By  on May 8, 2006

NEW YORK — Juicy Couture may have been inspired by the laid-back Los Angeles lifestyle, but these days the nine-year-old brand is making a point of being on time.

Juicy, known for its velour and terry cloth tracksuits and, more recently, for its sportswear and accessories, is introducing a collection of fashion watches that start ticking at its showroom here today.

The watches are being produced under license by Movado Group Inc. and are the latest addition to Juicy's growing portfolio. Last year, the brand, which Liz Claiborne Inc. acquired in 2003, launched footwear under a license with Schwartz & Benjamin, sunglasses under a license with Safilo Group, and handbags and a designer apparel collection called Couture Couture that are made in-house. This year, Juicy also rolled out cold-weather accessories, including cashmere mufflers and leather driving gloves.

"I find a lot of young people anywhere from 16 to 25 don't wear watches," said Juicy's vice president and fashion director, Michelle Sanders, who oversaw the design of the collection in collaboration with Movado. "They're using their cell phones or the latest gadget to tell time. These watches are fun, colorful and have a youthful Juicy spirit, and give people who aren't versed in watches an entry into the vast watch world."

Styles bear signature Juicy detailing. The Charmed I'm Sure watch, for example, offers some of Juicy's best-selling charms, including a four-leaf clover in gold and enamel, a horseshoe studded with crystals and a roulette wheel. Another silhouette showcases a chain-link bracelet woven with velvet ribbon and finished with a dangling coronet that holds the timepiece. In still another, the watch is embedded in a quilted pink leather strap that is accented with rivets stamped with crowns or Scottie dogs.

There are also several evening styles, like a tonneau-shaped watch on a French blue twisted-silk cord from which dangles a tassel, and an Art Deco-inspired look surrounded with crystals and finished with a grosgrain strap. Most of the 100-piece line comprises fashion-driven styles that will change from season to season. There is a core collection of about 30 silhouettes, such as a round case in stainless steel on a simple bracelet strap, that will carry on indefinitely."We love watches and were inspired by those in our own collections," said Gela Nash Taylor, adding that jeweled vintage watches and old Rolexes were among those she and her Juicy co-founder, Pamela Skaist Levy, had in their stash.

The line will bow at retail at Bloomingdale's and Juicy's four U.S. boutiques in early October. The watches will also be carried at Juicy's new locations. The company has plans to open 17 doors this year, including two boutiques here this summer and a San Francisco store this fall. Retail prices for the watches range from $195 to $595.

"We have unique watches that are Juicy and can be nothing else," said Efraim Grinberg, president and chief executive officer of Movado. "That's the beauty of what Juicy's doing. Pam and Gela have a great vision for the brand. They are creating a vitality with their twist and point of view in the Juicy world."

Movado also produces fashion watches under license for Coach and Tommy Hilfiger and is slated to launch a licensed Lacoste watch collection next spring. Last month, Movado reported fourth-quarter net sales rose to $126.1 million, from $120 million, but net earnings fell 59 percent, mainly due to higher taxes. In the three months ended Jan. 31, Movado had net earnings of $3 million compared with net profits of $7.2 million a year ago.

Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at Kurt Salmon Associates, predicted the Juicy watch line would do well at retail, akin to Juicy's other brand extensions, despite what many say is a tough market now for fashion watches.

"The Juicy experience is a kind of case study in how to effectively expand a brand," said Aronson. "The important thing is that you have to start with the core business that has been accepted by the consumer and grow from there. Juicy has done that. They have struck a sweet spot in the contemporary world and it's a sustaining business."

Juicy also plans to launch its first fragrance in August, is developing a baby collection and is in talks to launch a home collection. The watches will be included in a print advertising campaign focusing on all categories of Juicy products to bow in fashion magazines this fall.

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