Watch Watch

Gucci Enters Elite Jewelry Stores With G300

More than a year after introducing the G, Gucci draws high-end retailers – and strong revenue

Gucci’s steel G watch propelled the brand into one of the fastest-selling properties for watch retailers after it was introduced last year. Now Gucci broadens its reach into fine jewelers’ showcases with another G – gold.

Called G300, it is Gucci’s first solid 18k line. One goal is to offer select high-end jewelers a precious-metal version of the original steel G, says Stacie Orloff, Gucci’s U.S. sales director. The watches will be sold in 300 jewelry stores worldwide (40 in the U.S.) that Orloff has dubbed the Club of 300 and in Gucci boutiques.

Raising the roof

The Club of 300 is the latest in the metamorphosis of Gucci Timepieces from makers of a moderately priced women’s fashion watch sold in department and other stores to a cutting-edge fashion watch with jewelry-store quality and prices.

Club members, who also carry Gucci’s classic timepieces, receive the karat gold line, local exclusivity, new packaging and ad materials. Gucci also prepares an invitation-only launch party for each market.

By August, Orloff had already signed Hyde Park Jewelers, Denver, Colo.; Ben Bridge Jewelers, Seattle, Wash.; Wempe and Tourneau, both New York, N.Y.; and Alpha Omega, Boston, Mass., among others. Tourneau, which started to carry the brand in late 1996, featured a G-shaped window display at one store. (Orloff proudly notes that when Tourneau opened its giant Time

Machine store in New York City this summer, the very first watch sold was a $395 Gucci steel Petite Square.)

Setting the stage

When Orloff was promoted from Western sales manager last year, she got the green light to restructure the brand in the U.S. She halted distribution to nearly 600 retailers; 400 more outlets will likely be closed out at the end of this year. That will leave a much more targeted list of about 2,000 retailers selling Gucci watches nationwide. Openings now focus primarily on fine jewelers. In fact, a few select Saks Fifth Avenue locations will be the only department stores to carry the karat gold line.

Orloff also created a leaner but more efficient sales team, replacing about 75% of the staff and reducing the total number from 59 to 45. She added four full-time territory managers to the six already in the field and equipped each with laptop computers. The managers and 31 part-time representatives visit stores. (The evolution of the sales force has created the only all-female sales team in the U.S. watch business.)

The average sale has risen from $400 in 1995 to $550-$600, she says, and revenue grew 37% between July 1996 and July 1997. This year, the company followed up its G watch with a Pear-shaped watch and several bangle models that drew good reviews at the Basel Fair in Switzerland. The pear-shaped model is already on back-order with many retailers. No word yet whether retailers can expect a “golden pair” next year.

The G300 line contains 88 variations of Gucci’s G watch. The new G watch is available in three colors of 18k gold (yellow, rose and white), four colors of mother-of-pearl dial and three sizes (for women, men and juniors). It’s available with strap or gold bracelet (pictured), with or without full-cut brilliant or square-cut diamonds on the bezel. One steel and diamond set is available. Prices range from $2,700 to $43,500 retail (the latter for a women’s or junior’s 18k version with a square-cut diamond-covered bezel. Gucci is distributed in the U.S. by Severin Group, 3 Mason, Irvine, Cal. 92718; (714) 472-0900.

American PD Reintroduces Eterna To The U.S.

Eterna, the 140-year-old Swiss firm Ferdinand Porsche bought in 1995, aims to boost its brand recognition this fall and to unveil a line of Porsche Design watches next year.

American Pd Co., Beverly Hills, Cal., owns the Porsche license in the U.S. and recently obtained distribution rights to Eterna here. The company has hired Peter Bigler to develop its U.S. marketing strategy for both brands.

For Bigler – who has worked with Audemars Piguet, Bertolucci and was most recently U.S. distributor of Ulysse Nardin – his new position reunites him with Eterna. “The brand was recommended to my father when he looked for a good watch to give me for my 20th birthday,” recalls Bigler, who grew up in Switzerland. “I got an Eterna Kontiki.” Today, he wears the newest version from that Eterna sport line.

Eterna, based in Grenchen, Switzerland, is known for its “Eterna-matic” automatic movement, which features a rotor that glides over tiny ball-bearings. This concept became the basis for automatic movements worldwide.

Eterna’s profile and distribution in the U.S. has been fairly limited in recent years. But Bigler hopes to add 30 more jewelers to the distribution list by the end of the year and 50 more by the end of 1998. National advertising will begin in early 1998, though co-op ads will support retailers this year.

Most Eterna watches cost $700 to $3,000 retail, though several are more. At the core are the Kontiki sport line, Galaxis dress models, the Airforce collection and the retro 1935 and EternaMatic 1948 models. New this year are additions to Kontiki, named after the book that explorer Thor Heyerdahl wrote about his legendary raft voyage from Peru to the Polynesian islands. Heyerdahl requested an Eterna watch for his 1947 mission. A limited-edition (250 with orange dials, 250 with blue dials) Super Kontiki chronograph ($3,200 retail, see picture) and a chronometer ($2,500) are now in stores. New models in the Galaxis are available also ($850-$1,050).

Porsche will prepare its own Porsche Design watches once its agreement with International Watch Co. expires later this year.

Face Up

Breguet On Tour In U.S.

As part of its 250th anniversary celebration, Breguet has collected historical artifacts, archives and some luxury timepieces for a U.S. tour beginning this month. Many of the items have never been seen in the U.S.

One highlight is the Montre Sympathetic clock/watch set (see photo), a clock that incorporates a wrist watch set into a recess at the top. The clock automatically resets and rewinds the watch. Estimated retail: $1 million.

Another highlight is a regulator featuring the engraved names of 48 famous Breguet clients, includ-ing Queen Marie Antoinette, Pierre-Samuel Dupont de Nemours, Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill.

Included in the tour are a man’s chronograph with a tourbillon and a striking mechanism visible through a sapphire case back and a rare complication wrist watch with a tourbillon, perpetual calendar, minute repeater, retrograde dial, jumping hours and compensating balance spring (only 10 of these were made).

Emmanuel Breguet, a descendent of founder Abraham-Louis Breguet, will travel with the exhibit to speak about the company’s history. The schedule for the exhibit is as follows: Tourneau TimeMachine, New York, N.Y., Oct. 15-20; Tourneau, Palm Beach, Fla., Oct. 23-25; DeBoulle Jewelers, Dallas, Tex., Oct. 28-30; and Traditional Jewelers, Newport Beach, Cal., Nov. 1-4. For more details, call UTime Co. at (201) 507-4400.

Vendome Group Consolidates U.S. Holdings

The Vendome Luxury Group has formed VLG North America Inc., a holding company consisting of Baume & Mercier and Vacheron Constantin. Vendome, based in Paris, bought Vacheron Constantin last year and Baume & Mercier four years ago and also owns Cartier Inc., Piaget and Mont Blanc.

The new corporate structure was created primarily to take advantage of the data-processing and other support facilities available at Cartier’s wholesale division in Shelton, Conn., says Simon Critchell, president and chief executive of Cartier USA and VLG North America.

Critchell says each of the watch brands will retain its own policies and operations regarding sales, distribution, service, advertising and public relations. Herman Plotnick continues as president of Vacheron Constantin in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. Steven P. Kaiser, president of Baume & Mercier, is an officer of VLG North America. Eugen Maier, formerly chairman of Baume & Mercier S.A., Switzerland, is chairman of VLG North America (this position initially was to be filled by Benjamin Kaiser of Baume & Mercier, who died this summer). Maier will remain in Switzerland but will attend any board meetings of the new organization held in the U.S. Gary Saage, chief financial officer at Cartier, is chief operating officer of VLG North America.

Bedat to Enter the U.S.

Bedat, a new Geneva-based luxury watch line that debuted at the Basel Fair this year, will be available soon in the U.S. from Time Products, the New York City distributor of Audemars Piguet and Blancpain.

Begun by Simone Bedat and her son, Christian, each former associates of Raymond Weil, the line is for men and women and is made of steel and steel with gold. Retail prices will range from $1,800 to $6,000.

Larry Geisler, chief executive of Time Products’ luxury watch division, says the brand will be distributed on a select basis in custom-built window and counter displays.

Timex Sets Sights on Sites

New watch line raises money for archeological research

The massive stones at Stonehenge in England’s Salisbury plain have inspired millions of visitors. Taking a cue from the time-related story that many believe the stones tell, Timex, Middlebury, Conn., has designed a watch to celebrate the site’s renown and to raise money for archeological research.

The watch is one of 12 new styles in the FERCO collection, named for the Foundation for the Exploration and Research on Cultural Origins, a non-profit organization founded by explorer and scientist Thor Heyerdahl.

Each style incorporates design elements from ancient civilizations and has undergone formal review by FERCO scientists to ensure authenticity.

Other watches in the collection include Amur I, which replicates a mask thought to represent “man” in a Neolithic-Period petroglyph found on a wall in modern Siberia; Newgrange, which represents a circular stone mound in Ireland dating back 5,000 years; and Alpha, which features ancient Greek numerals representing 1-12.

The FERCO line includes strap ($80 suggested retail) and bracelet ($100) models, each with Timex’s Indiglo night light and water resistance to 98 feet. Each watch is packaged with a leaflet that explains its design origins. Point-of-purchase displays convey the same information.

Call (800) 543-2926 for details.

Newgrange, based on a huge circular stone mound built 5,000 years ago in present-day Ireland, is one of 12 new Timex FERCO models whose sale benefits archeological research.

Titan Prepares U.S. launch

Titan of India hopes to launch a watch line in the U.S. next fall and will spend the next year setting up a distribution network, says Vasant Nangia, managing director.

Titan manufactures its own watches in a $100 million factory in India and is the country’s dominant quartz brand. The company showed its broad-based dress line in the U.S. 18 months ago, but then decided to expand its sales and marketing in Europe first. “We are in 150 stores in the United Kingdom, and plan to add Italy and Germany in early 1998.”

To prepare for the U.S. launch, Titan will add more bracelet styles. In fact, the new World Watch collection – already selling in Europe – comprises 34 dress styles made in steel with gold-tone finishes and sapphire crystals ($190 to $535 retail). The company also offers a line of 18k and diamond dress watches (up to $2,100).

The company also manufactures a jewelry line that is sold unbranded in the U.S. through a distribution office in Beverly Hills, Cal. Plans to expand jewelry distribution in the U.S. are under way also.

Meanwhile, Titan entered into a joint venture with Hourglass, the Singapore company that holds a majority stake in Swiss luxury watchmaker Daniel Roth, and has acquired a license to assemble certain watches for Philippe Charriol of Switzerland. Titan is a division of the Tata Group, India’s largest business group. For details, call Francesca Lack & Associates, (212) 708-3046.

Appointments

August Reymond, a Swiss-based manufacturer of a full range of mechanical watches, named Tramelan USA as exclusive distributor in the U.S. and Canada. Bert Yuttal is the chief of sales for the brand. Tramelan, 3198 Royal Lane, Suite 208, Dallas, TX 75229; (214) 353-0222.

Bulova Corp., Woodside, N.Y., appointed Tom Fosorile executive vice president of sales. He joined Bulova in 1987 and was previously vice president of watch sales.