MILAN — To further boost its lifestyle appeal, A|X Armani Exchange has launched a watch line for women and men.

The timepieces are produced by Fossil Group, Armani’s watch licensor for 11 years, and will be distributed worldwide in A|X Armani Exchange freestanding stores, in select department stores and on the A|X Web site, starting in September.

Priced from $110 to $180 at retail, the watches are trendy and logo driven with a distinctly urban feel.

They are predominantly made with stainless steel, at times plated in gold, and have wide selection of straps, from bangles and punkish-looking chains to thick leather bands, often punctuated with metal details.

In some styles the decorative element is made more visible with enamel, crystals and acetate. A sales estimate for the first year was unavailable.

A|X Armani Exchange was launched in 1991 and in 2005 formed a joint venture with Christina Ong and her husband Ong Beng Seng to grow the business worldwide. The Ong-controlled Como Holdings Ltd. now own 75 percent of A|X, with Armani holding the remainder, although Armani has the option in November to increase its stake to 50 percent. While the bulk of the business is in the U.S., A|X now has more than 140 freestanding stores in 19 countries, including the U.S., Canada, China, Taiwan, Australia, Venezuela, Argentina and Japan.

But Armani isn’t the only Italian designer expanding its watch operations. Dolce & Gabbana Srl will start distributing its D&G watch and jewelry collections this fall in Japan, China and India through an agreement with its licensee, Italian manufacturer Binda.

In September, the brands will be extended to Japan through distribution in D&G shop-in-shops and boutiques, followed by department stores in October. In China, the collections will first be distributed in department stores and then to jewelry and watch stores. In India, the focus will be on D&G Time, which will be available starting in September in main stores around the country.

Cristiana Ruella, managing director and board member of Dolce & Gabbana Srl, said the company has operated directly in Japan since 2002 and described the market as “ strategic” for the group. “The Tokyo subsidiary is important, having been assigned control of the 40 directly managed boutiques opened in the area together with coordination of the presence of our brands in the main department stores and best independent stores in the country,” said Ruella.

As for China, which the company entered in 2004, there are currently six boutiques. Ruella said there are plans to open eight more.

Within the year, two boutiques are slated to open in New Delhi, under both the Dolce & Gabbana and D&G banners. D&G Time was launched in 1999 and D&G Jewels in 2005. Since 2006, sales of the collections have grown 34 percent over the previous year. The century-old Binda Group, which owns the Breil Milano, Breil Tribe, Wyler Genève and Details brands, produces and distributes the D&G collections in over 20 countries. In the U.S., D&G Time was launched in 2006, followed by D&G Jewels in 2007.

Binda is also the worldwide licensee for Moschino Cheap & Chic Watches and Jewels and Ducati watches. The group has branches and/or production centers in the US, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Germany, UK, China, Switzerland and Hong Kong. Consolidated sales in 2007 were 297 million euros, or $406.8 million. �

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