Tourneau to ‘Change America’s Attitude About Watches’

Tourneau, one of America’s leading retailers of fine Swiss and vintage collectible timepieces, has launched a major campaign to change affluent consumers’ attitudes about fine Swiss watches and to increase the market for all upscale brands.

“If the Swiss Watch Federation won’t support the [U.S. luxury] watch industry the way De Beers does for diamonds or the World Gold Council does for gold jewelry, then it is up to Tourneau to do it,” says Anthony J. D’Ambrosio, executive vice president of Tourneau.

The New York City-based company operates eight stores around the country and sells more than 40 watch brands and 4,000 styles. It is the only U.S. retailer authorized to carry every major Swiss brand, has the largest independent service center in the U.S., employs more watchmakers than any other U.S. retailer and is one of the few luxury watch retailers with a national presence.

D’Ambrosio, backed by Tourneau Chairman David Wexler and President and CEORobert Wexler, spoke about the campaign during a Sept. 10 press conference in New York City and in an interview with JCK. The major elements are:

  • A national ad campaign aimed at consumers who haven’t thought of buying a fine watch. The campaign, launched Sept. 10, is titled “Where You Meet Your Other Face” and promises “Your watch proclaims the essential you. It affirms you’ve arrived.”

  • A megawatch store in New York City, due to open in April, that will include lecture halls, a museum and interactive kiosks.

“This is part of Tourneau’s ongoing educational program to dramatically alter America’s attitude about wearing and buying watches, and to teach the consumer the power of watches,” says D’Ambrosio. “As a retailer of fine watches, I’m always amazed that a successful businessman will pay so much for a fine wardrobe or sports car or antiques and yet spend so little on a watch that he wears every day and that is a reflection of his personality.”

The innovative ad campaign is the first for Tourneau in 14 years and replaces its signature “Tourneau On the Corner” slogan. In a departure from the usual advertising aimed at consumers who are already thinking about buying a watch, this campaign is designed to get the attention of those who haven’t even considered it.

The idea is to “bring watches back to the greatness they once had in people’s minds [and] explode the watch market all over America,” says George Lois of LOIS/EJL, the advertising industry veteran who designed the campaign. Indeed, the print and radio ads often read more like they’re part of a generic watch campaign than one for one company.

Why should Tourneau produce a campaign that promotes watch sales for everyone rather than just for itself? “Expansion is more important to the health of this industry than cannibalizing each other and fighting for market share,” says David Wexler. “Our competition isn’t other luxury watches or watch retailers, but other luxury goods purchases. If this [campaign] makes the watch market larger, then everyone’s share gets larger and everyone benefits.”

The first print ad appeared Sept. 10 in The New York Times and was scheduled to run subsequently in The Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, the Miami Herald, The Palm Beach Post, The New York Observer and Newsday, all covering upscale, affluent markets where Tourneau already has stores. Radio spots were due to air on stations in New York City, Houston and Palm Beach.

A store, a museum, a classroom: The heart of Tourneau’s plan to change Americans’ minds about fine Swiss watches is an ambitious plan for a futuristic megastore that will become the company’s home base. “To educate the average consumer the way we wanted, we needed a flagship store in which we could tell the Tourneau story and the Swiss watch story,” says D’Ambrosio.

The new store, which is scheduled to open in April, will feature 100 feet of frontage at 57th St. and Madison Ave. — “the best shopping block in all the world,” says D’Ambrosio. The store will have enough space to feature:

  • A watch museum.

  • Lecture halls where consumers can learn about watches, their trends and history (and perhaps hear the Tourneau recommendation that you should spend the equivalent of two weeks’ salary when buying a fine watch).

  • Interactive kiosks.

  • All of Tourneau’s brands located on four shopping levels (with less expensive brands on the ground floor and more expensive ones on upper levels).

  • A full service department.

Meanwhile, Tourneau also has opened a new store in Houston, its eighth, and plans to expand its original store at 52nd St. and Madison Ave. in New York City.

‘As a retailer offine watches,I’m always amazed that a successful businessman will pay so much for a fine wardrobe or sports car or antiques and yet spend so little on a watch that he wears every day.’

— Anthony J. D’Ambrosio

‘Our competition isn’t other luxury watches or watch retailers, but other luxury goods purchases.’

— Chairman David Wexler