Monday, March 19, 2007

Elegance through time defines luxury watchmaker

People buy watches for many different reasons--style, functionality, price and brand recognition to name a few. For the president of high-end watchmaker Longines Watch Co., the key element is elegance.

"Watches are an emotionally branded product," Walter von Kanel says.

This elegance is the pinnacle for the Swiss watchmaker, whose latest line of women's watches, BelleArti, harkens back to a art deco look and keeps pace with the 175-year-old company's attachment to tradition.

Speaking in Tokyo last month to promote the new line, Kanel was quick to emphasize the importance of the Japanese market and the tradition of Japan's luxury market as a key customer base.

But Kanel, who personally keeps ties with Japan strong by visiting three or four times a year, said there is a twist to the Japanese market.

"Usually, it's more gents than ladies" who buy watches, he said. "Japan is still a man's market...But Longines has a very nice situation in the ladies' business."

"Japan--thanks to the sensitivity of the ladies for brand consumer products like watches--change regularly their watches," he added. And for Japan, "We sell more ladies' watches here than men's watches."

Not that Longines lacks any history of masculinity and derring-do. Aviators Charles Lindbergh and Howard Hughes both have significant links to the name, as do polar explorers Richard Byrd and Roald Amundsen. It has been the timekeeper of great sporting moments such as the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, the 1933 Brazil Grand Prix and many subsequent Formula One races. And the Longines logo has loomed over the outfields of Major League Baseball for decades.

But it also was the watch of choice for aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, and is attached to Audrey Hepburn and Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai.

Kanel pointed out that women's watches made up seven of the brand's 10 best-selling watches last year. In Japan, 55 percent of sales are for women's watches.

"We want to keep the ladies volume and add more chance for men," he said.


Bedrock of sales

Japan and other mature markets may form the bedrock of luxury watch sales. But Kanel says Longines also tries to explore opportunities in up-and-coming markets, particularly in the "BRIC" countries--Brazil, Russia, India and China.

As the key liaison to Russia for the Swiss Watch Group--which comprises 17 watchmakers, including Longines--Kanel has played a key role in wooing Russia to its timepieces. Longines already has a strong presence among luxury watch brands there.

The situation in China looks even better. Not only do most Longines watches sold in China enter via Hong Kong, but on the mainland, "Business conditions...are normal--[there is] no administration burden...And we can say that there are few brands...who are enjoying [such] tremendous business" there as Longines.

India, with its high import duties, he says--about two-thirds of the cost of doing business comprises taxes and duty--presents a burden. But, "We're on the way step by step to bring India where it should be," he said. In India, "the train has started."

Brazil is the rub, but a rub that has the potential to be a huge market for Longines, he said, noting the country's high federal and state tariffs and duties, which run at 86 percent and 96 percent for steel and gold watches, respectively.

Just a few days before his trip to Japan, he was in Brazil representing the Swiss watch industry and, along with the Swiss minister of trade, met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and other officials to discuss opening up the Brazilian market.

"It's like the 110-meter hurdles," he said. "I don't think under Lula the taxes will be reduced."


Consistency an asset

For Kanel, 65, the watch business has opened a world of opportunities, to follow in the footsteps of the legends associated with the brand and travel the globe.

"First of all, I had no top education, I just had primary school. I went into an apprenticeship...selling nails and stuff," he said. "And afterward I went into this watch business. Six years in dials and now 38 years in watches."

"I was always impressed by this factory there," he said of his hometown of St. Imier, Switzerland, nestled in a region famous for watchmaking. "I started there as an assistant, and step by step I'm still there. And I enjoy it."

To Kanel, elegance in watchmaking is not synonymous with fashion. Fashion changes in a matter of months. But Longines has "consistency in promotion, in advertising, in conviction and so on."

"In fashion you cannot do that," he said.

Kanel points to the quartz revolution, which started around 1975, as forever changing the watchmaking world. "The movement became accessible to newcomers" such as fashion brands and perfume and sporting goods makers. They suddenly became global watch brands.

Kanel touts Longines' consistency as an asset. One element in this consistency is in its salespeople. "We have very good friends here," he said of the sales connections in Japan, with many having been with the company for decades.

But Kanel also added another element that helps keep Longines on its toes.

"In this job you have to learn to respect your competitors," he said. "And competitors are something very good. They don't let you sleep. You have to respect your competitor, and you have to watch them."

"There are about 400 Swiss watch brands," Kanel said. "But you have to admit that very few have more than 150 years or 175 years of experience...This is an asset. We are not among the newcomers."

It is elegance in tradition and through time that drives Longines. "We have some tradition, we have some past, and we are still there," Kanel said.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Home Theater Watch

While friends watch media clips on their iPods and try to download TV shows to their cell phones, you can one-up them with the size and convenience of the Home Theater Watch. This little gadget has 2GB of built-in storage, which should be more than enough to hold a full-length feature film. It works with MP1, MP2, or MP3 and WMA audio files, as well as with JPEG images, and comes with software that will convert ASF, AVI, MPEG, WMV, DAT/VCD, and ASX files to a viewable format. The screen may be small, but the screen should provide resolution comparable to a PC. The watch is a great way to kill time when standing in line or when you're otherwise out and about, but bored and looking for entertainment. It is just $150.

[via bookofjoe]


Sarcar Solitaire Watch

These have been out for a while but somehow I hadn't seen them before. Swiss company Sarcar has found a way to add yet more diamonds to a watch. In their Solitaire watches a bezel set one carat diamond rotates around a dial set with a carpet of diamonds. The watch comes in red or white gold and the bezel and dial are set with brilliant-cut diamonds and the crown features a diamond. The watch has a crocodile leather strap and there is also a limited edition Royal Solitaire watch with a gold and diamond set strap. The standard Solitaire will cost you around six figures.

Kobold Pulsometer Chronograph Watch

The Kobold Pulsometer Chronograph is a new watch which is designed for those who need a back-up device for measuring pulse rates. The chronograph start and stop button, push buttons and winding crown are on the left side of the case so that right-handed users can wear the watch on the left wrist and take a person's pulse more easily. The watch has a copper dial with applied hour indices and a pulsometer scale. It has a uni-directional rotating bezel to measure elapsed minutes while the chronograph measures seconds. The dial features a pulsemeter which, in combination with the chronograph seconds hand, allows for accurate pulse measurements to be taken and the watch also shows the date.The watch uses an automatic-winding chronograph movement. The watch comes with both an alligator strap and a stainless steel bracelet in a wooden collector's box. It sells for $4250 and is a limited edition of 250.

[via Professional Watches]

James Bond watches up for auction

Mugen by Futara TokyoFlash James Bond is not really known for his bling, but one signature of the spy movie legend is his tripped out watches. Antiquorum will be auctioning off two of the most recent 007 timepieces, with two from last year's Casino Royale and one from 1999's Tomorrow Never Dies (pictured).

Both watches, produced by elegant watch maker Omega, will be auctioned off on April 14 and 15 during an "Omegamania" event in Switzerland.

Each watch comes with a certificate of authenticity, and the possibility of getting a new mission from Mr. Q.

Full details at MI6.


Backes & Strauss Luxury Diamond Watches

Backes & Strauss Launches New Luxury Diamond Watches in Mid East

The Middle East is the latest market for Backes & Strauss’ new line of luxury diamond watches. The oldest diamond company in the world joined forces in December with the Franck Muller Group to launch the collection which made its Mid-east debut at the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition earlier this month in Qatar.

Diamond pieces in the collection retail from £25,000 ($48,000) and above.

Next stop on the line’s roll-out is Geneva’s 10th World Presentation of Haute Horlogerie (WPHH) April 16-22.


IWC Ranked Top Watch Brand in Survey

2007 Luxury Brand Status Index(TM) Survey of Ultra Luxury Watches Places IWC Ahead of the Competition

In the 2007 Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) IWC was ranked as the number one luxury watch brand by affluent consumers in the US familiar with the brand. IWC was selected out of a highly competitive group including Patek Philippe, Breguet, Rolex and sister brands Vacheron Constantin and Cartier.

"This is an incredible result -- it reflects the tremendous work we have done over the past 3 years in North America," says Benoit de Clerck, President of IWC NA. "Actually, this result doesn't really surprise me considering the unique character of the brand. Our heritage, products and standard of quality separate us from our competition. Not only are we the only Swiss watch brand founded by an American but we are also the only Swiss manufacturer based in the German-speaking part of Switzerland."

As the first place winner in the overall LBSI, IWC surpassed benchmarks across all indices including quality, exclusivity, social status and self- enhancement.* In total, 80.9% of the brand familiar respondents declared that they would recommend IWC to people they care about versus a category average of 48.4%. "This astonishing figure positions IWC ahead of our competition and proves that we have a bright future ahead of us!"" adds de Clerck.

IWC has been setting standards in technological development and highly complicated precision watch-making since 1868. As the "engineers of fine watch-making," the brand solely produces men's watches. The pieces incorporate intelligent designs in a timelessly classical style and are further distinguished by their superb user friendliness. The "Probus Scafusia" seal that appears on every watch promises good, solid craftsmanship from Schaffhausen and reaffirms the brands commitment to the future. Respondents in the survey noted:

"The timepieces made by IWC are secrets shared by only a very few in the world; their workmanship and quality is unquestioned, their craftsmen are artisans of time itself."

"Quite simply, it is the ultimate in a watch, not garish or gaudy. Only you and a select few will really know it costs more than a pair of Mercedes."

For the engineers at IWC, pleasure in watches is more than pleasure in the accurate time. It is enthusiasm for an amazing idea, the interplay between precision and a creative solution. Accordingly, for more than 138 years, IWC has been devoting a tick more time to watches. The collection offers both horological specialties and traditional timepieces, all of which distinguish the brand for their innovative thinking and timeless, yet understated design. In the segment of horological specialties, watch enthusiasts praise IWC for its creative engineering art in pieces such as the Grand Complication (one of the most intricate mechanical wristwatches in the world that consists of 659 micro components). Pilot's watches, Aquatimer, Portuguese and Portofino fall under the more traditional watch/timepiece category. With their sporty, yet practical design and stainless steel or titanium composition, they are the daily companions of active people.

"Overall, we are incredibly happy with the outcome of the 2007 LBSI and the increasing brand awareness of IWC. It's virtually unbelievable to realize that a brand could grow so fast in such a large and sophisticated market," concludes de Clerck.


Tag Heuer eyes to topple Omega, Rado watches

Tag Heuer eyes to topple Omega, Rado watches in India

World's leading luxury products group, LVMH is charting out an aggressive strategy in India for its premium watches brand 'Tag Heuer' to dislodge 'Omega' and 'Rado' from the top slot in the next three years.

"Currently, we are the number three brand in India. In the next three years we are aiming to be the number one brand in premium watches in India," LVMH group director South Asia Ravi Thakran said.

At present the premium watches market is led by Omega and Rado, he added.

Thakran said the company has charted out an aggressive retail expansion strategy to enhance volumes.

"In the next 18 months we are planning to have 30 boutiques for Tag Heuer in addition to the seven we currently have," Thakran said.

The company is looking at the franchise model for the retail expansion, which will be taking place in the major metros across the country, he added.

Riding high on the returns from its superstar endorsement by Shah Rukh Khan, the company has been achieving fast growth in India.

"Our sales (of Tag Heuer) are in five digits now and is amongst the fastest growing business in India for us," Thakran said, without disclosing the exact figures.

He said roping in Khan as its brand ambassador has proved to be a decisive step as the equity of Tag Heuer has soared manifolds.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Showing now

HUBLOT TV is an Internet TV channel for luxury Swiss watch manufacturer Hublot, that showcases their products.
Categories: Information
Language: English
Stream: Video Clips

The Clock's ticking

Allison Elliott occasionally wears the delicate gold windup watch that belonged to her grandmother. But it's just for show.

Elliott, 27, is more likely to get the time from the clock in her car, the one on her cable TV box or cellphone or the bottom right-hand of her computer .

In other words, the way we track time is changing with the times.

Market researchers say more people are carrying electronic devices that also tell time, whether it's a phone, an iPod or a BlackBerry. They're also finding that young people are more interested in spending their money on other accessories, such as shoes and handbags.

In a survey last fall, investment bank Piper Jaffray & Co. found that nearly two-thirds of teens never wear a watch -- and only about one in 10 wear one every day.

Experian Simmons Research also discovered that, while Americans spent more than $5.9 billion US on watches in 2006, that figure was down 17 per cent when compared with five years earlier.

In response, some watchmakers have begun to add more functions to their timepieces -- everything from heart-rate monitors to GPS trackers.

Luxury watches remain popular. But even then, the watch is more about fashion than function.

Jean-Pierre Verbunt, owner of Ancaster Jewellers, says "people have always bought watches as jewellery first and timekeepers second."

His sales of higher-end watches are strong. His bestseller last year was a Tag Heuer watch priced at $1,000.

"People are willing to pay more for something they wear every day. We want better products, better style and frankly, we want brands," he said.

"Lower end watches like Timex and Ironman are maybe hurting because of the market segment they're in. That part of the market is ruled by younger kids."

Age and gender will also play a role in what watch you wear.

John Bouman, owner of Burlington's John Bouman Clockmaker works mainly on higher-end watch repairs.

"For men, especially, it's a status symbol. It's really the only piece of jewellery they can wear.

"In the beginning, they may use the cellphone but as they get older they start wearing watches," he adds.

Sean MacPhedran, a 27-year-old from Ottawa, who works in advertising, wears a watch when he wants to look "put together." But it's so much an accessory that he's developed a habit of taking it off unconsciously and leaving it places.

"When I was little, I took off my socks because they were constraining," he says.

"I think I take my watch off for the same reason."


Take another look...

Wrist Sundials vs. Wrist Watches

Sundials were used well into the Middle Ages as timepieces and people measured time based on the position of the sun. Prior to 1883 , towns in the US recognized local time relative to 'high noon'. THEN came the railroads, and standardized time and time zones became important for train schedules. And because we love our recreation time, we just adjust our clocks a bit in the summer months and voilà... we're 'saving' daylight time!

This coming Sunday, we Spring Ahead! In previous years, in the US, DST began the first Sunday in April and lasted until the last Sunday in October. But beginning in 2007, we're 'saving' even more! DST starts the second Sunday in March and continues till the first Sunday in November, thanks to the the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Every time zone in the US switches their clock according to local time. Some states choose not to switch. The state of Arizona doesn't recognize DST, but the Navajo Nation within Arizona does. Worldwide, it's kind of like the Tower of Bablel syndrome for time... national policies for saving daylight vary widely, often from year to year and may even be disposed of for 'special occasions'. Japan, India and China don't incorporate any form of daylight saving time. Equatorial and tropical countries don't need it. In Antarctica, there is no daylight in the winter and 24-hours of daylight in the summer, yet research stations there observe Daylight Saving Time anyway.

However we measure it though, we aren't really 'saving' any daylight, we are just adjusting our frame of reference. It's an arbitrary practice which, tho' well-established, still caues confusion to many . One woman laments that if she gives birth to twins 10 minutes apart, with one child born 1:50 AM just prior to the end of DST (Fall) ... the birth order of the two children would be reversed. Likewise, on the day we Spring Ahead no children are born between the hours of 2:00 and 3:00 A.M. And, in order to keep to their published timetables, Amtrak trains in the U.S. that are running on time stop at 2:00 A.M. and wait one hour before resuming. BTW, if you play the game, Mind Trap... I just gave you big clues to solve three of the puzzles!

Through the 1960's, the observance of DST was mainly left up to individual communites (except during WWI & II) until the problems overcame the precedence:

  • Travel on the 35 mile stretch of highway between Moundsville, WV and Steubenville, OH entailed changing time zones seven times.
  • For five weeks each year, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were not on the same time as Washington D.C., Cleveland, or Baltimore, but Chicago was.
  • Minneapolis and St. Paul were on two different time zones for part of the year.

Thus, a federal law was passed in 1966 establishing the parameters of DST, with states being permitted to opt out by state legislation.

So while the passage of time is established by Divine Design, the measurement of it is a human endeavor for convenience of commerce, government, or entertainment purposes. This due. in part, to the invention of spring powered clocks/watches in 1500 A.D., has enable us to 'manipulate time' to fit our collective lifestyles. It's also a much better fashion statement... Wrist sundials, while having that 'vintage' look, could be somewhat clunky, and it would certainly alter the time display on our cell phones.

Oh, and... we'd need some other way to remind us to change the batteries our smoke detectors.

Luxury on your wrist

The market for luxury watches in India is ticking like never before.

Small, expensive, ticking, explosive. The luxury segment of watches may be a minuscule segment of the watch industry globally, the attention it grabs is anything but. Whether it is James Bond’s multipurpose watches, or retail brands like Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Girard-Perregaux. Even their lower end luxury lines cost about $5,000, while if you are aiming for the stars, well then even $200,000 might be a steal. Customisation and limited editions could cost you even more. And they are best spoken about in dollars, for converting the price to Indian currency may cause cardiac congestions.

Hold on. The Indian market is still in its infancy as far as the luxury segment goes, say experts. There’s little argument among the leading retailers in India – Omega, Swatch, on this. While the watchmakers are sure that the boom has just about begun, with an estimated 180 million people falling under the SEC A category – the potential market for luxury watches. And a differentiation is already emerging, not just in the ‘luxury’ and ‘premium’ categories. The target for an Omega seems to be already different from that of an Ulysee Nardin. “We are aiming to have just a few outlets in India, unlike some of the marketing brands who have many more,” says Rolf Schnyder, president and CEO, Ulysee Nardin. “We will remain small, it is important to see who is buying,” says says Romain le Chevallier, brand manager, Panerai.

LVMH’s brand of luxury watches, TAG Heuer, one of the best selling watches in the category in India today, currently is available from 60 retail outlets in the country. “We are targeting 150 points of sales distribution network by 2007,” LVMH’s Renuka Keron, TAG Heuer Marketing Director, India says. The Swatch group, which has brands like Rado, Omega and Longines, also has an extensive network and is on an expansion drive. But what drives people to buy watches for exorbitant amounts? “Watches are the only jewellery men can wear, and even when they have a Ferrari, they can’t carry it to a meeting. Watches are the only option,” chuckles Schnyder. Perhaps a reason why luxury watches are heavily skewed towards men, who form about three-fourths of global customers. In India, experts estimate this figure to be even more in favour of men.

Jaeger-LeCoultre, Maurice Lacroix, Movado, Piquot Meridien, Raymond Weil, Universal Genève – the names may not roll off the average Indian tongue easily, but the Swiss connection is a must for a luxury brand to succeed in India. A reason for India’s largest brand Titan to co-opt Xylys while trying to cater to the high-end market. “For historical reasons, quality is associated with the Swiss,” says Superna Mitra of Titan. She expresses satisfaction that the brand has been able to carve its niche in India within a year of its launch. History, tradition, romance – these are perhaps the most important reasons for a customer to buy in India. And there is difference from city to city too. “Mumbai is more cosmopolitan, and the level of awareness is more, while Delhi has a higher frequency of buying, though people are less willing to wait for the watch they want, they would rather see and buy,” says le Chevallier. However, he also points out that most Mumbaikars tend to buy their watches abroad as the perception is that price and quality vary.

That’s a trend retailers here are trying to change. Perhaps the greatest challenge lies in the lack of ‘high streets,’ luxury addresses where the client can go for some exclusive shopping. Van Cleef and Arpels, scouting for the right address to set up shop in Delhi, is ready to wait for as long as it takes, says Stanislas de Quercize, president and CEO of the famed jewellery and watch company. Vikramaditya Jaitly, head marketing of Beyond Luxury, says they have been lucky to find the right address in Chennai and have also got a suitable location in Mumbai in Breach Candy. “But we are still to find one in Delhi,” he says. “It’s a question of the right neigbourhood, a stand-out high street destination, says Salil Sadanandan, senior vice-president Marketing, Timex, who have got brands like Vincent Bérard SA and Valentino to India. He also bemoans the lack of specialist malls in the country. Marketing strategies also include celebrity brand ambassadors and limited edtions are the order of the day as the deserate search for wrists is on.

But just about no one doubts India’s potential. “India is far away from China in the current scenario, but has far more potential,” says le Chevallier. LVMH plans to make India one of the top 10 markets for Tag Heuer this year, and top five by 2010. Retailers like Jaitly and Thanks’ Ashish Chordia are confident this will indeed happen. A Swiss brand’s CEO could not help sniggering when told that in most ‘rich’ families, the watches have to be taken to the clients’ houses as they refuse to come out and mix. But given the way the market for luxury watches is growing, unusual customisation may be required to win the market.


Luxury Watches - The Who's Who

The Top Ultra Luxury Watches

A recent survey has identified which wrist watches are considered to be the best by affluent consumers

A good wristwatch does more than tell time. Of course, many expensive watches can display the phases of the moon, the time of year, the precise second that just slipped away, and can even remind the wearer of an appointment. But the great ones complement your life, accessorize your wardrobe, becomes an heirloom to pass along to future generations and, as James Bond has taught us, in a tight spot become a very handy knuckleduster.

The thought of knocking out someone's teeth with $50,000 worth of watch wrapped around your fist might seem a bit extravagant. Watches in this price category are also works of art. They are exquisite mechanisms created by talented craftsmen who do the seemingly impossible with gold, diamonds, springs, gears, and tiny tools. If you ever wondered why the best Swiss watches cost so much, just imagine a microchip, and then imagine it was made by hand, and you begin to comprehend the layers of delicacy, skill, and precision we're talking about.

That is why at the top of the watch chain, so to speak, the price of a Swiss-made Patek Philippe or Breguet can equal and quickly surpass most Americans' annual salary. For those people fortunate enough to be able to afford one, or more, of these high-end timepieces, the decision on which one to buy is rarely just about how well it can tell time.

For many connoisseurs, what makes a watch desirable is the number of complications it can pack within its slender case. (Complications are mechanical functions of the watch other than the hours, minutes, and seconds.) The more complications, the more valuable the watch. In December, 1999, Sotheby's sold a watch with 24 complications for $11 million. The watch that holds the record for the most complications is a pocket watch Patek Philippe created in honor of their 150th anniversary in 1989. It has 33 complications including the date of Easter and a celestial chart with 2,800 stars.

Other watch fanciers are less enthusiastic about the complications than they are about the bling. These customers want diamonds on their diamonds and often favor larger watches that can better display them.

For both first-timers entering the world of high-end watches or chronophiles who have been collecting for years, one of the best ways to buy is to go with a well-known and trusted brand. But the best-known luxury watch brands are not always the most sought-after by collectors, nor do they demand the highest prices.

In a recent survey of the top 17 ultra luxury watchmakers by the Luxury Institute, a Manhattan-based research group that tracks the wealthiest consumers in the U.S. and the companies that cater to them, Rolex and Cartier were the two best-known brands. But in terms of brand status and overall quality, the respondents to the survey, each of whom has a minimum net worth of $5 million, said the winners were...


Ventura Watches Baselworld Preview

Ventura, a Swiss company known for its digital watches has two new models they are bringing to Baselworld next month. The first is the v-tec Kappa designed by Swiss architect and designer Hannes Wettstein. It has a titanium case that is put under a vacuum and submitted to high pressures and heat then cooled by liquid nitrogen and then given a liquid glass coating to protect it from scratches. The watches uses Ventura's VEN_04 movement which has a single scrolling cylinder that allows access to all functions. And the watches have an display that uses numbers with 229 segments rather than the basic seven segments for a smoother look. The Kappa will sell for around $2,000.

The v-tec Zeta was designed by Paolo Fancelli, who also designed the v-tec Sigma. The Zeta is meant to be a smaller version of the Sigma to be worn by women or men who want less of a wrist dominator. Some Zeta versions will feature composite-cases, combining Durinox steel and Bakelite-like resin. It uses the same VEN_04 movement caliber with the single scrolling cylinder and sells for around $1,600. Pics of the Zeta and the black version of the Kappa after the jump.
The Ventura Kappa also comes in an all black version.

The Zeta comes in black,

in an all steel version,

and in a white version.

SARO Gem US, Inc