TIME MARCHES ON THREE INNOVATIVE NEW BRANDS CHECK INTO THE FASHION WATCH MARKET.
Byline: AMANDA MEADUS
NEW YORK--Just as the big names in the fashion watch business have started settling down for a good, old-fashioned, market-share showdown, three new lines are moving in to test the waters. Two of them come from companies already quite experienced in timepiece making: Seiko and Citizen. However, both are moving for the first time into the $150-and-under market in a quest for bigger chunks of the overall watch business. These two firms have a few other points in common. Both are based in Japan and have spent the past two years researching the fashion watch field before breaking in themselves. By contrast, the third line comes from fashion jewelry vendor Carolee Designs. For owner Carolee Friedlander, watches represent a whole new endeavor after 20 years of making jewelry. The fashion watch market is already full of heavy hitters--Swatch, Fossil, Guess, Timex and others--duking it out for counter space at the stores. Nonetheless, the new entrants feel that with the fresh and different angles they are taking with their lines, there's room for more contenders. Here, a look at each.
JAZ TIME BY SEIKO This line, which wholesales from $25 to $40, will bow at the up-coming August accessories market. Its distinguishing characteristic is that it's geared to work with the trends for each new season. According to Gloria Macaroni, director of sales for Seiko's Jaz Time division, the watches won't be developed around a signature look, with new variations on that look appearing every season. Rather, each new Jaz Time collection will look completely different from that of the season before, and its inspiration will come from current ready-to-wear motifs. "We plan to present the watches as real fashion items, the must-haves to wear with whatever the current hot looks are," Macaroni said. "The logic is that if the ready-to-wear look is, for example, floating fabrics and soft silhouettes, a woman wants a watch that works along with it, not a sporty or dressy watch that totally clashes with it." What this means is that one season Jaz Time may feature a retro group done with rectangular cases, Art Deco dials and stamped leather bands. And if modern and high tech happens to be the thing for the following season, the watches may turn up with metal dials, brushed metal cases and metal mesh bracelet bands. Jaz Time will hit the stores accompanied by point-of-sale fixtures that explain the newest looks. The information will be presented in the form of framed blurbs of copy that catch shoppers' eyes as they stroll by. The line is being aimed at department stores, Macaroni said, though she pointed out that it will be merchandised separately from the Seiko watch line.LIFE BY CITIZEN The Life line, which bowed at the May market and wholesales from $20 to $55, was developed to fit in with casual dress codes and active lifestyles, said Tim Greene, general manager of Citizen's Fashion Timepiece Group division. "From a style point of view, we're going for the same type of appeal that an L.L. Bean or Eddie Bauer has to people," he noted. "In a lot of ways, the look of the watches says, 'This is what I wear when I'm away from the office."' According to Greene, the name of the line derived from Citizen headquarters in Tokyo, and the U.S. division went with it "because it's a name which gave us a lot of design flexibility." The watches themselves are clean, rugged and somewhat sporty. The influence of the great outdoors also shows up in the product packaging, done on khaki-colored paper printed with woodcuts of forest scenes, and the countertop displays made of unfinished white oak. Retail marketing strategies will follow along similar lines; sweepstakes and promotions will include prizes such as mountain bikes and bike racks. Initially, Greene said, Life is being aimed at department stores, though specialty stores are another channel that Citizen will examine for the future.
CAROLEE WATCHES BY CAROLEE DESIGNS "Jewelry that tells time" is the main thrust of these timepieces, which were rolled out at the May market and are priced from $38.75 to $82.50 wholesale. Friedlander is going for the same fashion angle she takes with her jewelry collection--classic and feminine pieces with the look of fine jewelry. Many of the watches, for instance, have enameled and jeweled cases, cabochon crowns and jewelry-link bracelet bands. Watches for day, evening and weekends make up most of the offerings, but there are also sterling silver and limited-edition numbers that will be shown later this year. "I hope to give my customers a wide selection--from casual to dress--and inspire them to change their watches as often as they change their jewelry," she noted. Always keen on marketing, Friedlander has also developed packaging and merchandising that encourages consumers to collect various styles. Each watch comes inside a hinged box, made to look like a trompe l'oeil book, that can also be used as a mini-jewelry box. Each product group--casual, classic and evening watches--has its own distinct "book" cover. At retail points of sale, the boxes will be presented as libraries, stacked together both in-case and in top-of-counter, gold-framed bookshelves. The watches, like Carolee's jewelry, are targeted to department store main floors. Friedlander herself is gearing up for a series of personal appearances to launch the line at retail this fall, and will also kick off a national advertising campaign to herald it.
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