By  on June 15, 2009

MILAN — Damiani is intent on building its watch division as the brand celebrates its 85th anniversary.

Although Damiani first dabbled in watches more than a decade ago, it is now pressing on the accelerator by increasing its offerings, primarily designed for a female clientele. The new designs, which run from basic to bling, will be available starting in the fall of 2010. Prices are still being set.

“We’re building a real and proper watch division because we have to treat the project like a new line and be fully dedicated,” said Guido Damiani, chairman and chief executive officer.

The company has appointed Vito La Monica, a manager from Bulgari Time SA, as marketing director for its namesake timepieces. He will be based in Lugano, Switzerland, where Damiani has a branch office.

The acquisition in 2006 of the Rocca 1794 retail chain, which counts 20 high-end jewelry and watch stores in Italy, will boost Damiani’s retail profile. Damiani’s 50 flagships and some 450 select multibrand units also will carry the timepieces.

The firm also has reedited its iconic Gomitolo ring collection, known for pavé-set pieces crafted to resemble the winding of a ball of wool. The 12 anniversary rings were inspired by the colors of famous Italian art cities such as Venice, Verona, Pisa, Portofino, Rome and Naples. Each style is only available in a limited number of 85 pieces.

Besides white and colored diamonds, the rings made with rose, yellow and white gold are encrusted with a rainbow of stones including sapphires, amethysts, rhodolites, citrines, topazes and tourmalines.

Damiani’s growth has been just as colorful. The company, established by Enrico Damiani in 1924 and a favorite among wealthy families for one-of-a-kind pieces, is today listed on the Milan Bourse, has five wide-reaching brands — Damiani, Bliss, Salvini, Alfieri & St. John and Calderoni 1840 — and controls 80 stores.

Consolidated annual sales for the period ending March 31 totaled 149.8 million euros, or $212.7 million, a 9.5 percent decrease from last year’s 165.6 million euros, or $235.1 million. Damiani posted a net loss of 4.7 million euros, or $6.7 million, compared with last year’s profit of 7.6 million euros, or $10.8 million.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization dropped 94.7 percent to 1.1 million euros, or $1.6 million, down from last year’s 20.7 million euros, or $29.3 million.

All figures have been converted at average exchange rates for the period to which they refer.
Adding to its Jil Sander and Martin Margiela jewelry licenses, Damiani further tightened its designer ties with a recent licensing agreement to produce and distribute Ferré jewelry. The pieces will be unveiled during Ferré’s spring show in September.

Fashion houses are knocking at the door, but Damiani said that doesn’t mean “we will open to everyone, though we’d like to increase our designer relationships in the near future.”

Damiani’s fully integrated production system, creative know-how and retail network make it an appealing partner for fashion firms.

“Unlike 20 years ago when we were in contact with Nicola Trussardi and Gianni Versace to do jewelry, the market is now ripe for designer jewelry as long as it fully reflects the house’s aesthetic,” Damiani said.

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