By  on January 18, 2005

PARIS — It’s hip to be square, no matter the time zone, chez Louis Vuitton.

That’s because the French luxury firm’s latest watch, the Speedy, boasts an ice blue face reminiscent of a retro TV screen, with some styles sporting side-by-side dials for world travelers.

Slated for April delivery in roughly one-third of Vuitton’s 340 locations, the line represents the second major timepiece pillar for the brand, which entered the watch category in 2002 with the drum-shaped, brown-faced Tambour.

During an exclusive preview last week at Vuitton’s headquarters here, Albert Bensoussan, director of the watch division, said the Speedy should accelerate progress toward an ambitious goal: having watches contribute 5 percent of Vuitton’s sales in five years.

According to analysts’ estimates, that would represent a volume of about 155 million euros, or about $205 million at current exchange. Bensoussan said Vuitton is currently “slightly less than halfway” to reaching its goal.

To be sure, the Vuitton watch business has evolved quickly and has occasionally surprised management, in a good way. For example, Vuitton discovered the category is attracting new customers, with 35 percent of watches purchased by first-time Vuitton buyers.

Also, while most of the company’s early watch styles were decidedly masculine, especially in size because of a sports and technical slant, today purchases are split evenly between the sexes.

The Speedy range includes a smaller quartz style for women with a range of colorful alligator bands. But the midsize model, considered unisex, is perhaps the most intriguing, with a patented movement dubbed “DuoJet” that allows the wearer to adjust the dual clocks simultaneously or individually with the same winding stem.

Vuitton plans to unveil the watch to the American press next week with an official launch party in Paris slated for Feb. 3. Retail prices range from 2,000 to 3,970 euros, or roughly $2,650 to $5,270 at current exchange.

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