Versace jewelry on display.

Versace's first store dedicated to jewelry and watches will open in Rome this week and marks the first step in the company's medium- to long-term strategy...

MILAN — Versace’s first store dedicated to jewelry and watches will open in Rome this week and marks the first step in the company’s medium- to long-term strategy to open such stores around the world.

This story first appeared in the December 3, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Versace continues to express itself, constantly raising the bar of true luxury,” said Giancarlo Di Risio, chief executive officer of the company. Di Risio said it was too early to discuss locations or provide a specific number of new points of sale, but said jewelry and watches are a project the company “very much believes in.”

The boutique, located in Via Bocca di Leone, off the iconic Spanish Steps and on the corner of tony shopping street Via Condotti, sits next to the existing Versace apparel boutique and will open Wednesday. “Rome, with its strong local and international traffic, is strategically very interesting for us,” said Di Risio. “We aim at strengthening our position in main capitals and markets globally.”

The new store concept was designed by the company’s in-house team and features seats from Versace’s home collection and a Murano glass chandelier designed exclusively for the venue. “It’s only logical to integrate our own designs and culture in our stores,” said Di Risio.

Walls are padded with soft white leather panels that add intimacy and a homey feel to the jewel-box store, and the displays are lined with silk. The executive said upcoming Versace Jewellery stores will be modeled on this first unit.

Di Risio said the best-selling watch remains the ceramic DV One, in particular the diamond, numbered version, which retails at around 50,000 euros, or $75,000 at current exchange. The executive pointed to consumers’ ongoing request for precious items, regardless of the price. “The more expensive they are, the better we sell them,” he said.

A set of jewelry, named Elegance, was specifically designed for the Rome boutique, which stems from the collaboration between Versace and its licensee, Vertime. The latter, based in Switzerland, produces and distributes the brand’s watches around the world, and is part of the Timex Group. “Vertime is focused on Versace alone,” noted Di Risio. Last year, Vertime reported sales of 27 million Swiss francs, or $24 million. Di Risio said this year’s sales are expected to grow to 36 million Swiss francs, or $32 million.

On a different note, Di Risio confirmed that the company has tapped actor Patrick Dempsey for the upcoming men’s ad campaign, and said the women’s campaign will feature a model and not an actress or pop star. Madonna and Halle Berry have modeled for past Versace campaigns.