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.
Given the uncertainty in the world as a result of the pandemic, Cohen expects this year will continue to see sell through driven by bestsellers and proven styles. “Re-issues and anniversary models will be popular with collectors as brands reach into their archives for inspiration.”
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. Bulova’s connection to the singer dates back to the 1950s during the Sinatra Show for which the brand was the sponsor. Sinatra was also known to wear Bulova. The collection features 10 timepieces in various case shapes and designs, named after his most beloved songs, including “My Way” and “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Many of Bulova’s launches for 2021 take inspiration from previous successful collections, shares Cohen. “After celebrating 10 years of Precisionist, we are expanding the collection with three new sport timepieces.” Moreover, the brand’s previously reissued 1972 Oceanographer, popularly known in its time as the “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.”
Sport timepieces for professional and weekend lifestyles continue to build momentum for Citizen, says Cohen, with the brand’s big innovation story for the year “Promaster Aqualand Chrono” with the next evolution in the iconic Aqualand franchise. “We will continue releasing new dive watches throughout the year.” He also mentioned the Promaster Land Racing inspired timepiece. “Fall is rounded out with our Navihawk in a new bold design that is inspired by a pilot’s in-flight visual experience viewing the runway and horizon.”
Cohen says Bulova also continues exploration in important historical reviews, as the market sees the trend of vintage collector-inspired timepieces. “For the first time we launch our Mil-Ships timepiece, an important project originally commissioned by the US Navy. Bulova never launched the prototype commercially. 2021 marks the first time the brand is launching this unique sport watch, inspired by the timepiece. The story of Mil-Ships, coupled with the rarity of the original prototypes, makes this a highly desirable timepiece. Lunar Pilot 50th Anniversary LE celebrates the August 2, 1971 historical event. We are reissuing our Lunar Pilot dressed with golden accents in a special package with a commemorative coin. We are also distorting our Automatic business with several introductions across collections including our Marine Star and AeroJet.”
Stylish & Functional
Women today want function and style, and savvy watch brands are complying, adding useful functions, like calendars, chronographs, and multi-time zones to designs made just for women, Naas shares. Some brands have launched women’s watches in steel with diamonds to attract a certain shopper who is price conscious. 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.”
Sport luxury also is trending for Citizen. “You can see this featured in our new Perpetual Chrono A-T Collection and we amplify our dress options with new Arezzo and Stiletto for both ladies and gents,” says Cohen. “For ladies specifically, we introduced our newest bracelet addition in our Ceci collection. Its sleek shape is 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!”
Popular is Citizen’s Tony Stark “I Love You 3000” edition, an Eco-Drive-powered watch that references the blockbuster film Avengers: Endgame, and the (spoiler alert!) dramatic death of one of its headlining heroes, Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey, Jr. The dial recreates the Stark Mark I reactor that played a major role in the film series and uses the iconic helmet of Stark’s alter ego, Iron Man, as its 12 o’clock marker. The inscription, “Proof that Tony Stark Has a Heart,” is etched around the inner dial ring, with Tony Stark signature and “Avengers: Endgame” logo engraved on the solid case back.
Expect to see Citizen and its brands innovating through product development and marketing with partners like Disney and Marvel, Cohen shared 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 isn’t just about promoting the brand name, he explains, it’s about connecting with consumers when their moods are at peak positivity.
Cora Lee Colaizzi, marketing director and senior merchandiser for Quality Gold, concurs that 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,” says Colaizzi reporting that in character watches, Mickey Mouse is still a favorite for adults. For kids, the top seller is Spiderman. Also the NFL watch for the Tamp Bay Buccaneers, Super Bowl LV Champions, has been a hot seller, and one of the top selling pocket watches. In fact, she says QG carries two lines of pocket watches that consistently sell as well as several wristwatch brands with a variety of functions and features.