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.”

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