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Look for the color yellow to spice up watches this coming year!  A major move into the citrus arena is bringing a wide variety of bright, happy designs into play, some are amazingly sophisticated, some are tastefully rich and creative.  In any case, the look is new, strongly grounded in color, and carries the brand names of practically every major watchmaker from Movado and Van Cleef & Arpels to Timex and Seiko.


DESIGN SURPRISES:  Of course, color isn’t the only thing shaking up the watch design field.  Look for surprises in cases, bezels, even function-clocks and dials, where design ingenuity is at its highest. At a time when financial markets are hurting, the world of watches keeps ticking along, with excitement and creativity on all sides. 


And would you believe it?  There is even a fall-back to mechanical watches for women, which are already selling well (although nobody wants to bet on how long these sales will be up.  Women have traditionally been a lot more interested in diamonds than inner watch workings).  Just as the mechanical watch is hot, it is also expensive. The question is:  Will women ditch their cheaper quartz watches for these top-price serious pieces?

So far, the answer seems to be affirmative. As one industry observer pointed out, 


             “Women aren’t going to let men get ahead of them on this one.”


The amazing thing, though, is that women do seem to be a lot more interested in function than was ever figured, and the watch industry is just now running to catch up with them.   Perpetual calendars and chronographs are just a couple of the hot functions joining the mechanical surge and helping to jazz up women’s watch sales. 


STEALING FROM THE BOYS:  Look for many other exciting new plays on the macho watch field with a nod toward women.  Sizes – men’s sizes for women sell well!-are just one area of change. Even as women’s watches get bigger and bigger, more and more diamonds and other luxe stones are being lavishly added to these basically male-oriented watch designs. It’s an interesting directive, and it looks good.  Not too long ago, the women’s movement was quick to assure their followers,


                                    “You can have it all!” 


–And hey, when it comes to watches, that seems to be true.


Unisex designs are also hot, as women leave behind the super girlie look that has frequently characterized watch styles for the so-called weaker sex. The result is, in many instances, a sleeker, cleaner and more modern overall watch design. This move toward a less gender-oriented design philosophy also has some executives in the field suggesting that “men’s” and “women’s” watch designations be scrapped, to be replaced simply by information on the watch size; i.e., small, medium, large. 


A QUESTION OF JEWELRY:  But nothing in the fashion field is ever simple, and there is always the other side of the issue.  In watches, that is especially true.  For example, a great many women’s watches are sold by jewelry houses, and they almost all promote on a female gender consciousness. Here, the watch is thought of as a bracelet as much as a watch, and emphasis is strongly on the watch as an accessory to an outfit.  At the same time, many leading fashion designers are branching out into watches, with a bevy of names like John Galliano and Ralph Lauren revving up the field. 


If anything, this infusion of high design is putting even more emphasis on color than ever before.  Watch bands reflect sizzling hues, in smooth leather, snakeskin, tooled leather and -at the lower priced level, like Swatch – hot, trendy plastics.


HOT MARKET:  Luxe timepieces are major seller, even in these questionable economic times. Of course, no one knows how long this segment of the market will continue at the boiling point.  Medium priced designer watches are also very big sellers.   Square cases with diamonds lining the sides and/or top and bottom are truly essentials in the field. At the lower price level, diamonds are replaced by CZs, but the look is still hot. 


Cases are often square or slightly rectangular.  Big circle-faced watches with chrono-looks are important.  Black faces and straps pick up on the super black color story raging in the fashion field in general. Think about the original Movado watch, and just branch out from there. Gold is a major metal, real and plate.


FABULOUS DESIGN:  Leather straps are traditional and yet modern, replacing conventional metal bracelets in a big way.  That doesn’t hold true for super modern bracelets, for example, such as one introduced recently at the Basel Fair by Georg Jensen.  This is a swirl of a single piece of stainless steel with a circular watch face at one end and a logo-name plate at the other.  It is dynamic! 


Jeweled watches are important at every level of the watch field.  At Guess, for example, watches set in colorful bangle bracelets are given major glitz and glamour with the additional of hundreds of Swarovski crystals.  The colors here are amethyst, emerald green, and dark blue.  Another watch line at Guess includes the Diver Chic ceramic chronograph, and is also adorned with gorgeous gemstones.  This is jewelry at its best!


–As one major watch manufacturer noted, “People are looking for sparkle, color, and luster.”


…But, how do you sell that?  With design mainly, but also with personality marketing.  Right now, a lineup of impressive celebrities is promoting some of the world’s costliest watches.  Ashton Kutcher and Catherine Zeta Jones are both working with major watch firms.  So is Eric Dane.  Roger Federer is adding his tennis racket swing to the sale of Rolex watches.  And Patrick Dempsey shows off Versace watches with flare.  And don’t forget that Swatch is famous for emblazoning its time-setter name across major sports contests, worldwide. 


Think about it:  Connecting famous people and events to watches obviously creates strong sales incentive.


When he was President, Bill Clinton wore a Timex.  At the same time, the Pope wore a Rolex.  Truth is stranger than fiction…

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

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