By  on September 26, 2011

NEW YORK — International Watch Co. Schaffhausen is looking to raise its profile in the U.S.

The watch brand owned by Compagnie Financière Richemont SA appointed Gianfranco D’Attis president of North American operations in February, introduced a relaunched Portofino collection in stores the first week of September and will open its first New York store next year.

The new Portofino line includes six styles, all based on the original from 1953 with its round yellow gold case and silver-plated dial. The new designs come in either steel or red gold and range in price from $4,500 to $22,500. A partnership with Italian leather company Santoni has also resulted in corresponding bracelets in leather and alligator, as well as Santoni’s signature orange color.

“It’s a traditional timepiece. You can wear it in 100 years,” D’Attis said, fingering an 18-karat rose gold style with a Santoni dark brown leather strap. He explained the difference between “red” gold and “rose” gold — the former has five points and is pinker in color than what’s commonly known as “rose” gold, which has only four points. “We use red gold in the collection as a result of its deeper hues. For the Portofino especially, it enhances the elegant and timeless nature of the collection.”

In addition to expanding its product range, the 143-year-old brand’s largest flagship to date will open early next year: a 4,000-square-foot, two-story store on Madison Avenue at 54th Street.

“With this store, we want to try and make a difference — and not to just make it commercially interesting, but to set the standard on service and offer our consumers a real experience,” D’Attis said. “A luxury brand needs to have an established retail network, and to offer our customer an experience, we have to build this network.”

The company is in the early phase of a three-year growth plan in the U.S., and D’Attis is looking to open stores in Miami and Boston, and more stores in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. As of now, there are only two boutiques in the U.S. — Las Vegas and Los Angeles — and D’Attis said he’s eager to open more in major U.S. cities to elevate brand awareness and tell the IWC story in depth, since the company was founded by an American from Boston. Currently, there are 30 stores worldwide.

While the company plans to go full-speed ahead with its U.S. expansion, D’Attis acknowledged two potential potholes: the fluctuation in material prices and the exchange rate, which has resulted in a stronger-than-ever Swiss franc.

“All exported prices have to be adjusted — we’re obliged to make these adjustments to maintain our strong position in the market — which is not always ideal for the end consumer,” D’Attis said.

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