Watches: a matter of novelties

Moderate and better watches take the spotlight. NEW YORK — The watch market has been flooded with novelty watches over the past several seasons. For those with the right item, it’s a hot area to be in, but it’s also becoming a very competitive market. Manufacturers feel their slightly different concepts will keep them from competing heavily with one another.

Colorful computer graphics give Art Watch by Gartel, based in Floral Park, N.Y., a unique look. Art Watch did $100,000 in its first year with the watches which wholesale for $75 to $125, according to owner, Lawrence Gartel. He said he expects to double that in the next year, partly because he entered the European market with an office in West Germany in December 1988. Art Watch is represented here by JHT.

I realized there was a place in the market for moderate to better-price novelty watches,” said Gartel, who has designed bathing suits and jewelry with computer graphics in the past. “Swatch opened up the fashion watch area a few years ago and many lower-price plastic watches have followed. But there are no watches with computer graphics, on leather bands, like mine.”

Holly Hardwick, vice president of marketing for Malibu Watches, said her firm sets itself apart with hand-painted reproductions of “Cezannes,” “Van Goghs” and other famous artwork on its watch faces. “We have exclusivity with the Chinese government on hand-painted watches and clocks,” Hardwick said, noting Malibu Watches has done $1,500,000 in sales in its first year in business. She projected second-year volume of $6 million, for the watches which wholesale from $25 to $50, based on new retail and catalog business.

American Indian looks make Cherokee watches different, according to Alan Bobin, vice president of sales and marketing for Cherokee, Sunland, Calif. “We have two groups which coordinate with the Southwestern theme of our clothing, and one which reflects the look of our swimwear, in neon brights. They’re in sync with our image and totally unique.” He projected $4 million in first-year volume for the 20 watch styles which wholesale for $18 to $24. The watches are made through a licensing agreement with Clox Time Fashion, Fallbrook, Calif.

Swatch Watch is not at all adverse to the presence of the new entries, according to Steve Rechtschaffner, vice president of corporate advertising and promotion.

Certainly any good fashion watch competes with us, because the consumer only has so much to spend,” he said. “But good competition is welcome. The more innovation there is out there, the more innovative we have to be.”

Rechtschaffner said Swatch is expecting healthy increases this summer, though he would not be specific. He said for summer, Swatch is concentrating on expanding its leather band and metal case groups and adding metal bracelet bands.

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