“When Albert Einstein congratulates you on your design, you know you’ve done something well,” said Movado Group Inc. president and chief executive officer Efraim Grinberg of the brand’s Museum Dial watch, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
The Nathan George Horwitt-designed timepiece that drew Einstein’s accolades embodies the modernist movement of the time, with its austere markerless black dial with a single silver dot at the 12 hour and thin silver hands for the minutes and hours. Though designed in 1947, it wasn’t produced until 1960.
Now the style, which is in permanent museum collections around the world, is getting its due. The firm will host an event on Oct. 24 at New York’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, to which a bevy of its brand ambassadors, including Mia Maestro and Mikhail Baryshnikov, plan to attend.
Lavish parties aside, Grinberg — who with his father, Gedalio, bought Movado in 1983 after acquiring Concord in 1970 — is honing his focus on the product and namely on the art, accessibility and iconic status of the dial that enabled the brand to become the dominant timepieces player in its price category of $500 to $1,500.
Efraim Grinberg, who was named president and chief operating officer in 1990, spearheaded the company’s initial public offering in 1993.
Last month, Movado, which also owns watch firms such as Ebel and ESQ and holds licenses for Coach, Lacoste and Juicy Couture, reported an 8 percent rise in second-quarter earnings, bolstered by international business and expansion of licensed brands. For the three months ended July 31, net income climbed to $12.3 million, or 45 cents a diluted share, from $11.3 million, or 43 cents, in the year-ago period.
Sales for the quarter jumped 10 percent to $139.5 million, while same-store sales fell 2.3 percent. For the six-month period, earnings increased slightly to $14.7 million on sales that swelled 7.4 percent to $240.8 million.
The brand is sold in chain, department and specialty stores and has 31 of its own boutiques, which are primarily based in malls in cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. In addition to watches, jewelry is a growing category for the brand. This year, Movado will unveil its most extravagant and expensive piece to date: a multistrand gold necklace with diamond detailing, at $60,995. The jewelry is sold exclusively in Movado boutiques.
This story first appeared in the October 1, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“The Museum Dial is something we’re very proud of,” said Grinberg, interviewed at the company’s Paramus, N.J., headquarters, which are filled with modern paintings and sculpture from the likes of Arman and Andy Warhol. Havana-born Gedalio Grinberg, a patron of the arts, was a close friend of Warhol’s. The art plastered all over the walls is meant to inspire and foster creativity and fascination, including the collection of 250 kitschy cookie jars Warhol collected.
“At that time [in 1947], [the Museum Dial] was a shocking design,” said Grinberg. “The DNA of Movado began with innovation and design. We have always been really focused on design and modern design in particular. The consumer also understands and appreciates good art.”
As such, the company over the years has collaborated with some of its favorite artists on limited edition watches for its Artists’ Series, including Warhol, Arman and Max Bill. In 2005, the brand called upon the designers of Proenza Schouler to create a watch.
“We want to give our consumers a reason to buy the next Movado,” said president worldwide Jeffrey Cohen, who has been with the firm for 25 years. “That’s what drives our business.”
In tandem with the anniversary of the Museum Dial, Movado is launching a number of limited editions with the famous dial. The Movado 60th Museum Colored Dial Collection, retailing for $595 to $695, has a 38-ml. case with colorful dial and strap combinations, such as a purple dial with a java lizard strap or a red dial with a red ostrich strap. There is also a one-of-a-kind oversize 60-ml. dial set with diamonds at a cost of $50,000 and Museum Dial belt buckle on an alligator strap.
Another special style is the Concept 60 watch, which features an entire case made from sapphire crystal, a big accomplishment in the Swiss watch world. Design and technical innovation is not new for the brand, which also created the world’s first waterproof watch, as well as a curved wristwatch and a self-winding pocket watch.
In a time when $1 million watches are selling left and right, Grinberg said: “Today, there are very few people that want to wear the same watch every day. It’s no longer about aspiring to own one watch.”
Exports of Swiss watches increased 22.7 percent in February, the most recent month reported, boosted primarily by gains in the most expensive timepieces, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
Of late, Movado has been expanding its Chinese business, pitching the burgeoning middle class there. The brand also has a significant share of the market in North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean.