Given the uncertainty in the world as a result of the pandemic, watch brands expect to see continued sales, this year, driven by bestsellers and proven styles.
After taking an initial hit from COVID and widespread closures in the first part of 2020, the watch industry saw an uptick in sales, with self-purchases topping watch gifting. Many consumers are rewarding themselves with the purchase of a new watch to add to their wardrobe.
Data suggests consumers staying home, without discretionary spending and indulging, are self purchasing products like watches, specifically traditional analogs in the mid price luxury range, reports Jeffery Cohen, president of Citizen Watches America, in a JCK Jewelry District podcast late January.
Many brands are coming out with modernized approaches to beloved watches of yesteryear, a focus on vintage styles and retro looks, concurs watch journalist and author Roberta Naas. “Bulova launched Accutron as its own line now, with the Accutron Spaceview. “Bulova redesigned the case and created an all-new electrostatic movement” she shares.
Men’s watches this year are about function and form, as more brands make the effort to put features in watches that people can actually use, like calendars, dual-time zones, GMTs, and similar, Naas says. “Form is an interesting one as the watch designs really run the gamut right now, although classic round shapes continue to dominate trends for men. Straps and steel bracelet watches are still the rage, and integrated bracelets are making a comeback from the 1980s.”
Bulova’s Frank Sinatra collection has come out strong, Cohen tells JCK, showing there is robust consumer sentiment for Frank and retro timepieces. Many of Bulova’s launches for 2021 take inspiration from previous successful collections. “After celebrating 10 years of Precisionist, we are expanding the collection with three new sport timepieces.” The brand’s previously reissued 1972 Oceanographer — aka “Devil Diver” — has a new model with the same iconic original orange dial. “As we head into the second part of 2021, Bulova will continue to reach into our archives to pull forward some of our favorites.”
Moreover, sport timepieces for professional and weekend lifestyles continue to build momentum, Cohen shares, like Citizen’s “Promaster Aqualand Chrono”. “We will continue releasing new dive watches throughout the year.” And, Bulova continues exploration in important historical reviews, as the market sees the trend of vintage collector-inspired timepieces.
Beautiful yet highly functional are what women want to see in watches today in styles that run the gamut In the past, watch brands would simply scale down existing men’s watches – make them smaller in size – and offer them to women.
Women today want function and style that runs the gamut from vintage fine to big, bold and sporty. Some brands have launched women’s watches in steel with diamonds to attract a certain shopper who is price conscious, says Naas. Interchangeable straps are important today, too. Color can come into play nicely here so that people aren’t tied down to one look.
Bulova expands on its classic models with the brand’s new Gemini styles featuring edge-to-edge crystal and refined details. “We continue to see demand for diamond styles that we offer in a variety of models and incorporate into some of our most iconic ladies timepieces such as the Sutton, Regatta and Rubaiyat,” says Cohen. “We also see the trend of sport luxury and satisfy that with the ladies CURV and Marine Star.”
For ladies specifically, Citizen introduced its newest bracelet addition to the brand’s Ceci collection.” Cohen describes the design as sleek and extremely wearable and luxurious.
Another trend in the affordable watch realm is offering pieces that make us feel good. “Citizen has done a great job with that this year with its Disney, Star Wars and Marvel collection watches,” Naas says. “Anyone can be a superstar now!”
Expect to see Citizen and its brands innovating through product development and marketing with partners like Disney and Marvel, Cohen revealed in the Jewelry District podcast. Both brands have strong intergenerational appeal. Moreover, he mentioned that Bulova’s connection to the Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards has increased demand for the brand in the Hispanic community. Connecting with these institutions is about connecting with consumers when their moods are at peak positivity, he says.
Individuals are no longer purchasing a watch just to tell time, says Cora Lee Colaizzi, marketing director and senior merchandiser for Quality Gold. Licensed brands do well in watches, wrist and pocket. The Fairfield, Ohio manufacturer offers many licensed styles in timepieces, including Disney and Marvel, as well as a variety of professional and collegiate sports, and more. “We carry styles that appeal to all ages, and more of our watches are now also unisex.” She reports pocket watches a bestseller. “We carry two lines of pocket watches that consistently sell as well as several wristwatch brands, with a variety of functions and features.”
Digital First = Customer First
The big takeaway from COVID, says Cohen, was the importance of a digital mind-set, with a focus on the end user, a “Citizen First” philosophy. Two years ago, he says Citizen committed to a digital first approach, using CRM data to make decisions with the aim of engaging and empowering brand consumers.
“As more people moved online, we saw the importance of investing in online help and customer service tools to assist consumers when there was no person to guide them on the path to purchase,” Cohen shared in the JCK podcast.
A digital first mindset aligns with a customer first approach of embracing the digital tools available in the many ways consumers want to engage today, cites Regina Fiedel, vice president of digital marketing for Citizen Watch America, during a podcast on the topic for The Plumb Club in March. The aim is to keep things easy and seamless for customers. “We need to create awareness and demand, no matter where our products are sold, using digital tactics as an effective, measurable way to inform, engage and build relationships with customers anywhere they’re shopping,”
The global pandemic definitely forced the jewelry industry to try new things to connect with consumers. Virtual appointments have been a big success story for the jewelry and watch business, shares Barbara Garces, chief digital officer for Citizen Watch America, who joined Fiedel on the Plumb Club podcast. “The beauty of virtual appointments is that when done well it can simulate the in-store experience. With many consumers working from home, this area has seen a greater level of engagement.”
Use the booking tools mentioned (Acuity Scheduling and Calendly), jewelers allow customers to pick a time. These apps automatically send reminders and allow for cancellations and rescheduling. Make sure to include a form asking several questions that will allow you to prepare for your virtual meeting. It’s also a great opportunity to conduct workshops to educate engaged consumers more deeply about products offered, and perfect to share on Facebook and Instagram.
“A winning strategy leans both on the brands you carry to provide great content for your site and social, as well as creating local, relevant content yourself,” says Cohen. “One way to use localized content is encouraging your customers to tag your store’s social handle and use your #hashtag. Social media is an amazing way to talk directly to potential consumers. Jewelers can quickly and easily communicate any new arrivals, promotions and events to name a few.”
As part of The Plumb Club’s mission of shaping the future of the jewelry industry, we have partnered with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) on a wonderful, new program that helps students seeking a career in the industry learn more about their chosen field. This month we are pleased to showcase a member of this year’s FIT graduating class and one of these rising stars.
Pavithra Sathya Prakash may just be graduating from FIT’s jewelry program in May 2021, but she already has some serious industry cred, having held merchandising and design positions with companies such as Bonnie Jennifer Jewelry, Unique Designs and Mahika Creations.
After leaving a job in finance in 2014, Prakash started exploring handmade clay jewelry. After honing this art, she started her own clay jewelry brand, but then decided to go back to school to learn even more about the jewelry category. Her favorite area of study, naturally is design. “I love creating sketches, rendering the sketches in gouache and building those designs in CAD.”
Prakash has a love for jewelry design and sees herself “working as a senior jewelry designer for a fine/fashion jewelry brand and taking up the ownership of the projects, working to solve complex design problems.” She also sees herself as a person who wants to give back, mentoring young and talented designers by sharing her experiences and knowledge about the industry.
When asked what strikes her passion, she responds, “Jewelry is an expression of emotions. It is very personal. It means celebration and happiness. Being part of someone’s happiness and celebration is something that is incredible! The sense of satisfaction that a designer gets from witnessing the joyful moment of seeing a person wearing their creation is the ultimate bliss.”
Prakash can’t wait to graduate in May and gain as much knowledge as possible about the jewelry industry over the next number of years.