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Tourneau Names James Seuss CEO

Succeeds Howard Levitt, who is stepping down after 18 years.

James Seuss has been named chief executive officer of watch retailer Tourneau LLC.

This story first appeared in the December 30, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The move is effective March 1, at which time Seuss also will join the company’s board. He succeeds Howard Levitt, an 18-year veteran with the prestige timepiece chain, who in May revealed his plans to step down at the end of this year. Levitt said at the time, “We have a great team in place and the company is well positioned for the future.”

Earlier this month, Seuss exited Cole Haan as president and ceo and vice president of parent company Nike amid speculation he already had another job lined up.

“Jim is a great leader and has extensive experience as a driving force behind some of the world’s leading luxury brands,” Tourneau chairman Robert J. Wexler said Tuesday. “With his vision and leadership, we look forward to the future success of Tourneau.”

Seuss said, “Tourneau holds a unique position in the marketplace, with an extraordinary offering of great brands.”

He joined Cole Haan in 2006 from Harry Winston, where he was president from 2004 to 2006, and during his tenure sharpened the footwear brand’s focus on design and comfort via Nike Air technology. He is also credited with upgrading its accessories collection with signature statements such as woven handbags and the penny motif referencing the company’s iconic penny loafer.

Seuss also scaled back the number of collections offered by the company and launched a cleaner design for the brand’s stores. He was also a big believer in Maria Sharapova, who unveiled a signature collection during last summer’s U.S. Tennis Open and helped boost Cole Haan’s fashion image.

Seuss also had a four-year run as ceo of Stella McCartney Ltd., a division of the Gucci Group, as well as holding a range of executive posts at Tiffany & Co., spending 12 years managing and directing international operations. When he left the company in 2000, his role was vice president and managing director of the U.K.

Established in 1900, Tourneau distributes and retails more than 100 brands including Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Omega, Breitling, IWC, Hamilton, Ebel and Tag Heuer in more than 8,000 styles. The company’s 30-plus stores also sell vintage timepieces and watches under the Tourneau brand.

In 2006, Green Equity Investors IV LP, an affiliate of Leonard Green & Partners LP, acquired Tourneau for $300 million. Investors then included members of the Wexler family, who have owned the chain since the late Seventies.

This summer the first of what will be several Casio in-store shops bowed at Tourneau’s 16,000-square-foot flagship in New York, showcasing some of the brand’s recent collaborations with personalities such as hip-hop producer and rapper Redman, tattoo and graffiti artist Mister Cartoon and professional skateboarder-turned-photographer Todd Jordan.