Watchmakers promote timepieces' utility, style

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Watchmakers will try to fashion a more stylish image with new ads breaking this month. Citizen Watch Co. of America and Seiko Corp. of America each break new campaigns in the fall promoting watches as fashionable accessories.

Citizen will break a campaign next month for its Eco Drive collection, a line of solar-powered watches that don't require batteries. Print ads will run in publications including The New York Times, People, Time and The Wall Street Journal.

The $4 million campaign is the first effort from new agency Publicis in New York, which won the $15 million account in April after a review.

Tagged "A watch for all time,'' ads feature fashion shots wherein a watch battery appears as an accessory. In one, the battery is camouflaged as a man's cufflink, in another as a woman's earring. Both carry the line "What battery?''

The ads try to combine a style pitch with the utilitarian convenience of not having to replace batteries in one tongue-in-cheek message, said Tony De Gregorio, president-chief creative officer of Publicis, New York. "We had to find an imaginative way to make a style statement out of how you never need a battery.''

Publicis also will develop outdoor later in the fall, and TV spots will appear during the holiday season, Mr. De Gregorio said.

Rival watchmaker Seiko also will launch new fashion-oriented campaign in October. Ads from the Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., will run in magazines including Entertainment Weekly, GQ and Vogue.

The ads feature three Seiko lines--Kinetic Auto Relay, Le Grand Sport and Jewelry Collection--photographed as fashion accessories. One print ad features a watch surrounded by men's ties with the line "Science, now available as a fashion accessory.''

A RIPE MARKET

Watchmakers since the late 1990s have perked up their marketing efforts to tap the potential of the U.S. market, which is ripe for luxury goods sales, thanks to the strong economy. A 1999 Gallup poll found only 51% of U.S. consumers owned two or more watches.

Watchmakers such as Tag Heuer, Patek Philippe and Movado Group all have launched new lines and revamped ad efforts in the last two years. Movado drafted agency AG, New York, to launch new campaigns last year for its ESQ and Concord brands and Tag Heuer and Patek Philippe launched new lines and advertising to appeal to women, who make up the majority of watch shoppers.

Copyright September 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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