Feature Article - July/August 2008

The Test of Time

Watches & Clocks Still a Powerful Incentive

By William Flanagan

hese are interesting times for watches. In prior decades people would actually buy watches to tell time. Now, if you asked someone for the time they would be more likely to look at their cell phone, PDA, cable box or computer screen before answering—even if they had a watch on their wrist.

"A watch is something people look at many times throughout a day," said Adrienne Forrest, assistant vice president for special markets for Bulova Corp. "But their needs are changing. With all of today's gizmos and gadgets, there really isn't a need to wear a watch because you have so many other items in your life that provide you the time. So a watch is essentially a piece of jewelry that tells time."

That said, playing second fiddle to emerging time-keeping devices has allowed watches to mature as incentive products. Since the watch is no longer the only source for checking the time, individuals are allowing themselves to acknowledge, possibly for the first time, that they choose and wear watches for much more than to tell the time of day.

"Watches are a very lifestyle-driven item today," explained Joe Zanone, senior vice president of Special Markets for Movado Group Inc. "Besides having a function, they have style, they accent your wardrobe, and they also are an immediate status identifier. When you see a Movado or a Rolex from across the room, you can identify it."

"The wonderful thing about a watch is that it has a function, it can be fashionable, and it can be an heirloom. There are very few products that can fit all of those criteria," said Jim Keenan, senior vice president for Citizen Watch Company. "You can think of something that is fashionable, and it may not have a function or be much of an heirloom."

Personal Statement

For both men and women, choosing a watch is a highly personal decision.

"If people are going to wear a watch, it really has to make a statement about them because you don't have to have a watch," Forrest said.

But with so many styles available, from formal timepieces appropriate for a white-tie function to casual classics suited to a game of tennis, it may take a little introspection to make the right decision, especially for men. After all, many men will never wear a ring or a necklace—let alone a bracelet—so a watch is about as close as they will get to wearing jewelry. That said, a watch allows men to make a personal statement not only about themselves but how they view themselves and how they want others to view them.

"A watch is jewelry, and it's often the only jewelry the majority of men will wear," Keenan explained.

Zanone agreed, adding that a watch is an important element of dressing for success. "Getting dressed in a suit without a watch is almost like wearing a suit without a tie," he said, further adding that selecting the right watch is one of the few ways men can accessorize and express themselves.

"It's an extenuation of your personality," he said. "The right tie, the right watch, the polished shoes, the right briefcase—it all adds up to make the man."

For women, their choice of watch may be based on current trends and fashions, but those trends are not necessarily a limiting factor.

"A watch is an expression of who you are," said Kathy Erickson, brand manager for Seiko USA. "A gadget guy would love a technology watch. A preppy woman may prefer a strap watch. But a glamour puss needs diamonds!"

Often the occasion directs the statement being made, and your program participants may want more than one watch to suit more than one occasion.

"That's what people need to consider when they choose a watch," Forrest said. What is the wearing occasion? Is it an everyday watch? A special occasion?

Keenan echoed that point: "The statement you're trying to make when you wear a suit is not the same statement that you're trying to make when you play golf. And you may not be trying to make a statement, but rather a personal choice based on what you're doing or where you're going," he added.

Michael Mikula of Tissot's Special Markets is even more specific. "An outdoor enthusiast should consider a sport watch with features such as greater water resistance, titanium weight and shock protection," he explained. "Unique features such as those found on a Tissot T-Touch—altimeter, barometer, thermometer, chronograph and compass—are practical and necessary for some outdoor sports."