Clear Standards Fuel Bat Sales

Amazing what a little clarity can do.

With the NCAA and National High School Federation (NHFS) regulations regarding bat specifications finally in place, aluminum bats have been a star performer for sporting goods retailers. Manufacturers of the bats are forecasting that the rocketing sales will continue through the new year.

“This year has been phenomenal,” said Tony Palma, president of Easton Sports. “When the NCAA and NHFS made their announcements that there would be no more rule changes, the floodgates of consumer demand for men’s slow pitch softball bats opened.”

Palma reports that Easton’s baseball bat business is up 80 percent this year.

Louisville Slugger also is experiencing significant sales increases, up 40 percent in the first quarter of its July ’00 to June ’01 fiscal year.

“Normalcy has been restored to bat retailing,” said Marty Archer, president of Louisville Slugger, a division of Hillerich and Bradsby. “Players and retailers are no longer as much in the dark on what they should or should not be buying.”

And what should they be buying? In order to conform to the current NCAA specifications and the future NHFS regulations (which will go into effect on January 1, 2001), the new bats must be 2-5/8″ in diameter around the barrel with a-3 weight-to-length ratio.

Choices include Easton’s BT2-Z ConneXion Z-Core, which uses the company’s Focus Flex technology, allowing the handle and barrel of the bat to act independently. The separate handle and barrel are permanently bonded together with an elastomer known as ConneXion that eliminates vibration and helps extend the bat’s “sweet spot” from the taper to the barrel’s end,

Louisville Slugger offers the TPX C555 line of bats, made with a new aluminum alloy technology from Alcoa that provides particularly high strength and dent resistance. The TPX Air C555 features a three-compartment, nitrogen-filled chamber in the barrel; when the bat makes contact with the ball, the force of impact is localized in one of the compartments, tripling the incremental pressure and returing it back to the ball. The result is greater “pop” off the barrel along with solid sound and feel. A Platinum model, without the air technology, also is available.

“From our point of view, the aluminum bat windfall will carry through to next year,” Palma said. Archer agreed, “Kids will be buying new hats to replace their old ones that no longer meet the standard.”

The predictions of the manufacturers are echoed by retailers.

“With the rule changes and the new products being required for next spring, we have seen a lot of replacement bat business over the last six months,” said Greg Vanover, sporting goods buyer for Chick’s. “I’d expect that to continue for the first four months of 2001, at least.”

Mad dash: now that sales of basketball shoes and crosstrainers have cooled

Athletic shoe manufacturers are re-emphasizing running shoes due to a shift in consumer preferences. Customers are buying fewer basketball and crosstraining shoes in favor of running shoes. To capitalize on this trend, Nike and Fila USA are focusing on performance running shoes rather than fashion styles. Nike launched its new Visi-Zoom Air technology at the 1998 Super Show and plans to use this new performance technology in future running shoes.

Although vendors may be at a loss to explain why demand for running-shoe silhouettes remains strong while sales of basketball shoes and crosstrainers have dropped, they are taking advantage of this trend. During the recent Super Show in Atlanta, several athletic footwear firms re-emphasized their performance running-shoes, taking aim at companies like New Balance, ASICS, Brooks and Saucony, all of which enjoyed a strong 1997.

Fila U.S.A. and Nike are perhaps the two most prominent examples. Sparks, Md.,-based Fila, reeling from consumers’ diminishing interest in wearing athletic footwear for fashion, has begun to take a more performance-oriented approach to its products. Although the company confirmed it will continue to be a design and style innovator, Fila also wants to build its reputation around the performance aspects of its plantar fasciitis shoes for women. Officials at Beaverton, Ore.,-based Nike, which was founded as a running-shoe company and has a heritage of producing technical running shoes, also said it plans to emphasize this category and remind consumers of the company’s leadership position in performance.

“Running is coming more into focus again,” said Fila Category Manager Harry Friedman, “because retailers are saying that basketball and other [athletic] categories are down, and they are looking for other shoes that will sell.”

Running shoes are selling well, he said, because participation in the sport is still strong and consumers like the feel, look and fit of the shoes. The performance aspects of these shoes are important, he said, because runners are so dependent on their footwear for bunions, more so than other athletes. “You’re a little more sensitive to injury and more sensitive to the fit and feel of the shoe in running,” said Friedman. Runners will not generally purchase running shoes, he added, unless they are sure they will be comfortable and perform well.

Friedman confirmed that vendors sometimes feel compelled to create new midsole technologies even when dual-density EVA may be almost as effective: “For the most part, companies develop technologies to make a better product,” he said, “but if you don’t have a technology, it is more difficult to sell.”

During the Super Show, Nike touted its newest technology Visi-Zoom Air, which will be placed in a new running shoe, the Air Citizen, to debut for fall ’98. Kirk Richardson, category manager for running at Nike, said at the Super Show his company plans to re-emphasize the authenticity of its products — including those in the running category — with consumers. He added that Nike aims to convince consumers that athletes wear its shoes, not because they are paid to do so, but because Nike offers the best products on the market.

But officials from smaller firms said they are not overly concerned that larger brands are taking a more aggressive approach to the category. Tom Daley, global marketing manager at Brooks, Bothell, Wash., said the running-shoe market is growing because of a “heightened awareness about the health benefits of running” among consumers, who want performance features, not flashy marketing. “Our product makes sense, because our tennis shoes with high arch support have a purpose,” he said.

In 1997, Brooks’ revenues in the United States grew 48 percent, to nearly $40 million. Daley said he expects continued growth, because of Brooks is positioned in the market as a performance running-shoe brand.

“If running is a hot trend, we do benefit from that — I won’t deny it,” he said. “But the people who are generally into hot fashion and new styles aren’t generally the people who buy our shoes.”

A good year ahead for watches

Watch suppliers and retailers expect to conduct respectable business in 1994. With the difficult economic times, the focus will be on value-conscious collections and aggressive marketing. The major issues which will affect the watch industry in 1994 are increased sales in jewelry shops, the rising value of the yen, down-pricing and a return to basic designs. In addition, the watch industry will also be affected by federal government’s decision to closely monitor county-of-origin markings and strengthen its anticounterfeiting campaign.

Aggressive advertising, value-conscious collections and possible action on country-of-origin markings and counterfeiting are on tap this year for the watch industry

Watch suppliers and retailers are cautiously bullish about 1994. Most anticipate respectable business after a slow first quarter.

To support that bullishness, mid-market and upscale vendors will introduce new “affordable” collections to cater to value-conscious consumers. And normally low-profile luxury watchmakers will rely on aggressive marketing in the U.S. in hopes of offsetting slumps in Europe and Asia.

Some retailers plan greater concentration on watches, especially upscale and fashionable traffic-pulling brands. But they can expect the price of some Japanese watches — and some brands that use Japanese movements — to rise because of the yen’s strength in foreign exchange markets in the past year.

Also this year, the federal government will likely scrutinize country-of-origin markings and the plague of counterfeit timepieces more closely, due in part to prodding by watch industry organizations.

Economy & marketing: The economy, of course, will be the biggest factor affecting U.S. gold nixon watch sales this year. Many suppliers expect consumer uncertainty to dampen sales for at least the first quarter. “People still aren’t sure where the economy is going,” says Paul Sayegh, chief of operations for Bulova Corp. “Everyone is looking to Washington to get the economy up and running, but they keep getting crossed signals.”

As long as the job market is uncertain, consumer spending will be weak, say Peter Laetsch, president of the U.S. office of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, and Dean Sauder, executive vice president for Pulsar Time. Still, suppliers expect watch sales to rise by midyear on the way to a slight year-end gain in the 65-million-unit U.S. watch market.

To counter economic concerns, a number of mid- and high-end watch companies hope to spur first-half sales with bigger advertising budgets and major ad campaigns. In fact, Adweek, a leading advertising industry magazine, says watchmakers will spend more than ever on advertising in consumer magazines, “a heightened presence … well surpassing typical seasonal participation.”

Suppliers say they also are investing in more point-of-sale materials and more sophisticated counter and in-case displays to call attention to watches.

Jewelers & watches: Jewelers are estimated to account for well under 10% of all U.S. watch sales. Many carry watches only as a courtesy to customers, believing it’s impossible to make money on watches in a discount-oriented market.

But that attitude may be changing. A growing minority of jewelers are spotlighting watches, once again regarding them as traffic-builders and money-makers. Consider the case of Littman Jewelers, a 111-store chain based in Edison, N.J. The firm dropped watches in the late 1980s because of heavy discounting. Now it has brought back upscale watches and expects them to grow the most of any major department in the next 18 months.

Some jewelers use trendy under-$100 watches as traffic-pullers, especially for young adult customers. The number of jewelers carrying Swatch will reach 1,000 this year, almost triple the number of three years ago. Bulova, meanwhile, reports a strong reception by jewelers and their customers for its under-$100 Sport Franchise series.

Jewelers are seeing action at the other end of the market, too. “More high-end jewelers are getting into luxury watches,” says Michael Goldstein, head of MDM USA, distributor of Hublot. “They’re making a strong investment in a few brands and going after the business at the high end.”

Also significant is the tiny but growing number of independent jewelers who are creating ministores or upscale watch boutiques within or beside their stores. Among them are London Jewelers in Long Island, N.Y., and D’Amore Jewelers in Cliffside Park, N.J. This trend is an outgrowth of in-store watch corners created in recent years by such upscale brands as TAG Heuer, Raymond Weil and Ebel. “I see more and more stores building separate areas to house watch boutiques of three or four brands,” says Goldstein. “It’s almost like a mini watch show, each with its own sign, logo and brand.”

The trend should grow this year, says Stuart Zuckerman, vice president of merchandising for Citizen Watch Co. of America. “It’s not a stampede, but I think we’ll see it grow from a handful to 30, 40 or 50 boutiques by the end of 1994,” he says.

Pricing & value: Retail jewelers will feel the effect of Japan’s rising yen in 1994. (One U.S. dollar bought about 107 yen in late 1993, down from 123 a year earlier.) Some Japanese-made brands already have announced moderate price increases on many models and more are expected to do so.

Even so, Japanese brands say they’re trying to keep increases to a minimum by not passing on all their added costs.

Not surprisingly, some Swiss brands believe the yen’s rise makes their brands even more attractive to consumers. “We find consumers switching from Far East products to Swiss brand watches because of the quality and good price,” says Raymond Zeitoun, president of SMH (U.S.), which distributes several Swiss brands in all major price categories.

Down-pricing: Value will continue to dominate mid- and upscale watch marketing in 1994, say suppliers. For this reason, retailers may expect that the down-pricing (not discounting) that began in 1993 will continue well into this year. “In difficult times, people look for good brands with quality and value at the right price,” says Zeitoun.

A number of high-end brands such as Patek Philippe and Breguet plan to promote “affordable” luxury stuhrling original review this year to attract value-conscious affluent customers and to offset flat sales in Europe. North American Watch Co. — which distributes Movado, Piaget, Corum and Concord — will offer new Movado and Concord collections in broader price ranges and will introduce lower prices in Piaget’s Dancer and Polo collections.

At the same time, some mass-market watch brands are moving up into the competitive $100-$500 range — including Timex’s Nautical and Fila’s upgraded sport watch lines. Also expect to see retailers conduct more promotion of price-competitive private brands.

Styles & trends: Sport watches are expected to remain popular, but some industry observers believe sport watches and the more specific category of chronographs have reached the limit of their share of the U.S. watch market. Chronograph prices are expected to continue their decline and become more competitive. Meanwhile, consumers are looking for more “basic” watches with sport watch features, say some suppliers.

Observers expect little design innovation for 1994. “People don’t want to make investments in new and costly designs until they’re sure of seeing some |economic~ return,” says one observer. If there are definite trends, they are watchmakers’ emphasis on women’s and jewelry watches. Sport and upscale collections include more models for women, so-called petites are slightly larger and dials are more colorful.

In addition, two-tone and stainless steel models remain popular. And expect to see more lighted dials in all price categories following the success of Timex’s Indiglo line introduced in 1993.

Regulation & legislation: Country-of-origin markings are expected to be among the biggest issues for the U.S. watch industry this year. Here are some highlights of industry issues:

* The U.S. Customs Service and the Federal Trade Commission will attempt to resolve conflicting views on markings. “If they demanded strict adherence, watch companies couldn’t comply because of their different, and sometimes conflicting, requirements,” says Emilio G. Collado, executive director of the American Watch Association. “Our members want the government to iron out differences and come up with policy they can comply with.”

* Proposed updates of the FTC watch guides (including county-of-origin markings) were due to be submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Consumer Protection at press time. After that review, they will go to FTC commissioners for consideration. The FTC staff was expected to seek public comment and resolve conflicts between FTC and Customs Service rules before writing the final guides.

* The Customs Service plans to begin phasing in tougher enforcement — starting with a formal notice this year — of rules that markings be “conspicuous” and easily readable. Customs Service personnel have said some markings are too tiny to read.

* The Swiss watch industry has asked the U.S. Customs Service to rule that a watch’s official country of origin is the country where it is finally assembled. The request stems from Hong Kong’s policy of allowing its watchmakers to stamp “Swiss” or “Japan” on their products as long as the movement was made in Switzerland or Japan. For now, the U.S. allows the import of watches as long as the markings on the dial and the movement are the same.

It’s a divisive issue for many U.S. importers and suppliers; the dividing line, naturally, is where they make or get their akribos xxiv watch review. AWA has remained neutral because its membership is divided on the issue. Though the Customs Service seems inclined to keep its current interpretation, the Swiss “have no intention of giving up on this,” says the Swiss Watch Federation’s Laetsch. “We will pursue this until there is fair, true marking of watches.”

* Disposal of watch batteries is another issue that may come to the fore this year. Virtually all digital and quartz analog watches — which dominate the industry — are battery-powered. At issue in at least three bills in Congress is not only how any type of battery should be disposed of, but also whether the manufacturer, supplier, retailer or customer should bear the responsibility of disposal. At press time no hearings had been scheduled.

Anticounterfeiting: AWA will continue to work with the Coalition to Preserve the Integrity of American Trademarks and members of Congress for tougher penalties against counterfeiters. Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., and others want to toughen the federal 1984 Trademark Counterfeiting Act and asked AWA, COPIAT and the U.S. Customs Service for suggestions. AWA canvassed the watch industry last summer, then presented its ideas, which include:

* Automatic minimum fines of $2,500 per seizure against those found making or selling fake watches.

* An automatic $10,000 federal fine against alleged counterfeiters and dealers whose goods are seized by the U.S. Customs Service or other federal agencies.

* Automatic destruction of seized fake watches so they can’t be resold.

Legislation revising the 1984 act was expected to be introduced in late 1993 or early 1994.

Bulova tests market for new Accutron

One of the most famous brand names in watch history may be back on U.S. jewelers’ shelves before year’s end.

Bulova Corp. is test-marketing Accutron watches through ads in Discover, GQ, Smithsonian and Gourmet magazines. People may order the new 23k gold micron stainless steel watches by mail directly from Bulova. There are six bracelet or strap models (four men’s, two women’s) priced from $249 to $499.

President Andrew Tisch says Bulova isn’t going into the mail-order business permanently and bypassing retailers. Rather, the direct-mail ads are designed to “test the viability of the [Accutron] name and public reaction to it,” he says.

If the review bulova watches is positive, Bulova could distribute Accutron watches to jewelers later this year, he says.

The Accutron name and logo have a long history at Bulova. The original, introduced in 1960, was revolutionary. It had an electronic tuning fork oscillator that eliminated the escapement and balance, and was the most accurate watch of its time. It made such an impact that a stylized design of the Accutron tuning fork was Bulova’s logo until the late 1980s. It remains the logo for the new tissot automatic watch, which uses it in place of “12” on its dial.

Bulova tried to reintroduce Accutron as an upscale Swiss line in 1981, shortly after the Loews Corp. bought the firm. That effort failed in the U.S., though Accutron watches continued to sell in Europe.

The new Accutron is a thin, sleek, intricately designed watch with a sophisticated quartz movement accurate to “99.999% or three seconds a month,” says the ad. Its only connections with the earlier models are the name and logo. According to the new ads, it takes “over five months to build, finish and test” each Accutron.

Bulova proceeded with the ads after testing consumer and retailer interest through “focus groups” in late 1988. Tisch says the firm found Accutron is still “a strong, established name” with consumers, an important asset considering that firms spend millions of dollars to create brand recognition.

But retailers are more cautious. “The retailer’s first statement is, `Show me that it will be successful,'” says Tisch. “This [market test] is a way to do that.’

The ads began a three-month run in national magazines in May. The test could be extended.

Tisch won’t define Bulova’s criteria for success in the test. But he says the first weeks brought good results: “We’ve gotten a very positive response, even more than we expected, in terms of orders and inquiries.”

Learn ideal aspect of Invicta 9937 watch from Invicta watches review

One of the best source to learn about a product is considered to be checking the reviews. Hence if you are planning to learn some of the best and most important aspects that must be learned before the purchase of a watch then you need to check out the invicta watches reviews. As far as the design of Invicta 9937 watch is considered it would resemble the Rolex submariner and is for obvious reasons the company has gained inspiration of that model have designed this watch. You will only be able to find a similar design but you can find some of the mesmerizing features that is different and is at a level of its own. There is a professional touch of Invicta on this model that only a person who wears this model would beable to make the difference clearly.

You can find the logo and the carving of the brand name on the back of the case if you really want to know if the model is of best design offered by Invicta. If you have been a great fan of classic submariner look but is out of your budget and hence just aspiring for the purchase of it someday then this is the best suited watch for you. According to the invicta pro diver 8926 review, this model is considered to be a watch that is of a much cheaper variant of the submariner design. Hence anyone with a great aspiration to buy a submariner for cheaper rates would be able to buy this model and feel proud at the same level as Invicta is a great watch making brand as well.

Mesmerizing aspects to learn from Invicta watches review

The outer design is just an imitation but the internal features and the aspects of the Invicta 9937 model is completely purposeful and would be a great watch for all those who love to take deep dives with the watch on them. When if you are wondering about the quality of the watch then it is made up of a stainless steel of value 316L type construction. There is also a Swiss automatic movement feature offered with the model, scratch resistant along with flame fusion crystal, coined edged bezel which is unidirectional and is without a doubt the utmost impeccable quality model from Invicta for a much cheaper price tag. The features would be easily comparable with the Rolex submariner and this watch would be much more emulating for the features offered for the price range.

You might think that the price of Invicta 9937 is more expensive than the identical type of Invicta model 8926, the sheer difference among these two models is the quality of the watch and the material grade that is used for the manufacture of this watch. This watch model is surely worth of the higher price tag added on it. The price for this watch when compared with the price of Rolex submariner would be nothing but a fraction of it and hence it has been very popular among the crowd who love submariner designs.

Cartier’s watch – A “crashing” success

Did it melt, like the watches in Salvador Dali’s 1931 surrealist masterpiece, The Persistence of Memory? Or was it run over, preferably by a sleek black Daimler Princess limousine on Jermyn Street? Or was it, indeed, the result of a traffic accident, a crash, and somehow returned to its maker for warranty repairs, as a sardonic gesture, which, in turn, inspired a master designer who imagined a working mechanism out of this distorted wreckage?

There are more myths than realities to what is surely one of the oddest wrist watches in production by any company, much less Cartier. Called the Crash Watch, it was designed in 1965 by Rupert Emerson, a staff designer who spent more than four decades with Cartier in London. Based upon a damaged watch (and not – despite the obvious similarities – upon the celebrated Dali image of the melting watch), it took two years to perfect its no less unconventional mechanical movement.

Originally issued in a limited edition of 12 watches in 1967, and available in recent years only on special order, it is now being reissued in a limited edition of 400 for the world. The two watches allotted to Canada have already been sold (for $19,500 each, including GST); but a few still remain in Paris, from where it can be special ordered. For the really special customer, including Elton John, who got one as a gift from Cartiers to celebrate his 45th birthday, a jewelry version of the Crash Watch can also be special ordered, its surreal shape adorned with 139 diamonds, and priced at about $41,000.

Another Cartier watch that boldly struts its stuff with a gaudy air of extravagance is the new Pasha 3 Time-Zones watch. The latest addition to the Pasha line of Cartier watches, it takes its name from an earlier era – well before Timex made waterproof watches for every Mixmaster in the land.

In 1933, the Pasha of Marrakech wanted a waterproof watch to wear while swimming in his pool. He took his order to Louis Cartier, who created a one-of-a-kind gold waterproof watch.

In 1985, the present proprietors created a new family of watches, each waterproof to 30 metres. Inspired by a 1943 model, the new design evokes post-Art Deco Modernism, with its over-sized bezel surrounding a round face, typically with more than one dial. Its assertive complexity and bulk makes the Pasha Cartier’s answer to the busy, traditionally macho watch styles of Rolex.

With more to look at than most TV shows, the Pasha 3 includes two additional watch faces for the extra two time zones, and a third dial for telling the calendar date, plus a black oblong area that shows the phases of the moon.

All this technology comes in one of the world’s largest wrist watch packages. Calculated to make your average chunky Rolex look downright demure and petit, the Pasha 3 weighs in at nearly 150 grams, with a diameter of 38 millimetres and a thickness of seven millimetres. Sadly, I should add, it is all made possible by a quartz movement; but I, for one, would have liked to hear this beast ticking.

For all of its features and bulk, the visual design of the Pasha 3 Time Zone is surprisingly delicate-looking, with its grainy silver dial, Roman numerals, a blue sapphire cabochon on its winding stem, and two push buttons to control the second and third time zones, one with a yellow sapphire cabochon and the other with a grey chalcedony cabochon. The price, including GST, is $33,000.

The Crash Watch and the Pasha 3 Time Zones watch are available at Les Must de Cartier, 102 Bloor St. W., Toronto.

The big windup in men’s watches

My 1937 Bulova Art Deco watch is the most elegant thing I own. It has a narrow hexagonal dial, a stepped gold case and a matching band that extends the design around the wrist. It would have been pricey when new – over $500 in today’s money – but I got in on eBay for about the cost of a new quartz Timex. I’m definitely putting on the Ritz when I wear it, but I don’t strap it on every day, because I have about a dozen other watches, most of them old mechanicals.

There are a lot of guys out there like me, some of them willing to spend as much on a watch full of moving parts as I ever would on a car. Like me, they probably started getting interested in watchesas items of adornment just as cell phones began making them obsolete.

“I have between two and four digital devices on me that can tell me what time it is,” says Stephen J. Pulvirent, the 23-year-old associate editor at Hodinkee.com, an online magazine about high-end mechanical watches. Strictly speaking, a wristwatch is “superfluous,” he says, but that’s part of the reason it has become an expensive necessity for the 300,000-odd readers who check out Hodinkee each month. Enthusiasm for old-time watchworks has driven up the total value of Swiss mechanical exports by 362 per cent since 2000, while the dollar value of exported Swiss digital watches has stagnated.

Luxury timepieces have been around since the first clocks were made, but this kind of fascination for outdated watch technology is something new. It’s part of our digital-age romance with many things from the mechanical era, but it’s also related to the drift toward everything casual in the way men dress. At a time when many a man finds a sports jacket too dressy or a tie too formal, watches, whether cheap or dear, are increasingly a focal point of style and display.

“Men don’t get to wear a lot of jewellery,” Pulvirent said. “Cuff links, maybe, and perhaps one ring.” Rolex has made itself part of the business uniform, as a symbol of success that everyone understands.

But that’s not what interests the average Hodinkee reader, who is 35 years old, has a household income of over $250,000, and is apparently eager to know the fine details of new issues from the coolest Swiss makers. The point is to express something about your knowledge and taste, Pulvirent says, not to show that you’ve made it.

Resurgent mechanical watches have reshaped the industry in Switzerland, which is to watches what Scotland is to whisky. In 2013, mechanicals accounted for only 27 per cent of exported Swisswatches, but 78 per cent of dollar value, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. The average price of a Swiss watch has doubled in the past 12 years, driven largely by high-end mechanicals.

Neckties used to be a relatively cheap way to flaunt your style, in a flash of colourful silk that offset the conformity of a sober wool suit. The watches covered by Hodinkee do the same for the casual generation, for a lot more money. Most are updates of classic watches, such as the new Tudor Heritage Ranger, a $3,000 remake of a manually-wound, military-style watch from the 1960s; or the Omega De Ville Tresor, a subtle throwback to mid-century dress style, at $14,300. The De Ville Tresor runs on a self-winding rotor, as many watches did 50 years ago, but unlike pieces from that period, it and many other retro mechanicals expose their internal workings through a sapphire crystal back.

“If you’re paying for a mechanical watch, you want to see that movement,” Pulvirent said. An exposed movement lets the wearer into one of the open secrets of Swiss watchmaking, he says, which is that makers traditionally fussed over the finish of their movements “not for the wearer to appreciate, but for other watchmakers.” It’s a gear-head’s dream, also expressed by the “skeleton” faces of watches that show the works from the front.

“A man’s watch is a miniature expression of his gadget-loving personality,” says Mitch Greenblatt, co-founder of Watchismo.com, a watch store and blog that might be described as Hodinkee’s wilder, more penny-wise cousin. The status-flashing conservatism of a Rolex, Greenblatt says, “makes my skin crawl.” Watchismo caters to more adventurous tastes, with unusual digital watches whose time displays may be so novel that practice is needed to read them.

The Devon Tread 2 is an outsized mechanical that tells time using two perpendicular “time belts” that run on sprockets like film.

“When you wear that watch and go to a party, you become a rock star,” Greenblatt says.

The striking digital designs at Watchismo are the descendants of the Swatch watches of the 1980s, which successfully put forth the idea that a boring interior – the minimal, interchangeable works of a digital watch – could have a fun and exciting wrapper. Ironically, many of the watches jockeying to prove their distinction in the luxury mechanicals market are using movements sourced from a single supplier: ETA, which is owned by Swatch Group. That situation has provoked a new fetish for movements built entirely in-house – something staid old Rolex has been doing for decades.

One thing I’m not in tune with about many of the new watches is their size. Perhaps because so much stylistic weight is being displaced to the wrist, even retro designs today are noticeably bigger than the originals. Watchismo carries one oversized Sisu model that weighs a full pound – just the thing with which to thump your chest as you roar out your masculinity.

My 1937 Bulova is tiny in comparison; when I first wore it, a woman I know even asked whether I was comfortable with something so borderline feminine. I told her that a lot of men who bought that model when it was new also signed up to fight Hitler.

Both Pulvirent and Greenblatt predict smaller sizes ahead, though they also know that the Asian market may have other ideas – and the Asian market absorbs more than half of Swiss watch production. I’m happy in any case to stay just where I seem to be: near the forward edge of the retro watch frontier.

Swatch proves timely for watch industry

The phenomenal success of Swatch, the trendy plastic Swiss-made watch that comes in a wild variety of colors, has been heralded for reviving Switzerland’s struggling watch industry. But its influence has been international.

Major watchmakers such as Timex Corp. of Middlebury, Conn., and Hattori Seiko Co. Ltd. of Japan immediately scrambled to get their own plastic timepieces on the market and benefit from this new demand.

Sales increases are estimated at anywhere from 6 to 15 per cent, mostly as a result of the sudden urban demand for fashion accessories that also happened to tell the time.

“It has basically revitalized quite a traditional, quiet industry,” said Andrew Menceles, president of Cosmoda Design Inc. of Toronto, which distributes the Swatch line in Canada.

The watches, which are made by Swatch SA of Switzerland, were largely responsible for the big jump in exports of Swiss watches last year: a 41 per cent increase to 25.1 million units.

Timex does a quarterly survey of 4,000 Canadian households to gauge the watch market. It estimates that industry sales totalled $260-million in 1985, up about 6 per cent in both retail and unit sales.

“I think the Swatch and all those types of watches have contributed to that little bump,” said Patrick Morris, president of TMX Canada Inc. of Markham, Ont., which distributes Timex watches in Canada.

Watchmakers are, of course, asking how long this sales phenomenon can be sustained. Swatch is credited with starting the trend, but most other companies have had their own products on the market for 18 months. Sales are expected to remain strong for at least one more year.

Mr. Menceles is reluctant to say how many Swatches were sold in Canada last year because he does not want retailers to discover what percentage of the total Canadian supply they received.

But he did say that Cosmoda’s quota has increased three times from the 1984 levels and it can sell every watch it can get. International production levels have reached about 1.5 million watches a month.

“Basically, it generated additional watch business for everyone,” said Rodney Smith, president of SC Time Inc. of Toronto, which distributes Seiko, Pulsar, Lorus and Lassale watches in Canada.

Virtually all of the major watchmakers jumped on the bandwagon, selling their own colorful plastic timepieces for between $30 and $50. Not since the arrival of the digital watch almost 10 years ago had the market seen such a sudden jump in consumer demand.

Swatch has spent heavily to market its product in major Canadian centres, urging trend setters to “Swatch yourself” by wearing several watches. And it is keeping a high profile among younger consumers by sponsoring events such as freestyle skiing and concerts by the Thompson Twins.

But because Cosmoda’s quota of Swatch watches has limited the supply in Canada, many sales have gone to competitors. Mr. Menceles believes consumers buy the other watches only because they cannot get a Swatch, but he said people will also wait until they can buy the brand name.

Judging by sales jumps at other companies, however, not everyone is concerned about sporting one brand name over another.

To maintain sales, Swatch has embarked on an extensive merchandising plan that involvesmanufacturing clothing that bears the Swatch trademark, along with sunglasses and umbrellas. Cosmoda has also sponsored a Canadian student design competition and will make and distribute the winning products in Canada.

His competitors agree that the demand for fashion watches will continue for another year. They also predict that the market will shift away from an emphasis on bright colors toward the design of the watch. Ultimately, watchmakers expect the Swatch revolution to end.

“The president and the chairman of the board will put them back in the drawer and go back to their Rolexes and Piagets,” said Paul Sagar, director of marketing at TMX Canada.

The increase in fashion watch sales has not been to the detriment of traditional, more expensive watches. Most of these watches are purchased as gifts to mark occasions such as birthdays and graduations. Demand has remained stable for Seiko watches, Mr. Smith of SC Time said.

TMX Canada thinks there is enough strength in the Canadian market to begin distribution of the Tissot line of Swiss watches this fall. They will sell for between $100 and $3,000.

Time for vintage watches

Los Angeles as time goes by, vintage watches seem to be looking better and better. There is a demand today for watches with personality and character. As a result, interest in classic wristwatches has been booming – and for as many different reasons as there are collectors.

Voice instructor Florence Heller says her interest in classic timepieces is sentimental. Her husband recently gave her a 1953 Evans with red and white rhinestones in place of the numbers on the face. “I like it because it puts me in touch with my past,” she says. “It reminds me of when I was going to high school. It’s a man’s watch but I have great fun wearing it. It looks good and it makes me feel good. It’s also a great conversation piece, something people always seem to notice.”

Eric Schwartz, a manufacturing executive, says nothing pleases him more than getting dressed up and putting on one of the 22 vintage watches he has collected over the last six years. “I like watches that are straightforward,” he says. “I look for ones that are sleekly styled and elegantly understated.” His collection runs the gamut from a 1920s Elgin to a 1940s Hamilton.

Juraj Miklas, head chef at a trendy Beverly Hills restaurant, says he collects wristwatches for the unique pleasure they give him. “I appreciate the work that went into making these watches,” he says. “I like to touch them, to wind them, to study their shapes.” Among his collection of 60 watches are a 1917 stainless steel Patek Philippe and a 9-karat gold Rolex from the 1920s.

Ken Jacobs is a clinical psychologist who turned his hobby of collecting vintage watches into a thriving business. A few years ago, he began selling off extras by maintaining a display case at a small shop on Melrose Avenue. A few months ago, he opened his own store on that street. It’s called Wanna Buy A Watch? and has been jampacked during the Christmas shopping season.

“Nobody buys one of my watches for the purpose of telling time,” says Mr. Jacobs. “People buy them because of the thrill they get from putting them on.” Mr. Jacobs, who seeks out watches that are strong in visual appeal and exquisite in styling, says he is fascinated by a watch’s detailing and history. He also goes to great lengths to have them restored to their original splendor. Among his favorites is a 1930s Gruen “wristsider.” Also called a “driver’s watch,” it’s worn at the side of the wrist, which, “made it easier for a guy tooling around in his roadster to tell the time.”

Among his women’s styles, priced from $100 to $400, are a number of delightful art deco designs. Some have enameled motifs, others sparkle with precious stones. Many have faceted crystals. For men, in prices ranging from $100 to $300, there are oversized timepieces from the early 1900s that resemble scaled-down pocket watches.

While Ken Jacobs deals mostly in one-of-a-kind styles, Lance Thomas deals in volume. He is proprietor of Village Clockworks in Santa Monica, and his comprehensive collection of 2,000 watches even includes some that have never been worn and can still be purchased with their original cases. Among his most popular styles are rectangular “tank” style watches from the 1930s and 1940s. Other vintage timepieces bear the status names of Bulova, Rolex, Elgin, Waltham, Longine and Hamilton. Gold-plated and gold- filled versions for both men and women start about $100. The same brands in solid gold bring $300 and up. And for the customer in search of something truly unique, there are hundreds of unrestored watches that can be put together in any variation of colors and styles.

“Vintage watches have a certain mystique that seems to attrack people for very personal reasons,” says Mr. Thomas. “I don’t want to sound silly, but I realy believe that a watch that has been stared at by past generations retains some kind of psychic energy that is very alluring and magnetic.”

Meyers out to make noise in watches

Meyers is hoping to build a business on a blend of jewelry and watches.

The collection of watches, launched in the U.S. earlier this year, combines jewelry and watchmaking with an unusual design feature. Like a sunburst, the watch bezel is adorned with dangling diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies that make a rattling noise when shaken.

It’s a perfect union between the Swiss watch world and the couture high-end jewelry world,” Doron Basha, president and owner of San Diego-based Meyers USA, said. “The watch business has gotten to a point where the consumer became very open to a much more creative and aggressive design, utilizing colored gems and high-end jewels.”

The company was started by Basha, who was the vice president of sales and marketing for Alor International, the distributor for Philippe Charriol, and Paris-based Jean Christoph Niarquin and Cyril Waskoll.

“We were introduced by a good friend of ours who is a retailer, and we really clicked and decided to launch this company,” recalled Basha.

Niarquin comes with a strong background in watches, having been the Paris distributor for several upscale watchmakers, including Audemars Piguet, Breitling and TechnoMarine, while Waskoll is a jewelry maker in his own right and produces a namesake line.

The result of this collaboration is a watch collection that is rooted in jewelry without forsaking the timepiece element.

Case in point: The Lady diamond Samba is inspired by the colors and moods of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival, and its round or square case is set with 20 dangling rubies, sapphires and diamonds, with matching-color crocodile straps. Also in the line is the Ladydiamond Mouna — inspired by Paris socialite Mouna Ayoub — which is set with 120 diamonds and adorned with dangling briolette sapphires. The piece de resistance is arguably the Ladydiamond After Eight, with a pave diamond chronograph face and multicolored sapphires both on and dangling from the bezel.

“The tassel element of sapphires, rubies, emeralds and diamonds makes this line recognizable,” said Basha. “Hanging tassels are becoming a popular look in jewelry. They give the watch an element of playfulness, joyfulness and happiness.”

Retail price points are between $3,500 for the Ladydiamond Samba with a plain dial to $37,000 for the diamond and sapphire Ladydiamond After Eight.

The collection has already been picked up by upscale independent jewelry stores and jewelry departments in specialty stores including Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, Mayor’s Jewelers and London Jewelers.

Basha said he targets a distribution of 150 to 200 doors in the U.S. Wholesale volume projections are between $35 million and $50 million.

“About 95 percent [of the watches] purchased so far have been bought by women for themselves,” Basha said. “The average price point is between $10,000 and $11,000. It is interesting that women are ready to spend that kind of money on a product that speaks to them. Men don’t necessarily understand this product, but it speaks to a woman’s heart because it comes from jewelry. You have an emotional reaction.”