Watch Watch

ZODIAC TO HONOR DIVER CARPENTER

Wittnauer also expands game show exposureScott Carpenter, who the Underwater Society of America will honor this month as Regional Diver of the Year, will receive a Zodiac Swiss Formula Sports watch in recognition of his achievements.

The society has honored divers for 35 years, but this will be the first award it has presented since it named Zodiac its official watch in December 1996. Zodiac is distributed in the U.S. by Wittnauer International, based in New Rochelle, N.Y.

The awards are given annually in the categories of science, sports education, art and distinguished service. Carpenter, who will be honored in the science category, will receive the watch during an Underwater Exposition March 21-23 in the Meadowlands Exposition Center, Secaucus, N.J.

The society is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and is the national governing board for underwater sports in the United States.

In other news, the company says its watches will be seen in several new television game shows this year. The syndicated “Bzzz” from Tribune Entertainment, and three shows on cable TV’s Family Channel – “Shop ’til You Drop,” “Shopping Spree” and “Wait ’til You Have Kids” – will feature Wittnauer watches as prizes, says Frank Salzano, marketing director. In addition, the Game Show Network, which re-airs the best of network game shows, will award Witt-nauer watches during viewer participation contests featured throughout daily programming.

Last year’s successful exposure via “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” led to the expanded game show schedule, says Salzano. The company’s new tag line – “Till the End of Time” – will be used at the end of all television ads, he says. Also a new toll-free telephone number will be added to all consumer promotional spots.

More news: Ellesse, a new member of the Wittnauer group in the U.S., was the official watch of last month’s Miss USA pageant. The widespread appeal of pageants became evident last year when the Miss Teen USA pageant received the highest ratings of any television program in the week it aired. Wittnauer, the official watch of that pageant, presented each candidate with a Wittnauer timepiece and gave winner Christie Lee Woods of Texas a selection of watches.

Zodiac will present this Swiss Formula watch to Scott Carpenter this month.

Thief hits a sour note during filming

While filming the movie Ransom in New York City last year, Mel Gibson couldn’t find one of the props that plays a critical role in the movie: his Breitling Aviastar watch had been stolen from the set.

The thief probably got a surprise later when he or she discovered the Aviastar was only a prototype. Gibson insisted on using the watch for the film, but Breitling had none of the hot-sellers in stock at the time and sent the prototype instead. (Gibson later bought a working replacement.)

But when Bertrand Piccard and Wim Verstraeten tried to become the first to float non-stop around the world in the Breitling Orbiter hot air balloon in January, they wore the real thing.

Piccard and Verstraeten, who won the first trans-Atlantic balloon race in 1992, ran into some bad luck, however, when technical problems forced the Breitling Orbiter to land just south of France in the Mediterranean Sea. Another team, headed by Virgin Air tycoon Richard Branson, was grounded with technical problems in Morocco Jan. 7. The third team was scheduled to launch from St. Louis, Mo.

Breitling has backed a family with a history of world records. Piccard is the grandson of Auguste Piccard, who in 1931 became the first person to ascend into the stratosphere via balloon. Piccard’s father, Jacques, achieved the world depth record in a minisubmarine called a submersible.

Mel Gibson wore a Breitling Aviastar prototype during the filming of Ransom.

WITH A DOLLAR AND A DREAM

When 23-year-old Niki Barkoutsis paid $1 for a New York state lottery ticket and won half of a $45 million prize last year, she didn’t spend it all in one place. She said she would travel, buy a new house for her parents and a vacation house for herself, and take a shopping spree at Bergdorf-Goodman, her former employer. Among her first purchases was a diamond-encrusted Ebel watch, which she was heard to call the “watch of her dreams.” However, as someone familiar with the retail world, she didn’t pay retail, according to the New York Times. A relative who works for another high-end retailer got the watch for her at “half-price” – about $6,000.

Face Up

A GOOD WATCH IS EASY TO SPOT

This face was the first one seen by visitors to Fortunoff’s Fifth Avenue store during the Christmas season. In exchange for the exclusive sales of Rado’s new limited-edition Concept 1 watch, Fortunoff placed the watch atop a custom-designed showcase/stand at eye-level just to the left of the Fifth Avenue entrance.

The watch is Rado’s hardest yet and the first ever made with polycrystalline diamond. It features a case bottom and clasp made of platinum and top Wesselton diamonds between the case and bracelet. To complement the technical aspects of the watch, the designers decided against a standard crown. A special pointer is used to set the time.

Rado calls the Concept 1 “the world’s hardest watch” and has made just 100 models for men, 100 for women. Fortunoff will sell the 20 reserved for the U.S. market. The retail price is $7,500.

MILUS EXPANDS TOUR

Milus, a Swiss designer watch company, has added a fifth retailer to its “Up to 15” U.S. tour. Jewelerswerk, Washington, D.C., is the latest store to sign up to host the exhibit, which features watches by 15 Swiss designers, all of whom are women (See JCK, February 1997 pp. 72-73). Exact dates for exhibits are not yet determined; call Milus USA at (212) 734-4318 for details.

  • Movement manufacturer ETA SA has a new telephone number for its Marketing/Sales and General Management divisions in Grenchen, Switzerland. The number is (41-32) 655-7111.

  • Thomas Lupinski was named chief financial officer of Swiss Army Brands, Shelton, Conn. He joined the company in 1986 and was appointed senior vice president and controller in 1994. He succeeds Tod Cunningham as chief financial officer. Cunningham has assumed the new post of chairman of the finance committee.

  • Lori Finger was named national accounts manager for Seiko and Lassale watches. She has been with Seiko for six years and was most recently New York City-area department store representative in the company’s Pulsar division.

  • Lisa Cohen moved from Movado Group’s public relations office in New York City to become marketing coordinator at the headquarters office in Lyndhurst, N.J. She now works with managers of all Movado Group brands.

IN YOUR TOWN

Charmex, made by Montres Charmex, Geneva, Switzerland, has expanded its U.S. marketing effort by naming International Product Distribution Corp., Cocoa Beach, Fla., as its exclusive distributor.

The 100% Swiss-made line of men’s and women’s fashionable strap and bracelet watches features many gift sets and styles with interchangeable bezels. Advertising is set to debut this year, says Bill Schollian, co-owner of IPDC, which has been importing handcrafted Italian jewelry for several years. The retail price range for the watches is $225 to $650. IPDC, 1325 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach, FL 32931; (800) 496-4732.

Several styles of Charmex, newly distributed in the U.S. Photo by Becker Studio.

AUDEMARS PIGUET SALUTES GQ ‘MEN OF THE YEAR’

Luxury watchmaker raises profile and funds for charity

Audemars Piguet presented 18k gold automatic watches to Michael Jordan, Giorgio Armani and other winners at GQ magazine’s first “Men of the Year” ceremony, held in December at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

“We were extremely pleased with the turnout,” says Larry Geisler, managing director of Audemars Piguet, North America. “GQ was able to line up a terrific group of performers.”

His company presented 12 watches, one for each winner in the major categories. In addition to Armani (fashion category) and Jordan (sports), other winners included Jimmy Carter (Humanitarian), Jerry Seinfeld (TV/Entertainment), Mel Gibson (Film) and Pat Riley (Most Stylish Man in America). After the ceremony, more than 300 people moved to the Rainbow Room for a dinner that raised money for Charge Against Hunger. Audemars Piguet also donated a limited-edition Royal Oak watch for a silent auction during the dinner.