The clock is ticking for aging Timex

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As consumers mark the hours on PDAs and cellphones and wear watches as fashion accessories, Timex has been taking a licking. Now it hopes to prove it can keep on ticking.

The aging watch franchise this month bows "The new faces of Timex" to drive buzz for its Color Indiglo lineup among the stylish younger set. But the brand best known by the grandparents of today's trendsetters faces an uphill battle into fashion.

"The watch business has indeed become more about fashion than precision time-keeping and it's often very difficult for a company like Timex, that is more part of the manufacturing culture, to thrive in that world," said Allen Adamson, managing director at Landor.

Mark Stevens, CEO of MSCO and author of "Your Marketing Sucks," put it simply. "Timex starts out with a major liability: It never had credentials as cool and never sought them."

With help of Ryan Partnership spinoff Catapult Marketing East, Timex is trying to gain relevancy among the 18-to-34 segment whose cellphones and PDAs offer reliable time-telling and for whom watches are a must-have accessory.

Timex spokesman Jim Katz said the company's efforts to reach out to younger audiences in the past haven't been particularly effective. So to launch of a line of fashion and sport watches that use Timex's decade-old Indiglo technology to glow in eight different colors, Timex is using an online sweepstakes in which consumers can upload their photo for the chance to become one of eight new faces for Timex's 2006 Color Indiglo campaign and win $10,000. Consumers can also win the latest technology from Dell, including plasma TVs or an MP3 player, and they can text-message Timex to see if they've won.

Promotional ads in October titles including Hearst Magazines' Cosmopolitan, Time Inc.'s Entertainment Weekly and Conde Nast's Lucky tout the contest and the Web site, Timex will also promote the site on blogs, in chat rooms and at retail.

Although market share data for the watch industry isn't unavailable, Joe Urich, publisher and editor of trade publication hr:Watch pegs global watch sales at $8 billion. Mr. Urich noted that while sales of mid-scale "more pedestrian watches" are flat, the fastest-growing segment of the watch market is high-end luxury fashion timepieces, "the more expensive the better." As a result, Timex recently purchased the Swiss watchmaking subsidiary of Versace, he said, and "really pushing the fashion envelope, which is really smart."

Fossil, whose quarterly profit dropped nearly 39% percent recently on weak U.S. watch sales, said it will reposition to attract "aspirational" customers with higher-priced products.

Tick tock

Will style-conscious trendsetters think of old reliable Timex as the latest must-have accessory?

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