ALLENBY WATCHES DEBUT

Byline: Karen Parr

NEW YORK — FX Allenby is a mysterious man, but Allenby & Co. Outfitters hopes he will make the image for its new series of watches crystal clear.
The fictitious character, a 19th-century explorer, will be spouting wit and wisdom — without ever being seen — in the upcoming print ad campaign for the Swiss-made line of men’s and women’s watches.
The Allenby watch collection is the latest effort by Swiss Army Brands to diversify its offerings. Watches are the first of several merchandise categories that executives at Swiss Army, the parent company, feel the Allenby brand could support, from desk clocks to leather goods and eventually, even apparel.
“The ready-to-wear would be consistent with the theme of the watches, which recalls the upscale traveler at the turn of the century,” said Michael Belleveau, general manager of Allenby, during a launch party at the Explorer’s Club here.
The exploration theme is reflected in the rustic styles of the watches, whose sleek cases are paired with distressed leather or rugged khaki web bands.
The ad campaign — with a budget of $2.5 million — will debut in April in such publications as Self, Details, Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated. There, the Allenby character will proclaim such maxims as, “Civilization resides in that delicate balance between primitive hungers and the oasis of the soul.”
The tag line for ads will be “Fine Swiss watches for uncharted territories.”
“It’s a fairly sophisticated presentation of the brand,” said Leslie Green, vice president of marketing at Swiss Army. “It’s adventurous, but with a cerebral quality to it.”
Green said the watches support the growing idea of “casual chic” in the workplace and work well with suits or with dressed-down looks.
The first 16 styles — with leather or khaki mesh straps, and retailing from $160 to $230 — will be delivered to fine jewelry stores in April. For fall, the assortment will be expanded to include metal and bracelet styles, Belleveau said.
He said the next likely category will be items related to watches, such as clocks and desk accessories.
Author Paul Theroux spoke at the launch party, expanding on the explorer theme by detailing his life as a “traveler, not a travel writer.” Theroux spoke of his journeys in Africa, noting that some of the locals might have been impressed by watches as ornaments, but still told time by the sun.
Swiss Army Brands was founded here in 1855 as R.H. Forschner, a purveyor of butcher scales. In 1934, when it began distributing the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife, the name became The Forschner Group. The name was officially changed to Swiss Army Brands last year.
In 1996, Swiss Army Brands logged sales in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean of $130 million.
Through an agreement this year with the Swiss Ministry of Defense, the Shelton, Conn.-based firm is also the only official licensee of the Swiss Army name for Victorinox Original Swiss Army Knives, writing instruments, watches and sunglasses. Swiss Army watches were launched in 1989.
Its six-style, unisex sunglasses line was introduced at last month’s JA International Jewelry show.

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