43-mm dual-time automatic Manhattan; Dunhill’s new automatic RPM with tachymeter; and Glycine’s steel retro-style automatic Eugene Meylan, named for the founder of the Swiss watchmaker.

Watches with so-called “screen” or “east/west” (horizontal) case designs were less obvious in Las Vegas than at the spring Swiss watch shows, but there were some standouts—among them, Baume & Mercier’s new Hampton City. U.S. jewelers responded strongly to it, said U.S. president Fred Refsin, because “they like the different size and shape.” Others in this category included Charriol’s stylish new Actor, on saffron-yellow straps; Versace’s oval Hippodrome (its design based on the ancient Roman arenas); and Roven Dino’s Madison.

Also notable in styling was an increased use of carbon fiber dials (Bulova, Ritmo Mvndo, Grimoldi), woven strap brackets (Dior, Concord), stingray bracelets (Zodiac, Technomarine), and “metallic” dials (Charriol).

The 2003 show also saw significant improvement in the selection of watch exhibitors. In addition to the Luxury Swiss Watch Gallery, leading upscale watch firms exhibited in Time Square, the international area, and other sections of the main show. These included Switzerland’s Franck Mueller, Antoine Preziuso, Bovet, Arnold, Eberhardt & Co., Hublot, and Pierre Kunz brands; Germany’s Martin Braun and Muehle-Glasshütte; and Italy’s Tinelli (unveiling the exquisite engraved enamel and gold Moustra watches) and newcomer Natolini.

Other newcomers to the U.S. watch market included the Bill Blass line by Omni Watch & Clock Co.; Burberry; the Trebor Collection (Mouawad); and veteran Swiss brand Alpina (ITG LLC). New collections making their U.S. debuts in Las Vegas included Seiko’s re-designed Actura; Oris’s Altier watches, and the Carlton and Bennington series by Concord.

Additional show coverage, including social events, awards ceremonies, and special promotions, will appear in August JCK.