By  on March 22, 2011

NEW YORK — It’s been exactly a year since James Seuss joined Tourneau as chief executive officer, and since then the executive and his team have quietly developed a multipronged strategy for the 111-year-old American watch retailer. Now, just in time for the Baselworld watch fair, which kicks off Thursday, Tourneau is ready to unveil its new face.

Under Seuss, the company has implemented a plan that applies to all consumer touch points and serves to rebrand Tourneau, from a new logo to a revamped online presence and a new store concept that seeks to revolutionize the way consumers buy their watches.

“We are trying to elevate and re-create the consumer experience,” said Seuss, who joined the retailer from Cole Haan, where he was ceo, and before that cut his teeth at Harry Winston, Gucci Group’s Stella McCartney brand and Tiffany & Co.

“We want Tourneau to be an amazing place to discover watches, and for us, at Tourneau, to be the place to share a passion and enthusiasm and knowledge of watches with our consumers,” he added.

Tourneau partnered with The Luxury Institute and its ceo, Milton Pedraza, to develop the strategy and “create an environment that customers enjoy, that’s friendly, reliable and discreet,” Seuss said. It will be the first major visible change since Green Equity Investors IV LP, an affiliate of Leonard Green & Partners LP, bought the retailer for $300 million in 2006. Seuss declined to disclose Tourneau’s sales volume.

The new store concept was developed with 8inc., the architectural firm best known for masterminding Apple’s revolutionary store design. Tourneau will unveil the concept when it opens a 3,000-square-foot store at 510 Madison Avenue in July.

“When I thought about the kind of experience we want for our consumer, I thought, ‘How can we change and make watches relevant to more consumer segments, and relevant to the way people want to shop today?” Seuss said.

The store concept aims to eliminate the behind-the-counter feeling that is common to traditional watch and jewelry retailing. Customers will be able to roam the store freely and see watches from all angles in glass cases. The Madison Avenue store will also feature a dedicated customer service bar in the back; window displays that can be adjusted to display several vignettes; a video tower that will allow the retailer to upload watch content, and video screens that brands can use to showcase their videos and images of watch launches.

“We want to make sure consumers can get as close as possible to watches and really understand a little bit more about the watches than just seeing them all lined up in a case,” Seuss said.

The concept also incorporates several digital elements. For instance, sales professionals will be equipped with iPads to be able to review a customer’s sales history, and create virtual watch trays for shoppers.

“You might look at four different watches; you might look at a Breitling, a Rolex, a Tag Heuer and an IWC,” Seuss said. “You want to see all four watches online and want to build a watch tray with features that will allow you to look at the benefits of each watch side by side.”

The Madison Avenue unit will feature a special Rolex store, which has its own entrance but is connected to Tourneau. The Tourneau store at 500 Madison Avenue will close down when the new unit opens this summer. Meanwhile, Tourneau is also opening a 1,700-square-foot Rolex boutique at 636 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago next month.

As part of the company’s overhaul, Tourneau is in the process of renovating its TimeMachine flagship on 57th Street here. The three-phase renovation is expected to incorporate features of the new concept and is scheduled to be completed next year. The company plans to roll out the new concept to its entire chain of 35 stores over time.

As part of the new look, Tourneau has updated its logo into a sleek design inspired by the numbers on a watch dial, a watch case viewed from the side, the letter T and the original logo. The new visuals feature a deep brown color, nickel and a touch of bright red — a combination deliberately chosen to please the existing customer base and attract a new, younger clientele, as well as a female demographic.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to make watches relevant to younger consumers, and revitalizing the interest in watches, not just fashion watches but also high-end mechanical watches,” Seuss said.

The new direction will be reflected in the merchandise mix. “We are looking at the brands we carry, and the breadth of the assortment within those brands,” Seuss said. “For Cartier, we are adding more diamond pieces to the assortment, so we will have a stronger Cartier assortment for women than we have ever had. We are doing the same thing with Hublot. Whether it’s Hermès, Dior, Breitling or Cartier, we are looking at what those brands have within their assortments, and how we can pull more of those exciting fashion pieces into Tourneau as well, more than we have ever had before.”

The Web site,, which will relaunch in September, will drive the new imaging home. “You will see the new logo and colors on the Web site with a much more editorialized feel,” he said, adding that the site will allow watch companies to “tell the brand story under the Tourneau umbrella. Consumers will have a chance to look at the concept, the watches, and see what is new. There will also be a social networking piece to it. There is a great community of watch enthusiasts and to help bring all those people together will be an important part of the Web site. Our aim is to make the watch authority in the world.”

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