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Perfect timing

The novelty tide in fashion watches is subsiding, according to manufacturers, who say they see a return to traditional calssics, along with continuing strength in antique looks.

We never got into that fun look,” said Diane McGowen, vice president of production, Carol Dauplaise, New York. “All we’ve really ever done is classic, and I think that look is going to be even more important now.” McGowen said “retro looks like chronographs” featured in the Dauplaise line “are very strong.”

McGowen, who projected a 12 percent increase this year, feels the fashion watch consumer is fairly price conscious. “Prices should be kept under $100 at retail,” she said, reflecting one school of thought in the market. “People don’t go to a fashion watch counter to spend more than that. In fact, we’ve found that $65 to $75 is deal for volume.” Carol Dauplaise watches wholesale from $32 to $50.

Bud Polley, vice president of the Callanen Group in South Norwalk, Conn., agrees. “There seems to be somewhat of a softness in that Swatch look now. I think the trend is very strong toward classics now.”

Polley said that “classic looks with leather straps represent about 75 percent of our business.” In May market, he said, the Callanen Group is introducing about 15 new styles, and adding green, navy and wine to the color pallete. “We’re continuing with that retro-classic feel, with the multimovement, chronograph dials and moons. We’re also doing dressier basics.”

As for price, Polley commented: “$35 to $75 is best for volume.” He noted his firm’s watches wholesale from $24 to $32.50, and he projected a 35 percent increase in sales for 1988.

Christian Dior Watches, however, caters to a different fashion customer, according to company vice president, Jim DeMattei. “We have a fashion customer at a fine jewelry price point. We’ve been able to attract the $300 and $400 customer, who is less fickle than the trendy customer.” The Christian Dior watch line wholesales from $122.50 to $362.50.

DeMattei, who projected a 35 percent increase, said the Dior offerings for fall are tailored, whith fashion details like scalloping on tank styles.

Gucci Timepieces has a similar clientele, according to director of marketing, Steve Hitter. “Our customer will pay more for quality and a name,” he said. Hitter said Gucci watches wholesale from $97.50 to $1,000, and he projected increases of 25 percent over 1987.

Hitter, too, sees strength in classics for fall. “The variety in the business is great,” he said, “but there is definitely a trend in classics.”

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