Teamplayers hitting the baseball diamond

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Technological advancements have allowed baseball equipment manufacturers to develop better gloves that buyers can use upon purchase. Improvements in tanning, sewing and stitching technologies have eliminated the need to break-in newly bought mitts, while new design configurations have improve their fielding capabilities. Research and development efforts have also improved the quality of wood softball bats. An example is Easton Sport’s Connexion Z-Core, which offer more batting flexibility and power.

Through technological advancements manufacturers are producing better baseball bats and mitts, allowing consumers to “play ball” as soon as they hit the diamond without wasting valuable time and energy breaking in the products.

For generations of Americans, breaking in a baseball glove was a rite of passage. However, the technological era and the impending 21st century have all but obliterated any task mandating more than a few moments. Nestling a hard ball in the rough leather pocket of an oiled glove overnight retains no appeal in an Internet -transfixed culture. Play ball means be ready to play now.

Baseball equipment makers are responding to the challenge of ready-to-wear gloves. By sourcing leather from new tanneries and devising novel custom sewing and stitching patterns, gloves today are as soft and pliable upon purchase as the coveted infielder’s mitt that conforms to a veteran’s hand.

“There is an increased demand from consumers to procure product from store shelves that can be played with immediately,” says Scott de Grasse, division manager of diamond sports for Franklin Sporting Goods.

In fact, vendors say, a recreational player leaving the office and heading for a league game can stop at the local sports retailer, pick up glove and head straight to the field with the new purchase.

“There’s nothing like a broken-in glove,” says Jim Hackett, Wilson’s business manager for baseball. “Now there is no breaking time.”

The supple, pre-oiled leather gloves are but one technical advancement stimulating sales in diamond sports equipment as baseball and softball continue to enjoy a resurgence of sales and register gains at retail and among vendors. New design configurations with bigger sweet spots and position-specific gloves touting unique pocket patterns are improving the fielding averages of both serious and recreational ballplayers.

And by offering consumers credible technical benefits without excessively elevating prices, diamond sports manufacturers are reporting strong sales increases for the second consecutive year.

Franklin, for example, will introduce a series of fielding gloves, called RTP (Ready To Play), utilizing a “special tanning process for the leather making it softer and more pliable,” according to de Grasse. Priced aggressively at $49 retail for a 100-percent cowhide glove, the RTP line also includes synthetic-based products. The company reports sell-through of as much as 85 percent for its current diamond sports products, which include fielding and batting gloves and accessories.

POWER SWINGS

Yet consumers are not ignoring highend equipment – top-of-the-line bats and gloves now carry retail prices as high as $250 – when the product technology contains viable advantages and, in some cases, is the same gear used by major league players. “For the past couple of years, we’ve been trying to address the need for more technology (in equipment),” says Matt Arndt, director of baseball and softball products for Easton Sports. Arndt expects the company’s new bat, the Connexion Z-Core, will fulfill that demand.

Due for delivery in fall ’99 and Spring 2000, the Connexion Z-Core is the result of a two-year R&D effort devising a patented process with a “two-piece bat” design, according to Arndt. By mechanically interlocking the handle and barrel and bonding the two pieces together with elastomer, the bat’s flexibility increases. And with the handle “isolated” from the barrel, Arndt says, a “huge sweet spot” is created.

In recent years Easton, which reported an increase of about 10 percent in diamond sports sales this year, has led the charge in highend bats, a strategy that will continue. The Connexion Z-Core, a black bat graphically emboldened with blue, gold and silver, carries a suggested retail of $250.

Arndt says recreational players are willing to invest in a high-end product such as Z-Core, which is designed with a graphite-reinforced inner wall inside the bat, enhancing not only the bat’s performance characteristics but also its durability. Adds Arndt, “Players don’t want to go out there and keep denting bats.”

GOLDEN GLOVES

Nor, apparently, do they want to commit embarrassing errors. To keep fielding percentages high, Wilson introduced its “Big Sweet Spot” glove last year. Based on a similar theory to its sweet spot technology in golf and tennis, Wilson’s Hackett says the glove “makes catching easier” with the prime catching spot as much as 15-percent bigger.

Hackett says Wilson’s year-to-date increase of over 30 percent in sales of baseball hard goods is largely attributable to the company’s alignment with new tanneries. “All leather glove offerings have dramatically improved with the quality, of leather and the patterns,” Hackett says.

According to Hackett, Wilson’s A2000 line featuring “Quick Stop” leather is on schedule for a fall ’99 delivery. Tanned with acrylic resin, which acts as a shock absorber, “Quick Stop” leather imposes a “dampening effect” on the rotation of a bali’s rebound and reduces the spin, Hackett says. The pre-oiled leather allows for pliability and conformity, rapidly molding to any fielder’s hand. The glove’s suggested retail will be about $180.

Mizuno USA is addressing fielding proficiency via its own glove designs, dubbed 3-D technology. Developed with data offered by an estimated 200 professional ball players, who Mizuno began gathering during spring training in 1996, 3-D patterns create the ideal pocket design for each fielding position. Available only in Mizuno’s Pro Limited baseball glove line, the 3-D gloves are crafted by hand and embossed with the company’s “Limited Edition” logo.

After celebrating the production of its 25,000th hand-crafted baseball glove at its Norcross, GA, factory earlier this year, Mizuno reported an increase of nearly 20 percent in its market share of ball gloves. Citing market statistics compiled by NPD/SMART, Mizuno says its brand accounted for six of the top-eight selling gloves in January in the U.S.

The company claims its market share is now about 33 percent and has increased 243 percent since December 1997. It attributes those numbers, in part, to more visible promotional efforts with its roster of major league players, including the Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine.

Many diamond sports companies are now banking on the allure of their star endorsees to stimulate product sales. While athlete endorsements have long been a facet of product marketing, some brands are offering recreational players the precise equipment used by major league players for the first time. Sold at the highest end of the pricing spectrum, vendors say they are surprised at the demand for this gear.

Wilson, for instance, now makes Texas’ Golden Glove catcher Ivan Rodriguez’s mitt available in its A2000 series. Identifying Rodriguez by his nickname, Wilson stocks the glove as the A2403 Pudge.

“You can buy his exact glove, with the black back and tan palm,” says Hackett, noting that Wilson is also marketing Braves’ pitcher Greg Maddux’ glove. “For over 50 years we’ve had the A2000. The two gloves we’ve introduced in the past two years – Pudge’s catcher’s mitt and Maddux’ glove – are already the best-selling gloves we have.”

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Golf Shoes Are Making The Scene Off The Greens

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Sport-specific shoes are hard for consumers to justify. It’s just not practical for many consumers to buy a shoe that can be worn for only one activity. Convenience, cost effectiveness and versatility are important to today’s multisport enthusiast.

Golf shoes are no exception. Prada has designated the classic, kilties golf shoe as an acceptable fashion item. In turn, golf shoe manufacturers are developing outsoles and styling that allow players to make an easy transition from green to club house and beyond.

The changes in footwear come as the golf industry is trying to recapture the buzz it enjoyed two years ago. According to Golf World magazine, most golf companies reported sales decreases last year. “Nineteen ninety-seven was very exciting,” said Mirco Richardson, vice president, Walter Genuin, Chicago. “But the Tiger Woods hype has not materialized. It’s set everyone back.”

Sarah Killeen, marketing manager for Nike Golf , Beaverton, Ore., agreed that Tiger mania didn’t translate into year-round sales. “It’s been a process of watching Tiger mature,” said Killeen. “He was learning how to handle the [media] attention and keep his game up under immense scrutiny. . .Retailers didn’t want to miss out and stocked up in ’97. The challenge now is to get rid of the excess inventory and get fresh product out there.”

The weather did not cooperate, either. “El Nino was a big problem,” said Killeen. “In northern California courses were closed for six straight weeks.”

Feeling the pressure, golf footwear makers have broken into two camps. Traditional companies are continuing to focus on the more serious golfer in the 35- to 50-year-old age group and addressing comfort enhancement. At the same time, athletic and new, smaller companies are targeting 14- to 25-year-olds and tempting the young-at-heart with fresh designs.

Truly multifunctional and hip at the same time, Bite Golf has changed the way retailers, as well as consumers, view golf shoes. Bite has put soft spikes on hiker, skate-shoe and sport-sandal uppers, creating some of the most creative footwear for plantar fasciitis in the industry.

Dale Bathum, president of the San Rafael, Calif.,-based company, said that although Bite mainly appeals to 18- to 35-year-olds, the attitude of the golfer is the real mark. “We have 77-year-olds wearing our shoes. We go for the adventurous golfer.”

While most golf shoes are carried in green-grass and specialty stores, Bite has made a successful leap into department and family shoe stores. “Just For Feet is doing a 24-store test, and Nordstrom’s Seattle store carries two styles,” reported Bathum.

Brett Freidman of Freidman’s shoes in Atlanta said he is offering Bite for the second year. “We started carrying them because of the casual appeal and the fact that they offer sizes up to sixteen. We put them in our current catalog. They do very well for us.”

Golf shoes in a family shoe store? Bathum explained that a lot of family retailers like the cross functionality of Bite shoes. They also perform as add-on sales. This unique approach has also attracted outdoor specialty buyers. “We are working with REI on design ideas,” he said. “We also exhibited at Outdoor Retailer for the first time. A week before the show, we were booked solid with appointments.” Bathum added, “A golf hiker makes sense. Golf is like hiking, you walk six miles through mud, tall grass and over hills.”

To build credibility as a performance product, Bite sponsors past PGA winner Paul Stankowski. “He’s 29, sports a goatee and has a young, marketable image,” Bunham described. “He’s not the same old stodgy athlete.”

Adidas Golf, Carlsbad, Calif., has also set its sites on the younger customer. Last year, Adidas offered some of the most innovative golf footwear available, including a sandal and the Mud Skipper, a spiked snow boarding-inspired boot.

Mike Terreri, vice president of sales, explained Adidas’s approach to the nonmetal spike movement. “We developed the Tour Tech, which combines the leather upper of our best selling shoe with a high-abrasion, spikeless outsole. The molded sole has a wear of about two years, depending on the wearer’s individual use.”

Spokesperson Sally Murdoch explained that Adidas would focus on green grass shops, with bold POP displays, taking advantage of Adidas’s strong brand image.

Nike is taking its athletic-performance heritage to a slightly older customer who is an avid golfer. “Sixty percent of the sales are made to 25 percent of the customers,” said Killeen. “The 35- to 50-year-old player who is competitive and at the peak of his or her earning power is our focus.”

Nike will take advantage of resources at Cole-Haan to produce styles that are contemporary classics, according to Killeen, who added that Nike will also share some basic research with the athletic side of the company. Scott Reames, communication manager, Nike Golf, offered, “Now that spikeless shoes for ladies with bunions are virtually a given, we believe the major point of differentiation between various golf footwear brands will be the basics of comfort on the course.”

Killeen said she is spending a lot of time with Tiger Woods on the development of his next shoe. “He’s a golfer first, and more of a clean, traditionalist.”

Reames added, “Although Tiger’s accomplishments on the 1998 PGA Tour were not as eye-popping as the year prior, 1999 is a new year for Tiger, and a new opportunity for Nike Golf to bring to market a line of products that reflect Tiger’s attitude and style.” With the first Tiger Woods model, it was a concept car, according to Killeen. “It was a little too much for golfing America.”

What high arch tennis shoes do Bill Gates, Bruce Willis, Janet Jackson and Celine Dion wear on the links? The answer is high-end, fashionable shoes by Walter Genuin. A successful brand in Europe, the distinctive shoes caught on in the States through pro shops at exclusive country clubs. The German-based company now has a distribution agreement with Tear Drop Sports, owners of the Tommy Armour and Ram hard goods brands. “It’s a brand driven market,” said Richardson. “We have to create awareness. With Tear Drop, we will have an advertising budget and a full sales force.”

Genuin offers soft spikes and a variety of styles, including dressy chukkas and lush wovens. The women’s collection includes hair-on calf in animal prints and apres golf mocs. Wholesale prices range from $185 to $990. Other vendors are attempting to enhance wearability. “Golfers want to put their golf shoes on at their house and not take them off until they return home,” said Jimmy Jones, founder and president, Lady Fairway, Tampa, Fla.. “However, they still want `renewable traction’ — a buzzword in the industry.”

Beyond waterproofing, spikes and cleats are also adding excitement and versatility to golf footwear. Foot-Joy added ComforTemp temperature regulation to a few styles last season and has since extended the cooling technology to many new styles this year. This phase-change agent, from Frisby Technologies, Bay Shore, N.Y., is being widely used in pack and hiking boots, and tests have resulted in a 7 degree to 8 degree temperature difference in the micro-climate of shoes.

New outdoor technology has also influenced Lady Fairway. This season, the company will also introduce its first golf shoes to feature temperature-regulating Outlast, reported Jones.

Regarding the mature market, Golf magazine reported that 90 percent of seniors wear magnets in their golf shoes. Magnets are now standard tools in alternative medicine and physical therapy. Last August, Florsheim, Chicago, launched its MagneForce shoes, which boast biomagnetic technology in the form of small magnets built into the insoles.

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Collecting railroad watches

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On April 19, 1891, near Kipton, Ohio, a fast mail express traveling at full speed ran head-on into another train going in the opposite direction. Both were on the same track of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway. Mail train No. 4 was going east. The other train, going west, had written instructions ordering it to sidetrack at Kipton, near Cleveland, to let the mail express pass. As the slower train was leaving Elyria, the telegraph operator there told the train’s conductor that the mail train was on schedule. Reportedly, the conductor took that reminder as an affront to his competence and apparently ignored it. Had he checked his watch with that of the train’s engineer, he would have discovered that the engineer’s watch had stopped for five minutes-probably due to some shock-and then been jolted back to life by another. The five-minute error was fatal.

The disastrous crash killed the engineers of both trains and nine others. In addition, there were large property losses to both railroads and to the U.S. Mail.

This wasn’t the first disaster resulting from watches used by train engineers, conductors or dispatchers. However, the Kipton incident was the catalyst that caused a sweeping investigation of the timepieces used by railroad personnel. It uncovered severe discrepancies in time-telling systems-discovering, among other things, that in some cases only cheap alarm clocks were used. Despite the institution of standard time, established in 1884 by the vast American railroad system, no standards had been set for watches used by conductors, engineers and dispatchers.

New and official standards created a whole different situation. Soon production standards for American watches were the envy of every mass-producing watch manufacturer the world over.

A name to note: One of the most highly respected watch inspectors for railroads was Webb C. Ball of Cleveland, who was in charge of watch inspection for more than 125,000 miles of track. He set many standards, among them those for size, jeweling and the watch’s ability to be accurate within 30 seconds a week in five different positions (face up or down on a night table and various different positions within the owner’s pockets). New standards also required factory adjustments to allow a watch to keep accurate time in a temperature range from 40′ to 90′ Fahrenheit.

Engineers and conductors were issue rule books to guide them on the choice, inspection, maintenance and performance of approved watches and strict standards of precision were required in each area. The prime rule involved understanding Standard Time and where and how it was obtained.

All those associated with the operation of a railroad had to have such a watch and manufacturers soon noticed how those owning them greatly admired their appearance and working features. Thus they obligingly added decoration to please the owners further.

In these earlier days many men were technically very well versed. In buying a car, for example, a man would spend as much time examining the engine as the appearance. Likewise, he was familiar with watch adjustments, jewels and other such details. Since watch manufacturers took it for granted that a buyer would examine the movement of his projected purchase, they decorated movements with intricate geometric engine turning of its plates and bridges (incorrectly called “damaskeening”), provided screwed-in, lapped gold jewel settings and highly-polished steel work. They even decorated ratchet and crown wheels with beautiful engraving of the company’s logo and the serialized production number of the particular watch. Each number was kept in the company’s records.

There were almost as many firms making watch cases as those making the watches themselves. Because watch sizes were standard, there was no problem matching movements and cases. Thus the jeweler stocked them separately. A customer would look at both and ponder whether his taste and budget would prefer a highly-jeweled movement and a non-so-expensive case, or vice versa.

Matching up: I remember when my father-watchmaker operated a small shop in Brooklyn. He would send me to a nearby watch case factory – of which there were quite a few – to buy a solid gold case, pictured in the firm’s colored catalog and chosen by his waiting customer. Those visits bring sharp memories of floors with hand engravers side by side chasing, carving and engraving these cases.

Then I would run back and it took my father less than a minute to insert the movement into the case.

The case didn’t have to be gold. The railroads accepted gold filled, silver and nickel; their only demand was that the case comply with their requirements, be dust-proof and sturdy with a mineral glass cover for the dial side.

Some ornate cases had a locomotive motif engraved on the back. Others had an empty shield to be filled later with hand engraved, and ornate, gift lettering or a monograph of initials of the owner.

Sometimes a special order was executed to indicate the owner’s pet hobby, special profession or business. Some cheap imitations had a railroad scene on the dial (prohibited in railroad-approved watch dials) and case in an attempt to capitalize on the status of the genuine, accepted railroad watch.

Famous logos: After a time, Webb C. Ball went into business for himself, commissioning some of the better American manufacturers to alter some of their better railroad models to his standards. The commissioned timepieces carried Ball’s trademark, but experienced watch collectors can recognize easily the company that actually produced particular models.

Today, various railroad pocket watches with the [Webb C.] Ball logos bring higher prices than those marked only with the Hamilton, Waltham, Elgin, Hampden, Howard and Illinois names. The very rare, and desirable, single Seth Thomas model with the Ball logo-commissioned by the Cleveland inspector-merchant-are much sought after.

Another influential railroad inspector was R. D. Montgomery. He was chief inspector of the Sante Fe Railway system, who in the 1915-’20 period introduced and patented his dial marking system. This dial had all 60 minutes printed in small numerals on the outside circumference of the minute track. Also, the figure 6 appeared inside the small seconds dial.

Those of his watches intended for the Canadian market had the figures 13 through 24 printed on a circle smaller than the minute track. Such watches had to be adjusted to even greater precision, not too great a task since technology and advances in metallurgy were keeping pace with these demands.

A matter of pride: American makers of approved railroad watches met the challenge of producing precise, durable timepieces with an excellence not approached in mass production anywhere else in the world. Their proud owners knew they possessed the most precise instrument of its time.

No watch made elsewhere could match the finish, lapped gold jewel settings, the steelwork also lapped to a high mirror gloss nor the beautiful, intricate geometric patterns of the plates, bridges and winding wheels and the finish of the screw-heads and regulators. It seems that no two watches, even from the same factory, had the same designs on these plates and bridges.

Even today, it is easy to understand and share the admiration the owners felt for such timepieces.

Mass production, but big dollars: The quality watches produced by many companies totaled in the many millions. Most have not survived the gold-selling stampedes of the Depression years. The jeweler today probably has the best opportunity to acquire such pieces-when offered for sale or as trade-in barter for new, fine quality wrist watches.

Like everything else, some railroad watches are more collectible and desirable than others. Company names such as Hamilton, Howard and the [Webb C.] Ball logo bring strong offers. Watches with jewel counts of 19, 21 and 23 are sought with greater zeal than those with lower counts. An “Up and Down” indicator, which informs the wearer how much reserve power is left in his watch, is another great plus with collectors.

Railroad watches with more than 23 jewels are rare and fetch premium prices. Illinois and Rockford both produced watches with 24 and 25 jewels; some of the 24-jewel models are appraised in current price guides at between $2,000 and $3,000. The Illinois 25jewel Bunn Special is currently listed at $10,000. The 26-jewel “Benjamin Franklin U.S.A.” is estimated to bring $6,000 to $8,000.

The Seth Thomas Maiden Lane model, with 28 jewels, is about the rarest in this category and currently is appraised at between $15,000 and $25,000.

A comprehensive story of the American railroad watch would require an encyclopedic volume which, of this writing, does not exist. For starters, however, the would-be collector-dealer should obtain at least two prime books-the Official Price Guide to Watches, 10th Edition, by Cooksey Shugart and Tom Engle and American Pocket Watches, Identification and Price Guide, Beginning to End, by Roy Ehrhardt and William Meggars. Both are obtainable through JCK’s Book Club.

From time to time the Bulletin of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors publishes authoritative articles on railroad watches by recognized authorities and researchers. The association’s Mart, a looseleaf publication, lists many pages covering services, buy and sell ads and notices of regional meetings and auctions. TECHNICAL FACTS

Standards set by Webb C. Ball and by the railroads themselves demanded incredible time-keeping performance and governed every aspect of watch technology including size, accuracy, tolerance to differing temperatures and construction.

The emphasis was on reliability; these watches had to be able to stand rough and constant treatment without compromising their time-keeping ability.

The stringency of the standards applied to all parts. To be approved for railroad use, the watch had to contain a jeweled lever escapement, steel escape wheel and its balance had to employ the double roller. The old single roller system was prone to allow over-banking (a malfunction that causes the watch to stop) during shocks, jamming the watch-a probable reason why the engineer’s watch in the Kipton disaster stopped and then started again.

There were firm rules on how to set the hands. Earlier investigations found that when the owner pulled the watch from his pocket, the crown sometimes was inadvertently pulled into the handsetting position. With the hands free to move, the correct time could be lost without the owner’s realizing it.

New standards stuhrling watches review quality demanded that all approved watches be equipped with a lever setting. This required the user to unscrew the bezel and then use a thumbpiece lever to set the hands manually. Some watches even used a stirrup bow with a bar across the top of the crown to prevent accidental extension into a setting position.

Dials had to be made of porcelain or metal with bold Arabic numbers and sturdy blued-steel hands.

In researching collectible railroad watches, many technical terms will come up. Here’s a partial glossary:

Breguet hairspring. Named after Abraham Louis Breguet (1747-1823), who originated the idea of taking the last outer coil of the hairspring and raising it above the lower level. He then made this last overcoil into a smaller diameter than the main, lower body of coils. This permitted the main level to expand and contract evenly.

The procedure not only diminished the side thrusting of the balance spring; it also overcame the influences of a fullywound mainspring and an almost-unwound one on the time of the watches (see also isochronism).

Double-sunk dial. Mainly a porcelain dial composed of three layers. The minute track was printed on the uppermost layer, which accommodated the minute hand. The hour numerals and hand were on a lower level and the seconds dial and hand appeared on a sunk dial. The arrangement insured that one hand would not interfere with another and stop the watch.

Double roller. An upright jewel is, set into a roller on the lower post of the balance’s staff. It receives a delicate but whip-like impulse from the jeweled lever to keep the balance oscillating. In times of severe shock, the whip-like thrust may trip prematurely and jam the watch works. One major improvement was the introduction of the double roller, which became mandatory in railroad watches. Many included the legend “double roller” on their movements to enhance their acceptance. By the 1930s, all jeweled lever watches had double rollers’

Isochronism. An adjustment that diminishes the influence of fully-wound or almost-unwound mainspring on the timekeeping. The adjustment is effected by employment of a Breguet hairspring (see above).

Lever setting. In an ordinary pocket or wrist watch the time is set by pulling out the winding crown. Because the crown might be pulled out accidentally, the railroads demanded that approved watches be equipped with a system that by-passed the winding crown. The lever setting was accomplished by unscrewing the front bezel, revealing a streamlined thumbnail piece. This was pulled out and used to place the setting wheels in the handsetting mode. Then the winding crown could be turned to place the hands in the exact time position.

Micrometer regulator. Moving the tail of the regulator by hand invited numerous uncertainties. The micrometer adjustment allowed advancing or retracting the regulator by microscopic units.

Motor barrel. An alternate way to prevent the shearing of teeth in the train of wheels should the steel mainspring break suddenly, causing a violent backsurge of power.

Position adjustments. To improve timekeeping, watch balances had to poised so that, on a balancing tool, no one part of the rim was heavier than any other. Despite the adjustor’s best efforts, microscopic, undetected errors in poising multiplied by 432,000, the number of ticks in a day) could result in five basic positions-three edge positions in the wearer’s pocket and dial-up or dial-down on a night table. After testing akribos brand review the watch in all five positions, the adjustor would adjust the balance, hairspring and balance pivots to neutralize any positional errors.

Safety pinion. All railroad watches before 1935 had steel mainsprings, which were subject to breakage. A break caused a tremendous release of power in the opposite direction, causing wheel teeth to be shorn. The safety pinion was invented to correct this situation. It was threaded on to the center wheel’s arbor in such a direction that, should the mainspring break, the reverse surge would cause this pinion to unscrew itself from the arbor, spinning harmlessly until the surging power was spent.

Temperature adjustment. This adjustment concerns the balance and its mainspring. Before the invention of Invar, a metal which does not appreciably expand in heat or contract in cold, the hairspring in watches was made of tempered steel. In heat, such springs would lose some of their tensile strength as well as becoming slightly longer. Both would cause a loss in time. Conversely, in cold the spring would get stiffer and shorter, causing a gain in time. To compensate for these changes, watch balances were composed of two metals-a thin inner steel rim and a thicker outer brass rim welded to it. The ends of these rims were then split. The different thicknesses and expansion rates of the two metals cause their rims to curve inward in heat and outward in cold, compensating for the hairspring’s opposite behavior.

Mr. Fried is horological editor of JCK and a long-established expert in horology. He has written many books on horological matters and has spoken on his favorite subject in many countries.

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Citizen expected to profit in U.S. from Bulova deal

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Tokyo–Japanese watchmaker Citizen Holdings Co.’s recent acquisition of Bulova Corp. is expected to rally Citizen’s U.S. sales at a time when mid-price watches might be poised for a considerable comeback. The transaction, which involved the purchase of all of Bulova’s stock from parent company Loews Corp. for $247 million, makes Citizen an unassailable watch leader in the $200-$600 price range worldwide, analysts say.

The deal, made final in mid-January, is likely to have the greatest impact in North America, where Bulova has been a well-known brand for nearly a century. With this acquisition, the Tokyo-based Citizen gains control of not only the Bulova name, but also those of its three other brands: the popularly priced Caravelle, sporty Accutron and entry-level luxury line Wittnauer.”We have no plans to make any changes in Bulova watches regarding their reviews on bulova watches, basic pricing, styling or brand names,” says Toshio Tokura, managing director of Citizen Watch Co. “We have every intention of continuing to develop the brands and company from the current base. The Bulova demographics and target retailers will remain essentially unchanged, but Bulova’s executive group will make any necessary adjustments to their strategy–only as the market dictates.”Nor will the Bulova acquisition alter Citizen’s strategy, Tokura says.

The two watch companies will continue operating separately and independently, and the distinct differences that existed between Bulova and Citizen as brands, and in terms of product offerings, will continue. “Those differences will continue, and each brand will have its own unique selling proposition,” Tokura says. Still, many observers wonder whether the merger of these two giant companies–both so firmly associated with mid-priced quartz watches, with Bulova among the oldest brand names in the industry–is indicative of both a consolidation and a contraction of the watch business.

Tokura is taking a wait-and-see attitude, but notes that Citizen will continue to pursue a growth strategy. “This acquisition fits Citizen’s long-term strategy of building our portfolio not only by continued organic growth but through acquisition,” he says. “We don’t have any specific plans for further acquisitions, but we’re always open-minded with regard to future possibilities.”Tokura says that there was a certain amount of industry consolidation long before Citizen decided to acquire Bulova. “Whether or not there is further consolidation in the watch industry will depend on a broad spectrum of companies,” he adds. At least one analyst predicts that the combined forces of Citizen and Bulova will lead to heightened activity in a submarket that’s already likely to be more competitive in 2008.

Pam Danziger, the president of Stevens, Pa.-based Unity Marketing, suggests that the “mass affluent” demographic (consumers with annual household incomes between $75,000 and $149,000) is likely to cut back on luxury spending this year amid signs of an economic slowdown–which might be a boon to Citizen.

“A more affordable luxury watch brand is likely to appeal to these consumers who lack the confidence in the current economic environment to trade up to one of the super-premium brands,” she says.However, Danziger warns that the overall prospects for the watch market may be bleak, citing Unity’s latest study of the jewelry and watch market, which found that among younger consumers, interest in watches is waning. “Short-term, the outlook is positive,” she says. “Citizen will gain stature, but luxury watches are swimming up-stream against a strong current. Young men are starting to reject the old-fashioned idea that you need a watch to be grown-up.

They’re more likely not to wear a watch, and use their PDAs or cell phones to get the time.”She points out that TAG Heuer will even come out with a cell phone. (TAG confirms the release will happen this fall), and says other brands may follow and youth-targeted watch products will fare well. “Citizen is well positioned to do this, particularly with its Eco-Drive models, which are powered by light instead of batteries,” Danziger says.

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Know more about Invicta 0072 from Invicta watches review

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There are great number of collections from Invicta, which is a world renowned brand for some of the most stylish and comprises of some exquisite features on the market. One of the models of Invicta which is 0072 pro diver is considered to be a very much distinguished and large watch that you would also comprise of a classic chronograph appeal. It would make the appeal of the one who wears it to a whole new level. At a first glance, any one would consider this watch to be really very expensive, in fact according to the review of invicta watches it would offer the feel to the people at such level that they would presume the price of the watch to be much more expensive than some of the highest price collections from Rolex brand as well.

This is a contemporary watch that is manufactured using 18k gold plated over top quality stainless steel. It’s of the highest quality gold plating’s as well that you can find polished and brushed finish on the watch. The Invicta 0072 exudes sophistication and class and is at a league of its own. It is more suitable to wear with all type of leisurely occasion and formal aspects as well. This watch can be obtained at a much reasonable rates as well. You can find out some online retailers who are offering some discounts on the purchase of this model over online.

Here are some vital aspects from Invicta watches review that you need to know about this watch

This is a top quality watch Swiss made with quartz movement and it can offer accurate and high quality readings. This model is extremely durable and comprises of flame fusion crystal coating that is extra think when compared with other models. The case is made up of very high quality stainless steel so that the users can get great durability from this watch and the band of the watch is made of up heavy duty stainless steels that it would not tear off at any level of usage. There is provision of screw down crown to adjust any dial or sub dials on the watch. There is provision of large luminescent indexes so that the user would be able to take the reading of any features of the watch any level of darkness as well.

The movement that is made up of in this model is considered to be of Swiss made quartz and we all know that who capable they are. All the parts are made in Swiss and hence it’s a complete Swiss made watch and also assembled in the Swiss factory only. According to the invicta 8926 movement review, there are various type of brands in the market is also made up of 18k gold plating but would be less durable as due to the material used in it. But this Swiss made watch is made with extra higher grade to be much more durable and effective when used than any other models of the same level and range. The thickness of this watch is around 17mm thickness and the watch is about 48mm in diameter.

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Swiss watch sales see significant gains

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Finally, the tourbillions are spinning faster. After four straight months of declines, Swiss watch sales gained 9.6 percent to $644.8 million, or 809.7 million Swiss francs, in February, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry has disclosed. In fact, the February figures were 2.3 percent higher than the combined sales of January and February last year.

But after this month’s terrorist attacks in Spain, some executives have tempered their enthusiasm. “Today it is clear that if we didn’t have that bloody Madrid thing, then we would be expecting quite a good year,” said Bernard Fornas, Cartier International president. “It reinforces what I’ve said in the past: It is very difficult to forecast, even in the short term.”

That said, Fornas remains optimistic, adding that sales have been “quite good” in the U.S. and Asia, even as Europe remains weak. “The turnaround has begun,” he said.

Indeed, other watchmakers concurred that sales for the first two months of the year have bounced back strongly after marked declines last year, when they were hard hit by the SARS threat and the war in Iraq. As they prepare for the important order-writing shows in Basel and Geneva next month, they said buoyancy has returned to the trade.

“I’m very optimistic for 2004,” said Corum chief executive Severin Wunderman. “To date I have seen a substantial improvement over last year. This year all of the majors will show new pieces and new prices [at Basel] and are planning substantial marketing investments to make up for last year’s losses. Anyhow, at my firm that totally is the case.

Wunderman added that Corum will launch a women’s watch with complicated movements. “This, for ladies, is a world’s first. Never have collector’s pieces been made specifically for women. [But] as today they purchase a large amount of luxury goods, I feel we’ll do real well with this. So far the pre-Basel results on these pieces have been tremendous.”

Fawaz Gruosi, who controls Switzerland’s high-end De Grisogono watch and jewelry firm, reported that sales have grown at a double-digit rate since the beginning of the year.

“The improvement is very significant,” said Gruosi. “In Paris alone, which was dead in fall, sales have multiplied by four. Yesterday in St. Bart’s we sold a $500,000 piece. We are planning important launches for Basel, including four new watches and seven new jewelry lines.”

“Our most promising markets are the Middle East and Eastern Europe,” said Caroline Scheufele, vice president of Geneva’s Chopard. “Asia has also picked up a lot.” Scheufele believes clients will gravitate to “high-quality and very expensive” pieces. At Basel, Chopard will launch four women’s watch lines, as well as a selection of new high-jewelry watches.

Van Cleef & Arpels marketing director Eric Jacolliot said sales had improved most in the United States. “In Geneva, we’ll introduce three new watch models with important complications. We are betting on 2004 as being better than last year.”

The Swiss Federation reported that watch exports in February grew “in both value and volume.” It said the two million timepieces exported in February represented an 11.3 percent increase over the same month last year.

Steel and aluminum watches performed well, with exports rising 10.7 percent, followed by goldwatches, up 3.7 percent. Sales of silver watches, however, declined 29.7 percent in February, and platinum watches fell 1.9 percent.

The fastest-growing market was the U.S., the biggest market for Swiss watches, which bounded 31.9 percent to $102.7 million, or 129 million Swiss francs. Asia did not improve, with sales in Hong Kong down 5.3 percent, Japan down 4.4 percent and Singapore down 7 percent.

While sales decreased 5 percent in Italy and 13.1 percent in Germany, they improved 9 percent in France and rebounded 22.9 percent in the United Kingdom.

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Cartier, Ferrari kicking off U.S. accessories collection

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Ferrari, the Italian automotive company, and Cartier, Inc., international jeweler, have launched an accessories line in the U.S. under the Ferrari Formula label. The line is expected to bring in $3 million to $4 million in wholesale sales its first season, according to Ralph Destino, president of Cartier, USA.

Under terms of the agreement, Cartier has licensed the Ferrari name for accessories and will oversee product manufacturing. Cartier’s staff in Paris will work with Ferrari to design the line.

The collection, which includes sport watches, sunglasses, leather goods and writing instruments, will make its debut next week at a new in-store boutique at Bloomingdale’s flagship store in New York, Destino told a press conference here Wednesday. Officials at the store could not be reached to confirm the arrangement.

Items are being shipped to selected department stores, boutiques, jewelry stores and optical shops throughout the country, where they will be available this fall. However, Ferrari will not be sold through Cartier’s retail shops.

Distribution of the Ferrari sunglasses will be handled by Starline Optical Corp. of Fairfield, N.J. All other Ferrari products will be marketed by Park Lane Associates of Providence, R.I.

The items have an accent on youth and are designed for today’s spunky generation,” Destino said at the conference. He later added that all items have a sporty look, and many are done in Ferrari racing car colors: “Formula gray” and “Ferrari red.”

The watches, for example, which wholesale from $170 to $325, are for “the person who takes off his or her Rolex which on weekends,” according to Mark Bertman, vice president of Park Lane. Watchesinclude three designs — city watches, with water-resistant leather wristbands, also available with a solid gold case; marine watches, with patented silicone rubber wristband, which come with red and yellow designs on the faces, and sport watches with wristbands in gray-tone steel and goldplated interlinks.

Special watches include a diver’s watch, water-resistant to 120 meters, and a chronograph, which gives information on short-lapsed time, speeds and rhythms.

Writing instruments will wholesale from $25 to $42.75, and lighters will wholesale for $27.50.

Leather goods, including travel and desk items, attache cases, handbags and pocket goods totaling 40 items, will sell in the $12.50 to $250 wholesale range. Sunglasses, available in four shapes and in yellow gold and Formula gray colors, will sell for approximately $60 wholesale.

According to Fred Levinger, president of Park Lane, stores selling Ferrari goods will be selected on a franchise basis in specific marketing areas. Park Lane will work closely with Claudio Sguazzini, general manager of Ferrari North America.

Designs have been created in Paris by Cartier staff working with Ferrari, which approves all items.Watches are manufactured in Switzerland, pens and leather goods are made in Italy and lighters are made in Austria.

Ferrari products were actually brought out a year ago in Europe, Destino said, although with only a fraction of its current number of items. Sunglasses and leather goods were not part of the European group, he noted.

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TAG Heuer: moving upscale

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TAG Heuer S.A. is introducing its 6000 series wrist watch collection, which will be priced higher than previous sports watches. The 30 styles in the collection will cost from $1,200 to $2,900 and be available in stainless steel, 18-karat gold or a steel-gold combination. The 6000 line will begin limited distribution in Sep 1992. Although TAG Heuer sells 700,000 watches a year internationally, only around 2000 of the 6000 series are expected to be sold in the US in the first year. The product launch will include a choreographed dance piece by the Feld Ballet/NY, sponsored by TAG Heuer.

TAG Heuer, the watch line that over the past few years has become a leader in sports watches, is introducing a new exclusive collection that will move the brand into higher price points.

The collection, dubbed the 6000, is in either stainless steel or a combination of stainless and 18-karat gold. This is the first time the brand has used fine metals.

“The move is consistent with our strategy to go upscale,” said Luc Perramond, president of Heuer Time & Electronics Corp., TAG Heuer’s U.S. subsidiary. He said the firm has tripled the average TAG Heuer price point over the past four years.

Perramond said the average TAG Heuer retail currently is $750 to $800, and the new 6000 collection will range from $1,200 to $2,900 retail.

He said next year an 18-karat gold watch will be introduced.

Perramond said worldwide TAG Heuer sells 700,000 units a year. He said the 6000 series will have limited distribution, sold only in a few select stores the first year. He expects to sell only 2,000 in the U.S. the first year. The watches will be distributed in September.

“We will always stay in sport watches. We’re not looking to do dressy watches,” Perramond said. “We have built a strong brand image, and with improved quality and functions we have been able to move into higher price points.”

The 6000, which is currently hitting stores in Europe and the Far East, features 30 sporty styles. It has a patented bracelet with curved links designed to mold to the shape of the wrist or is available with a saddle-stitched leather strap in a range of fashion colors.

The 6000 watches possess the same technical features as the other TAG Heuer watches, including water resistance, a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and luminous hands and hour markers. The faces come in gray or white.

As part of the 6000 series launch, TAG Heuer is supporting the Feld Ballet/NY summer preview season. Eliot Feld, director and choreographer, has choreographed a dance to commemorate the launch of TAG Heuer’s 6000 collection, and the performance will debut Aug. 18.

Perramond said this is first time the watch firm has supported the performing arts; past sponsorships have been exclusively sporting events such as skiing, yachting and car racing.

“We chose an art that is technical and athletic to support and help us build our brand image,” Perramond said.

The firm was started in 1860 by Edouard Heuer in St. Imier, Switzerland. From the beginning it focused on precision timekeeping, and was appointed the official timekeeper for the 1920, 1924, 1928 and 1980 Olympic Games.

In 1985, Heuer joined forces with TAG (Techniques d’Avant-Garde), a Paris-based technology firm that supported sports-related activities.

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The latest novelties: from Bugs Bunny to Barney to Superman, novelty manufacturers are having the last laugh

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Novelty watches are a growing segment for watch manufacturers, which continue to come out with new products to keep up with the times. Sutton Time offers novelty watches for $9.95-$24 wholesale, and its hottest item is the Barney watch for children. Callanen International reports that 22% of its Guess watch sales are in the novelty area. Its Indiglo group of Guess watches glow in the dark and are priced at $27.50-$35 wholesale. Swatch is offering a M C Escher watch for $20 wholesale.

Several watch companies see the novelty area as an opportunity for growth, and that’s the direction they’re headed for May market.

Mark Odenheimer, vice president of Sutton Time, which produces Barney, Snoopy, Garfield, Looney Tunes and Crayola watches, in addition to Anne Klein and Anne Klein II, said that he sees a greater emphasis on novelty.

“It’s an escape,” he explained. “The Barney watch is for children, but our other novelty styles are as much for adults as for children. Years ago, Mickey Mouse watches were just for kids. Now you see men in business suits wearing them. People have a sense of humor and want to laugh.”

Odenheimer said that the company expects to see gains during May market, in large part because of the new licensed Barney watch line. Wholesale prices for Sutton’s novelty offerings range from $9.95 to $25.

Fossil Inc. is coming out with three limited-edition Superman watches under a licensing agreement with DC Comics. The first, which has a black leather band and gunmetal face with a relief of the Superman “S” logo, began shipping in late March and wholesales for $35. Packaged in a black molded plastic box shaped like the logo, it commemorates the death of Superman and comes with a metal tack pin commemorating Superman’s birth in 1938 and death in 1992. Production is limited to 10,000 pieces. The company is also introducing a Roy Rogers watch which wholesales for $35, through a licensing agreement with Guide White.

Merk Harbour, marketing representative for Fossil, said that novelty is a growing area in the watch market. “I think it has a lot to do with the fact that people have a lot of interests and hobbies that are somehow related to novelty themes,” he notes. “Novelty is a way for us to capture that audience. People want something that’s new and different.

“People are looking for something new, and we are changing our product all of the time,” said Mickey Callanen, president of Callanen International, which holds the license for Guess watches. He estimates that novelty represents 22 percent of Guess’s total business.

Callanen is optimistic about May market, pointing out that, only a few months into 1993, the company is already 31 percent ahead of last year.

New on the Guess novelty scene is the “Indiglo” group, a glow-in-the-dark style, available in seven styles and wholesaling from $27.50 to $35. New styles with the Guess logo on the strap and face will be shown, including silver printed logos on a leather strap and a silver face with checks or a mirror shard with a logo.

And novelty, of course, has always been what has defined Swatch.

New additions to Swatch for fall include a design by Jean Claude Castelbajac in primary colors on a white ground and one inspired by the artist M.C. Escher, featuring a three-dimensional design in shades of black and gray. Both wholesale for $20. A limited-edition platinum Swatch will be also available in September, retailing at $1,800.

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The global watch

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For some watch firms, one campaign can translate globally, but for others, cultural differences call for variations on a theme.

Timex’s five-year-old strategy is multifaceted, as its many groups of watches target different types of people, said Susie Watson, advertising and public relations director.

“No longer can you target one group with your brand and expect to get any diversity,” she said. There’s very little overlap between their target groups, she noted.

Timex has four campaigns: one for the Expedition outdoorsy watches, one for the Ironman watchesfor sports enthusiasts, one for the women’s fashion watches called True Classics and one for the Turn & Pull analog alarm watches. Coming up is a new campaign for the new Humvee watch (inspired by the Hummer vehicle), which will address a young, alternative male customer.

This year, Watson said, the firm will spend $18 million on advertising.

At Citizen, president Laurence Grunstein said the company continues to use its campaign entitled “Citizen. How the World Tells Time,” which was created five years ago.

Since the campaign began, he claims Citizen’s market share has gone from number two to number one in the over $50 watch category in the U.S.

While the firm is capitalizing on its global-style slogan, Grunstein said it doesn’t lose sight of all the differences in cultures.

I think the world is getting smaller, the Internet is helping that, and in time this diversity in advertising may change,” he said. However, he noted that the firm must still tweak the campaign for the differences among countries.

Citizen will increase its ad budget between 10 and 20 percent this year over last year. Last year it was roughly $10.5 million, Grunstein said.

Over time, the media mix has changed. Fourteen years ago, all advertising was on TV, he said. Now it’s about half TV, half print. Last year, TV advertising was 55 percent with print at 45 percent; this year those percentages will be flip-flopped.

At Tag Heuer, U.S. president Susan Nicholas said the firm has propelled its uniqueness of being a higher-end, branded sports watch.

We came in and took a small functional segment of the watch category — sports watches — and moved them to a prestigious alternative to a dress watch,” she said, comparing the phenomenon to what has happened with sports vehicles becoming a status symbol.

When the firm launched the Kirium watch last year, it commissioned Herb Ritts to do a photo shoot of 13 world-class athletes in the nude to make the tie between sports and watches. Tag Heuer exhibited the photos in art galleries here and in Los Angeles, and now plans to use them in a brochure to reach more consumers in the next few months to promote a new Kirium chronograph watch.

Close to $10 million has been spent on advertising for the firm this year, with the national program comprised of 90 percent print advertising in about 30 publications. The rest is large outdoor advertising such as wall paintings.

At Swatch, vice president of marketing Carlo Giordanetti said it runs the same TV spots in various countries, as the firm seeks “to convey the brand message with a lifestyle message of Swatch.”

The motto, “Time is what you make of it,” is used to trigger an emotional response in all viewers, Giordanetti said.

Giordanetti said that, this summer, Swatch will push its image with the Goodwill Games through TV spots on CNN, CBS and TNT and outdoor billboards.

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