By  on June 22, 2007

FLORENCE — Salvatore Ferragamo has signed a 13-year license with Timex Group to launch a luxury collection of timepieces.

The line will bow in April at Baselworld, but an initial flash of two or three models will be available in about 80 stores in November. "This is a restyling of existing models and is not yet the full collection, but shows the new speed of the company," said Michele Norsa, Ferragamo's chief executive officer, at the company headquarters here during the men's wear trade exhibition Pitti Uomo.

"This is a good opportunity to present our most important project of the year," noted Norsa.

The executive said the company will target 500 stores in 60 countries, including 200 Ferragamo boutiques, and expects retail sales of 150 million euros, or $195 million at the current exchange rate, in five years. "This is a very important business, with great potential; it only depends on us. Watches are an iconic category for most luxury markets and even more so in Asia," said Norsa, underscoring that 50 percent of the company's customers are Asian. "And they will be even more numerous in the future, if we consider Asia as the countries from Istanbul to Siberia," he added.

Paolo Marai, president and ceo of Vertime, based in Manno, Switzerland, and controlled by Timex, said the Middle and Far East "are more fashion-oriented in their choice of watches and balance Europe, which is more traditional." Marai is in charge of the Timex luxury division worldwide.

This is the first watch license for Ferragamo, although there was a previous production agreement with Roventa, which had a very limited distribution. The only other license the company has is with Luxottica Group SpA for eyewear.

"We are not experts on licenses, all is made in Italy, under our control, but the license with Timex will help expand and improve the awareness of the brand," said Ferruccio Ferragamo, chairman of the company. "Watches are a fantastic competitive tool."

Ferragamo said the license with Timex was part of the new course of the family-owned firm, which has "evolved and entered into its third phase, with an IPO in the cards, probably next year, when we are ready. There is no rush, we want to reinforce the company and give freedom to the 60 family members to stay or leave."The watches will retail for between 1,000 and 5,000 euros, or $1,300 and $6,500, with limited edition models with diamonds priced up to 30,000 euros, or $39,000. One of the models shown at the presentation was a round travel clock in a stainless steel case, with a gold-plated guilloche bezel covered with transparent or red enamel and a red lizard travel case, retailing at 600 euros, or $780.

Timex has headquarters in Middlebury, Conn., and has been expanding its luxury segment over the past three years, with the addition of timepieces for Versace in 2004, Vincent Bérard in 2006 and Valentino in January.

"For Timex, it's a wonderful opportunity to further develop the luxury segment," said Anette Olsen, chairman of Timex. "This is a long-term relationship, we are going to make very beautiful watches together, joining wonderful innovative Italian design and Swiss quality."

Norsa revealed that Ferragamo is on track with its retail strategy, with 30 boutiques planned to open this year, including seven in the U.S., six in China and three in Russia.

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