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Buyer’s Choice: Good Times

Thanks to the fact that fine watches are increasingly recognized as status symbols among the rich and powerful (and those who want to be), sales continue to be strong, retailers say.

At a time when the U.S. dollar makes even the most expensive Swiss watches sell at a premium, high-ticket watches are selling briskly. If it’s large size, rose or “red” gold, a limited edition mechanical, and sportive in style, it will likely sell. Of course, a prestigious brand name doesn’t hurt either.

The strength of the high-end has had its own trickle down effect. Masculine, large size sporty watches continue to dominate sales at all price points. However, young watch buyers eager to emulate the wealthy buyers are trading up, too. Women still tend to prefer feminine, often jewelry-oriented watches, retailers say. Nonetheless, there’s a move to redefine watch styles by size, not sex. Women are purchasing smaller iconic versions that are similar to popular men’s styles, and sometimes even the larger sizes.

18k gold watch

Breitling for Bentley’s 18k gold “Flying B” rectangular mechanical watch with jumping hour mechanism, (800) 641-7343.

18k gold watch

High-End Happening

“We continue to see an upswing in sales in the $5,000-plus watch business, and we continue to see increased comp numbers for brands such as IWC. Customers are giving more priority to their watch purchases than they did in the past. I have a friend who is in his late forties and successful in real estate. He drives a BMW but he was still wearing an old Tag Heuer. He was pushed by his wife to upgrade. He wound up purchasing an IWC pilot and a Panerai ‘Black Seal.’ And he’s not done yet. I think my friend is typical of what’s going on. There’s a huge amount of money being made on Wall Street and watches is one category these businessmen are interested in. As for the appeal of high-end mechanical watches aimed at women, I think the jury is still out. We have more emphasis on segmenting watches by size rather than sex, similar to the way Cartier has done: small, medium, and large.”
— Andrew Block, Tourneau, New York

IWC’s “Da Vinci” 18k gold watch with the brand’s first proprietary chronograph movement, (800) 432-9330.

large watch

Big Time

“Big watches are in right now. Before, a 38mm watch would be considered large, but now anything smaller than 46mm is considered small. These days, the only way a man can show his status is by wearing a big expensive watch, which is causing many men to buy a watch wardrobe so they can wear a different watch every day. One collection that is doing well is the Ferrari chronograph collection from Panerai. They are all limited edition, making them sought-after collectibles. These are just amazing watches that you don’t see on other people. Another up-and-coming brand is F.P. Journe. They carry the most extraordinary watches that start around $28,000 and go up to about $250,000. These limited edition watches have become instant collectibles.”
— Alexander Fleysher, Yanina Jewelry, Cedar Grove, New Jersey

Panerai’s “Radiomir” ten day GMT automatic with 45mm 18k rose gold case, (877) PANERAI.

18k gold watches

Brand Versus Value

“After being in the watch business for 17 years, we find our customers come in either looking for a brand or good value. Raymond Weil is one of the brands that has really mastered branding. We get a strong response from our consumers. As for those seeking value, we have had success with Festina’s 18k gold watches, which usually retail for about half the price of most 18k gold watches.”
— Patti Firtch, J.G. Kronenberger, Medford, New Jersey

Festina’s “Shockwave” 18k red gold chronograph with a black titanium bezel, carbon fiber dial, and carbon fiber strap, suggested retail $4,995, (800) 648-9702.


Super-Size Me

“The first thing that’s important in watches is size. We used to sell watches and have people later returning them saying they were too large. Now we have consumers returning watches larger than 40mm and saying they are too small! I just got off the phone with a customer who was asking for a 50mm watch! Most of these watches fall into our primary retail target range of about $500 to $1,000. Strong sellers include watches such as the Luminox ‘Quadrum,’ Festina’s ‘Big City,’ and Accutron. Clients are also looking for legibility even in darkness or low light. Best selling examples include Citizen’s Skyhawk flight chronograph with lighted digital display and Luminox’s watch with tritium gas illumination.”
— Bob Keller, Gem Day Jewelers, Kosciusko, Mississippi

Accutron’s diamond bezel steel chronograph from the “Courchevel” collection, suggested retail $1,150, (800) 228-5682.

Affordable Time

“The Louis Erard collection is doing a great job of making affordable watches in the $1,200 to $2,000 range, which appeal to men in the 28 to 38 age range. The watches really fit the trend toward big watches with big leather bands.”
— Michael Beem, M. Beem, Reston, Virginia

Resort Attire

“Our store is on a resort island so we tend to cater to consumers who are looking for fashion forward, wearable art. Our best selling watch collection is Louis Erard because their watches are all handmade, European style in the bigger sizes with big numerals, diamond bezels, mother-of-pearl dials, and colorful straps including python and white silk. A particular watch I often suggest is the ‘Asymmetric’ line, which is exactly what our customer base is looking for.”
— Dan Schuyler, Lily & Co., Sanibel Island, Florida

Louis Erard’s GMT “Julie 1931” with a transparent dial to view its automatic movement and second time zone counter, (866) 289-9653.

watch with mother-of-pearl dials

Sporting Life

“The range of $2,000 to $7,000 is where we are seeing strong growth in sports styles. Brands like Ritmo Mundo appeal to the hip, fashion oriented tourists and clientele we get here. The line’s ‘Hercules’ watch sells very well, four to seven sales a day. Tag Heuer’s sportier styles do well, and we sell at least four to five of them a day. High-end watches retailing from $20,000 to $40,000 are doing well, too. Brands trending well include Vacheron Constantin, Ulysse Nardin, and Girard-Perregaux. Most of these styles are purchased by men. Popular women’s styles have been those that are more jewelry-like and diamond intensive such as Piaget or Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso.”
— Korosh Soltani, David Orgell, Beverly Hills, California

Ritmo Mundo’s “Indy Car” quartz chronograph with 46.5mm steel case and rubber tire tread strap, (866) RITMO-US.

high end watches

Rolex Rolling

“The demand for Rolex has been very strong in the last six months due to the great demand for stainless steel watches like the styles the brand reintroduced in steel. We used to carry more Swiss watch brands but have phased them out over the last few years since many had little return on investment. We have maintained a private label watch business since the early 1960s which includes steel, steel and gold, and karat gold watches. The private label sells because our store is a brand to our customers, one they have grown to trust. We did add Louis Erard because they offer good quality at $700 to $2,500 retail, and they have good terms and margins for an independent.”
— Steve Duvarney, Duvarney Jewelers, Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Rolex’s “Yacht-Master II” 18k gold chronograph, (212) 758-7700.

Rolex watch

Young and Sporty

“We are doing well with steel or steel and yellow gold sport styles, such as chronographs, especially if they have something a little different or unusual about them. We do well with Alfex and Festina. Our younger customers, those 30 to 45, seem to be the most interested in these watch styles while the 45 and older customers tend to want a dressier, higher end look. We see a niche in the $700 to $1,800 more fashion oriented looks.”
— Lloyd Leder, Leder’s, Rockville Centre, New York

Fashion Fresh

“The fresh designs and strong design statement of Alfex appeals to our customers, especially women, who like the brand’s more fashion oriented and often feminine looks such as the bracelets. Alfex has yellow tone and steel tones, too. Men like many of the Alfex styles, but I think women are more open to being brave about trying new things. The collection is attractive because they can buy them along with a Rolex or Tag Heuer and swing off wearing them with ease.”
— Marcia Alfieri, Alfieri Jewelers, Portage, Michigan

Alfex’s “Lucendro” automatic steel chronograph, (914) 235-6261.

men & women's watches

Gold Diggers

“We see that many women have started to come in for multiple watches to wear as fashion accessories rather than just having one watch to wear every day. These women are also spending more on fine watches. Yellow gold watches have become popular again especially in brands such as Cartier and Ebel, which are doing great in our stores. We also are seeing many more customers in their twenties and thirties interested in buying from status brands such as Rolex, Breitling, Cartier, Omega, Ebel, and Tag Heuer.”
— Mike Halpy, Lenox Jewelers, Fairfield, Connecticut

Cartier’s “Ballerine” 18k gold watch with diamond bezel, (800) CARTIER.

18k gold watch with diamond bezel

Interior Art

“What amazes me is that a watch company can take a bunch of pieces of metal and turn it into a beautiful timepiece. The watch industry has poured huge amounts of money into educating the general public about fine watches. That effort is now showing up because people appreciate watches more and are willing to spend more on watches than ever. Girard-Perregaux is one collection that we carry that does an extraordinary job of transforming metal into works of art, which are admired by anyone who sees it.”
— Bill O’Brien, Moyer, Carmel, Indiana

Girard-Perregaux’s “Laureato” 18k gold automatic chronograph with dial that pays homage to America’s Cup racing team, (877) 846-3447.

In The Red

“The watch styles most sought after these days are definitely the red gold, or red gold and steel combination looks. One of the strongest has been Breitling, especially its Bentley collection. Other strong styles in red gold have been Glashütte’s sports modern looks, Blancpain, Jaquet Droz, and Ulysse Nardin has been on fire. Bell & Ross’ red gold and carbon styles are doing well and Cuervo y Sobrinos hits the $9,000 to $11,000 range. Men’s diamond watches also remain strong.”
— Betsy Peters, Horologio, The Venetian, Las Vegas, Nevada

Cuervo y Sobrinos’ limited edition single pusher 18k gold chronograph with 42-hour power reserve, (877) 283-7869.