Two Swiss Brands Revamp Marketing

Two leading Swiss luxury watchmakers—Patek Phillippe and Concord—are rethinking their marketing. The moves are part of a growing trend among watch companies to reposition their brands by appealing to consumers’ hearts rather than just their heads (Watch World, JCK, November 1999, p. 80).

Patek Philippe, best known for its classic men’s watches, plans to expand its market among young women by showcasing a new timepiece—the Twenty-4—in its first-ever ad campaign aimed at women. The 161-year-old watchmaker is betting it can increase its female clientele from 30% of its business to 40%.

“We’re committed to becoming a major player in the ladies’ watch market in the same way our status is established in men’s classical, technical watches,” says president Phillip Stern. The company reportedly is spending 60% of its $20 million global marketing budget on the campaign.

The Twenty-4 (suggested retail: $6,250) is Patek Philippe’s first diamond-set steel bracelet watch for women. The sleekly polished timepiece is a contemporary interpretation of its classic art deco-inspired Gondolo watches. The watch uses the smallest of the Swiss watchmaker’s own quartz movements.

The ad campaign, launched in October in upscale consumer magazines, features supermodel Bridget Hall and the tag line, “Who will you be in the next 24 hours?” The point of the tag line is that women play a variety of roles each day and that Twenty-4’s “style and practical simplicity” complement both contemporary day wear and elegant evening jewelry.

Concord Watch, meanwhile, is redefining its image with a campaign emphasizing the “luxury of time.” The $8 million program was launched in September and includes new ads, packaging, and displays as well as a new logo.

The campaign encourages readers to “be late” and uses photo vignettes that show people—all wearing Concords— enjoying a few extra moments alone or with loved ones. Traditional watch advertising is rational and product-focused, says Scott Woodward, chief marketing officer of Concord, which is owned and distributed by the Movado Group. The new campaign explores “the emotional side of the equation,” he says.

The campaign is running in leading U.S. publications, plus several magazines read worldwide, and in ads on New York buses and Hong Kong subway kiosks. There’s also outdoor advertising in Switzerland, where the watch is made.

Concord’s global repositioning includes an updated logo; sleek new monochromatic packaging (matte graphite gray with black interiors); and understated, minimalist in-store displays.

LVMH Buys Ebel And Chaumet

Just a month after buying Tag Heuer, LVMH, a French luxury goods group, has purchased Swiss luxury watchmaker Ebel and Parisian jeweler-watchmaker Chaumet. The deal was announced Oct. 20.

The purchases strengthen LVMH as a major player in fine jewelry and high-end watches. It owns Christian Dior and Fred Joailler, both of which have fine jewelry and watches, and is the co-owner of Fendi, a leading fashion house with a popular watch line.

LVMH reportedly outbid the Swatch Group, Switzerland’s largest watchmaker, and the Vendôme Group, which owns Cartier (for which Ebel also produces watches). The terms weren’t released, but Swatch (which this year bought luxury Swiss watchmaker Breguet) reportedly found the asking price to be too high, according to the Associated Press. LVMH, though, apparently had deeper pockets. In September, it agreed to pay $747 million for Tag Heuer and, in a joint acquisition with Prada, $900 million for Fendi.

The Anglo-Bahraini investment firm InvestCorp has owned Ebel since 1994 and Chaumet since 1987. According to AP, it accepted LVMH’s bid for Ebel because LVMH was willing to buy Chaumet at the same time.

Timex, America’s best-selling wristwatch, has retained Golden State International (GSI) of Oakland, Calif., to design and manufacture its pocketwatches.

GSI recently signed a licensing agreement with Timex to manufacture a new collection of pocket and clip watches—also known as “off-wrist” timepieces—under the Timex brand name and under Timex “sub-brands” such as Indiglo and Expedition.

The new collection will include Indiglo night-light technology, matching chain and clip attachments, water-resistant leather (for fobs and pouches), and scratch-resistant mineral crystals. It will be water-resistant to 30 meters. Retail deliveries begin next spring.

Contact GSI at 300 Market St., Oakland, CA 94607; (510) 893-6789.