Supplier News

KINETIC SALES CHARGE SEIKO WITH MOMENTUM

“Explosive” growth of its Kinetic watches helped Seiko Corporation of America boost 1995 sales of Seiko watches 8% to 13% and of Pulsar 5% to 7%, says Senior Vice President of Sales Larry Sussberg. This was the firm’s first full year of operation since its 1994 internal restructuring.

The decision to concentrate all Seiko product advertising on the Kinetic line last year appears to have paid off, Sussberg says.

Kinetic accounted for 10% of total Seiko sales this past year, a strong showing for a line introduced only two years ago.

“Kinetic was 13 years in development,” Sussberg says, “so it is very rewarding to see that consumers see the same benefits with a no-battery quartz watch that we do.” Seiko is so convinced is that convenience is a chief factor driving Kinetic sales, it is preparing a lower-cost cousin – a Pulsar solar-powered quartz watch – for late 1996.

Kinetic kiosk: To maintain its success, Seiko starts distributing a special “Kinetic kiosk” this month to approximately 1,000 independent jewelers. It is free to those who order a minimum 18 Kinetic watches of at least ten different styles.

The kiosk actually is a series of visual aids that explain and showcase the Kinetic line. It includes an oversize replica of the inside of the watch, a banner and stand with an example from the advertising campaign, a one-foot in-case display with space for 15 watches, an in-case countercard, brochure and lucite stand.

The kiosk is part of the reason Kinetic again will dominate Seiko’s marketing efforts. As a result, Sussberg expects the line to comprise 20% of Seiko sales by 1997. To support those sales, spring releases include 17 new Kinetic styles, including three bracelet models made with titanium (see JCK February, p. 148). The line now has 33 styles, with 12 new models expected for fall.

Internal changes: Seiko’s 1994 restructuring streamlined brand management and marketing procedures. It involved closing regional sales offices, hiring a new ad agency and consolidating several executive positions. But it helped create the momentum that led to last year’s sales increases, says Takashi Wakuyama, president.

In 1995, he says, the firm’s “portfolio management” structure worked well to differentiate Pulsar and the more upmarket Seiko brands. By concentrating on the strengths of the two brands, it targets buyers more closely, which should help retailers sell the watches more effectively. “Seiko and Pulsar now complement each other,” says Wakuyama. “They no longer directly compete.”

The firm capped off the year’s internal restructuring in December when the entire sales staff gathered at its Mahwah, N.J., headquarters. “For many of them, it was their first time here,” says Wakuyama. Each learned what is done at every division. Ongoing seminars for all Seiko employees will underscore the fact “that we are one company and we share one philosophy and direction,” he adds.

Improved solar: On tap for spring are 87 new Seiko watches (17 of them Kinetic models), up substantially from the 50 styles typically debuted by Seiko in the spring. Pulsar has 47 new models, concentrating on women’s bracelet models and men’s strap styles. The Lassale line has 14 new watches stressing a more “Euro-sport bracelet” look. There also are 28 new clocks.

Seiko releases include two styles of men’s and women’s 14k strap watches and the three titanium Kinetic models. Two new styles are planned now for the strong-selling Pulsar 14k women’s line introduced last June, with the bulk of new items to come this summer for fall sales.

Looking ahead to late fall, Pulsar will introduce a solar-powered watch said to maintain accuracy for six months on a 90-minute sunlit charge. Seiko isn’t the only firm with solar-powered watches, but it plans to emphasize the long-lasting ability of its version; many solar watches currently sold will maintain charges for only seven days. Pulsar expects to start the solar watch collection with five styles – a few made with titanium and others with Lumibrite – priced around $200.

As with Kinetic, Seiko marketing will stress the convenience of solar power. While not technically battery-free like the Kinetic, these watches use an internal storage battery that never needs replacing. Marketing will likely note the modest price and environmentally positive energy source.

SMH (U.S) TO MOVE ACROSS THE HUDSON RIVER

SMH (U.S.) Inc., the U.S. division of Swiss watchmaker SMH Inc., will move its headquarters in April from E. 21 St. in New York City to larger quarters across the Hudson River in Weehawken, N.J.

The company will lease a full floor in a modern office building that overlooks the river and offers a panoramic view of Manhattan. The building, which is home to a Paine Webber brokerage, is accessible to Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel and regular ferry service.

SMH brands in the U.S. are Tissot, Swatch, Longines, Rado, Pierre Balman, Omega and Hamilton. All offices will move to the new location except the new Swatch design studio, which will remain in lower Manhattan. Telephone and fax numbers for the new location will be announced soon.

BERTOLUCCI CAMPAIGN EXAMINES ‘HUMAN NATURE’

A new consumer advertising campaign for Bertolucci watches is designed to reinforce the Swiss brand’s “watch as art” image while adding a greater human element.

Distributed in the U.S. by UTime of Rutherford, N.J., the brand will use ads combining black-and-white photos of people interacting with a natural element (such as water), color product photos and the tagline “Human Nature.” They’ll run in major magazines worldwide beginning in May.

The new campaign is the company’s largest since its U.S. debut in 1989. Bertolucci has enjoyed double-digit sales increases each year since then.

Bertolucci also will introduce a jeweled watch line at the JCK International Jewelry Show, scheduled May 31 to June 4 in Las Vegas, Nev. The line features handcrafted watches set with diamonds and colored stones and is already one of the company’s top sellers in Europe and the Far East.

In related news, UTime named Hans Beck, national sales manager for the Bertolucci and Breguet brands, as senior executive vice president. As part of his responsibilities, he is brand manager for the Bertolucci, Breguet and Gevril brands. Beck also will oversee the UTime organization in the U.S. and report to Freddy Streuli, chief executive of UTime in Switzerland. Ron Jackson, former Gevril and Girard-Perregaux brand manager, will concentrate on Girard-Perregaux.

WITTNAUER EXPANDS LONGLIFE, PREPARES TITANIUM LINE

After separating from Longines last January, Wittnauer International boosted sales by a third in 1995, thanks to new products and increased advertising and marketing, says Director of Marketing Frank Salzano. It since has added the luxury Universal Geneve line of 18k gold Swiss timepieces and continues to expand its Swiss-made Zodiac sport watch line. The firm also added 600 new jewelers to its roster of retailers nationwide last year.

Introduction of Wittnauer’s Cosmopolitan, Laureate and International collections accounted for much of the increase, Salzano says. Greater exposure to consumers through national and local advertising and more sponsorships – particularly sports tie-ins with the Zodiac line – also attracted a broader range of customers. Wittnauer’s Winners Program, specifically the Community Pride Award, debuted this year and will expand in upcoming months (see JCK February 1996, p. 266).

New products and ads: 1995 marked the start of an overall return to the classic, broad-based styles and technological emphasis that are part of Wittnauer’s century-plus history as a U.S.-based watchmaker. Its spring 1996 introductions continue the growth process.

The New Rochelle, N.Y., firm has added three chronographs to its Longlife series of watches powered by a battery that last 20 years. And Witt-nauer plans to start selling the first radio-controlled wristwatch in the U.S. this summer (see page 26 this issue).

Each Longlife chronograph features textured white or blue dials surrounded by unidirectional rotating bezels. The watch has a date, 30-minute display and 12-hour registration subdial, which can clock events up to 12 hours showing the results in half-second increments. The watches are water resistant up to 330 feet and are priced between $695 to $725.

Also new are 10 models in Wittnauer’s International collection, six women’s dress models in the Diamond Collection, one men’s and women’s watch in the Cosmopolitan collection and three models (two women’s and one men’s) in the Bracelet group.

Wittnauer plans a fall introduction and a spring 1997 full release for its first series of titanium-based watches. (It has had a titanium-made version of its Longlife for several years). The “Hard Metal” watches will be tested in certain markets this spring and offered in several models as part of the Wittnauer line. The watch is made in Switzerland from titanium carbide, tungsten carbide and tantalum carbide. Popular in Europe, this combination of metals creates a very hard surface that will not scratch under most extreme conditions, is lighter than stainless steel and is non-allergenic.

Salzano says ad spending will increase this year, focusing on the above lines. New York ad firm Compton Partners, a Saatchi & Saatchi division, is preparing a completely new campaign for fall. It’s expected to inject a greater emotional component into current ads that emphasize product, company history and an extensive warranty. A full range of print, television and radio ads will be used.

NEW “FREEDOM” AT PERRY ELLIS WATCHES

CSC Time Corp., Rockville Center, N.Y., has created two distinct collections in its Perry Ellis watch line. One will feature Perry Ellis signature bracelet watches for career, dress or evening attire. The other has the more casual emphasis of the America Perry Ellis line, featuring a new “Freedom” collection designed for outdoor lifestyles and including straps and sport motifs. A distinctive merchandising strategy will reinforce the two new collections.

The signature watches will be placed only inside showcases and will utilize white modular displays similar to those used for fine jewelry. New boxes will feature soft material and khaki logos that identify each piece as Perry Ellis. These models all have adjustable bracelets, 23k gold plating, water resistance, date and calendar and a ten-year limited warranty. The line includes nine pocket watches, two pendant watches and boxed sets; retail is $70-$95.

Gift boxes for the America models will carry the red and blue America Perry Ellis eagle. All America models will be shown in newly designed Plexiglas top-of-counter displays. The America “Freedom” collection line, priced at $50-$85 retail, debuts with resin/metal composite cases designed to complement the nylon, leather and Velcro straps. All are water resistant to 50 meters; some models include 24-hour sub dials, Date-Lite illumination, day/date and ten-year limited warranty.

A co-op advertising program for Freedom began in April, featured in a six-page Perry Ellis ad insert in the New York Times and GQ Magazine.

CARTIER CONTEST WINNERS TRAVEL TO EUROPE

Four retailers traveled to Paris and Saint Imier, Switzerland, for a week in January, courtesy of Cartier Inc. The four were winners of Cartier’s Pasha Contest in which retailers competed for points based on the number and styles of Pasha watches sold between Nov. 20 and Dec. 31, 1995. Winners also received a Pasha C watch. The four: Norma Sanchez, Ely-M Jewelers, Miami, Fla.; Marcus Rosner, Morgan & Marcus Jewelers, Los Angeles, Cal.; Stephan Maselli, Maselli Jewelers, New York, N.Y.; and Esther Ungar, Simpson Jewelry, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Second place winners, who also received a Pasha C watch, were Steven Lee, Chong Hing, Los Angeles; Joel Kopel, William Barthman Jewelers, New York; Wilfredo Soto, Wempe Jewellers, New York; Miguel Gutierrez, Saks Fifth Avenue, Miami; and Taher Albeitawi and Dimitri Galanis, both of Liljenquist & Beckstead, McLean, Va.

SUPPLIERS ON THE GROW

International Watch Co. Ltd. (IWC), Swiss maker of luxury watches, officially opened a fully equipped service center at its U.S. headquarters in Winchester, Va. It includes four full-time watchmakers, two of whom worked at IWC’s headquarters in Shaffhausen, Switzerland, and two full-time technical assistants. The center handles all service needs for both in-warranty and out-of-warranty IWC and Porsche Design watches. The center is located at 188 Brook Road, Winchester, Va. 22603; (800) 492-6755.

Jewelmasters Inc. moved its corporate offices to its remodeled manufacturing facility at 6001 Georgia Ave., W. Palm Beach, Fla. 33405. Its telephone number remains (407) 655-7260.

Pranda Jewelry Public Co. Ltd, based in Thailand and with offices in New York, was named Best Exporter by the Prime Minister’s Export Award 1995 committee in Bangkok. The award has been given annually since 1992 to firms that best help to develop Thailand’s export industry. Pranda was the only winner of the award for outstanding performance as Best Exporter. Other awards focused on development of brand exports and export design.

Tennis star Andrea Jaeger and actor Kevin Costner met at the Bertolucci Gala in Aspen, Colo. Bertolucci sponsored a fund-raiser to benefit Jaeger’s Kid’s Stuff Foundation Silver Lining Ranch, where hospitalized children are offered free recreation.

Cellini Fine Jewelers, New York City, teamed with International Watch Co. and the Platinum Guild International to create telephone kiosks at 60 locations in Manhattan from December through February. Featured was jewelry by designer Michael Bondanza and IWC’s DaVinci platinum watch. The program, in its second year, will be repeated for 1996 and 1997 with different watches and jewelry.