TAG Heuer: moving upscale

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 sportsĀ 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.

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

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.