Moves Timex Upscale

The Timex Group, whose popularly priced signature brand is America’s best-selling watch, is moving upscale with TX, its new German-engineered, Italian-designed, midprice, multifunctional brand in a new category Timex calls “TechnoLuxury.” It’s making its formal debut in the U.S. market this year.

The new brand represents the next chapter for the group, says Herb Doscher, TX’s U.S. brand manager, and an important part of the big watchmaker’s expansion into more sophisticated, higher-price products. Retailing from $375 to $626, TX has “the highest price yet for a Timex-developed product,” says Doscher, but that range has “tremendous opportunity, with little competition, to offer elements of luxury watches and technology at an approachable price,” he told JCK.

TX is also part of Timex Group’s growing presence in fine jewelry stores. However, unlike Timex watches, with thousands of outlets, TX has limited distribution and doesn’t include Timex outlets. “We don’t want extensive store growth,” says Doscher. “We’re looking for top-crust distribution through select independent fine jewelers and some fine store chains like Bloomingdale’s or Saks Fifth Avenue.”

The brand will make its formal U.S. debut in June at The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas, the largest watch and jewelry trade show in the Western Hemisphere. There, it will “make a big push to gain headway with independent fine jewelers,” says Doscher.

“A lot depends on finding the right partners, but it’s important, too, to be able to support and service them consistently,” Doscher says. “So, growth will be slow and steady.” By the end of 2008, he hopes to have 70 to 100 partners in TX’s U.S. network.

TX got a limited head start here last Christmas. Following positive foreign response—TX has sold in Europe and Canada since late 2006—and interest from the U.S. consumer press, TX went into about six Bloomingdale’s and Saks stores “to get some holiday experience,” Doscher notes. Reaction from retailers and consumers, he says, was positive. “They hadn’t thought Timex could do something this different.”

While TX was developed by the Timex Group—a fact noted in marketing, because the Timex name is so well known—and is based in Middlebury, Conn., Timex’s headquarters, TX is not Timex or a Timex collection, Doscher stresses. “This is the TX Watch Co., a completely new brand for a new generation of consumers. They appreciate and understand today’s convergence of technology with luxury products and want that fusion of style, luxury, and technology in their timepieces,” he says. “We want to be the brand providing that in the watch industry.”

TX targets men 25 to 45 years old, he says, “well established, well educated, urban, who understand luxury and want something comfortable they’re proud to wear.” (Eventually, there will be TX watches for women, says Doscher.)

The watch was five years in development. Its proprietary, multifunction quartz movement was devised by Timex Group engineers in Pforzheim, Germany. It has four independent motors, various microprocessors, and six dial hands, which provide functions not usually found in nondigital analog watches at these prices.

TX’s TechnoLuxury designation was inspired by high-end mechanical watches, says Doscher. Its quartz movement, “in terms of some components, precision, variety of functions, and high-quality materials, is similar to what’s done or used” in luxury timepieces. The watch was designed by well-known Italian industrial designer Giorgio Galli, who’s worked with Timex on various projects for 15 years. “Timex had the vision, and Giorgio helped crystallize it,” says Doscher.

Movement components are made in Besançon, France’s watchmaking center near Switzerland. The watches are assembled at Timex Group’s facilities in the Philippines. Each comes in stainless steel or titanium with a sapphire crystal, screw-down crown on select models, sculpted dial, luminous features, and water resistance to 330 feet.

TX offers 21 styles in three watch types: perpetual calendar, with three extra hands for day, month, and date; world timer, with time for 24 cities, daylight savings time, and seasonal changes; and flyback chronograph, with compass and second time zone, two extra hands for stopwatch, third hand for compass needle, plus electronic compass sensor with automatic magnetic declination compensation.

Timex Group is supporting TX’s U.S. launch with several million dollars in marketing and public relations, including working with consumer magazines like Men’s Vogue. However, TX is “focusing first on developing consumer awareness in three to five key markets, like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Florida,” and working with retailers there, says Doscher.

Timex Group officials have confidence in TX’s potential. Its four-motor, six-arm movement will be the platform, they say, for more innovative functions and designs. “We’ll use it to introduce features previously unheard of in analog watches of this caliber,” says Joe Santana, Timex Group president and chief executive officer. In addition, new products over the next five years will take its retail pricing even higher.

“TX not only demonstrates our commitment to technological and design leadership, it also shows our determination to penetrate new market segments within the industry,” says Santana. “This is just the beginning.”