By  on September 3, 2008

The Valentino brand is launching watches in partnership with Timex Group.

The collection, titled Valentino Timeless, bowed quietly in April at the Baselworld watch and jewelry fair and will hit high-end boutiques and specialty stores this fall. The Timeless collection will also retail at Valentino boutiques worldwide. Retail prices will range from about $1,000 to $15,000.

“Watches are important to us because like jewelry, they are part of that evening look that is so close to what Valentino is and to the core of the Valentino brand,” said Stefano Sassi, chairman and chief executive officer. “This category is important in dressing a woman who wants to feel the Valentino brand in all variations, so this is something that can complete what we are.”

The watches will join Valentino’s other accessories — shoes, eyewear and leather goods — that make up 30 percent of the firm’s sales. Sassi is focused on growing that end of the business. He said leather accessories sales are increasing 20 to 30 percent each year, and this year saw a 50 percent growth in wholesale orders.

For Valentino, the Timeless line is a step back into the watch category. In 2002, it partnered with Sector Group on a five-year licensing agreement. However, the firm wanted to restart the division with Timex, which Sassi said has a broad understanding of the high-end segment as the maker of Ferragamo and Versace watches.

“We were impressed by what the Timex division did with Versace,” Sassi said. “Their distribution capabilities and sourcing possibilities at the high level are very competitive. They wanted to invest in their luxury division and when a group like that, with huge resources, decides to support and invest in a brand likes ours, it usually generates positive results.”

Hans Kristian Hoejsgaard, president and ceo of Timex Group, said developing the luxury business is a priority for the $700 million firm.

“For the Timex Group, it’s clear that adding to the luxury sector is important for a couple of reasons,” Hoejsgaard said. “First and foremost, it’s the fastest growing segment of the watch business. Secondly and more strategically, the portfolio strategies of Timex Group are making the company different from our competition in that we are really covering the entire sector. The only hole was in the luxury sector. And third, obviously our proud heritage of technology and watchmaking lends us to go into this particular category.”

Sources close to Timex Group estimate Valentino watches could garner more than 20 million euros, or $29 million at current exchange, at retail in the next three to five years.

The Timex Group luxury division makes up 6 to 7 percent of the group’s total volume, but is expected to increase to 15 percent in the next four years. Hoejsgaard has expressed little fear in forging into the highly saturated luxury watch market.

“We must be smart and think strategically and what we see moving forward is compelling evidence toward long-term trends for luxury and affluence,” Hoejsgaard said. “There will always be blips along the way, but in the long term, it is the fastest growing sector.”

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