Spotlight: Lancaster Watches

Recent years have seen a renaissance in Italian watch design and production, and more Italian brands are entering the U.S. watch market. One of the most recent arrivals is Lancaster watches, based in Bari, Italy, and distributed in North America by J-Watch Inc., Miami, Fla., which does business as Lancaster Time Inc.

Why does an Italian watchmaker have an English name? The company traces it to Edward Higgins, an 18th-century clockmaker based in Geneva, Switzerland, who named his timepieces for his hometown of Lancaster, England. When the Italian firm’s owners started it in 1992, they acquired and registered the name “Lancaster” for use on their products. Since then, Lancaster has become a top seller in Italy, where it’s carried by some 2,000 jewelry stores.

More than three years ago, the company went international. It entered the U.S. market at The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas in 2002 and already has a network of 250 fine jewelers and upscale department stores.

Today Lancaster has a staff of 23—including watchmakers and three watch designers—at its headquarters and a global network of 40 distributors. In creating its fashion and sport watches, which retail from $250 to $3,000, the focus is on “innovative, creative, and fashion-forward styling, high technology, and Italian design [based on] the latest consumer tastes and market trends,” say company spokesmen. All watches are designed and assembled in Italy, have Swiss quartz movements, stainless steel or aluminum cases, and a 12-month limited warranty.

Lancaster has about 15 different styles, with and without diamonds. This year the company unveiled six new models with diamonds (including a new women’s Iohio with 48 diamonds on the bezel); debuted 18k gold watches in several styles; and introduced the stainless-steel TV-screen-shaped MacQueen chronograph (35 mm and 39.5 mm), with sapphire crystal and crocodile leather strap.

Lancaster is also extending its brand beyond watches. It has just introduced its Butterfly line of sunglasses in 12 colors with 24 diamonds hand-mounted on the stainless-steel frame. Contact Lancaster Time Inc., 20161 N.E. 16th Place, N. Miami Beach, FL 33179; (305) 654-9000, e-mail: jwatch@bellsouth.net.