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Bill Blass Watches Return at the High End

NEW YORK — Ready-to-wear isn’t the only thing that’s ticking to a new beat at Bill Blass.<br><br>This Wednesday, the firm will unveil a collection of upscale fashion watches that draws from the late designer’s signature design...

NEW YORK — Ready-to-wear isn’t the only thing that’s ticking to a new beat at Bill Blass.

This Wednesday, the firm will unveil a collection of upscale fashion watches that draws from the late designer’s signature design features, such as pinstripes and the recognizable double-B logo.

“Watches are such a vital part of fashion,” said Michael Groveman, chief executive of Bill Blass Ltd. “This is the first time the company is trying to enter the market at the higher end of the fashion watch spectrum.”

Throughout the Nineties, Bill Blass offered main floor fashion watches with core price points under $100 in a license with watch firm Gruen. The deal terminated in 2000, and after three years of research, the company chose to come back with Swiss-made watches and price points that go as high as $3,000 — and that’s for a simple reason. “Money,” said Groveman with a laugh. “But a quality collection like this also helps the name Bill Blass and all the products that bear the Blass name.”

The watch collection is licensed to New York-based manufacturer Omni Watch & Clock. As part of the deal, Omni has the global rights to design and market Bill Blass watches. To that end, Omni created the Bill Blass Timepieces division, which will also be the North American distributor for Roamer, the upscale Swiss watch firm.

Bill Blass, who died of cancer last year, was a watch collector, and his private estate, which will be auctioned at Sotheby’s this October, includes a Napoleon pocket watch and the original Cartier tank watch, which once belonged to Louis Cartier.

The new Bill Blass watch collection comprises 100 pieces, 60 of which are women’s. Designed in collaboration with Swiss watch designer Rodolphe Cattin, the stainless steel or 18-karat gold watches pick up on some of Blass’ signature motifs, including the double-B logo, which is etched into the crown, embossed in the clasp, used as a way to create a link bracelet or a discreet part in some of the case designs. The collection also draws from Blass’s passion for textiles, with features such as a pinstripe link bracelet and a shadow-stripe dial. Some styles have stingray straps and diamond-adorned bezels.

“One thing about Bill Blass is that we’re understated,” said Groveman. “Women will know it’s a Bill Blass suit without having the name across it.”

The collection retails from $300 to $3,000. Groveman declined to give sales projections, but industry sources said a higher end Bill Blass watch business could rake in between $3 million and $5 million in the first year. The line will be shipped to Bill Blass in-store shops and select watch and jewelry retailers in October.