Feature Article - July/August 2010

A Timeless Classic

Why Watches Endure as a Top Reward Choice

By Emily Tipping

We have a strange relationship with time. It can be on our side, or it can be working against us. Time can crawl; time can fly. We can be running out of it, and then find that our hourglasses have been magically refilled and we have time to spare. Most of us live our lives by the clock, which is evident when you look around and see time's evidence everywhere.

Our computers tell time. Our phones tell time. Our coffeemakers and microwaves and VCRs tell time. Turn on the car, and there's the time. (Unless you drive my car, in which case, no matter how many times you reset the clock, it will be 17 minutes fast.)

With time-telling devices all around us, some people might wonder, why watches? Who needs one, anyway? I can just grab my cell phone and know what time it is.

But that would be overlooking the fact that a watch is so much more than a time-telling device.

"It's all about diversity," said Joe Zanone, senior vice president of Movado Group Inc. "They're functional, but they're more than that. They're jewelry. They're fashion. They're a necessity. If you're in the workplace, not wearing a watch would be kind of like not wearing socks with a suit. In the workplace, regardless of whether you have a clock on your cell phone or on your desk, you need to wear a watch. It's a necessity."

A watch, it seems, is much more than a simple device for telling the time. And this is why watches continue to endure as business gifts, incentives and awards for hard work and service.

"It's a great gift, because it's functional. It's useful. It's fashionable, and can be worn by both sexes," said Andy Finn, vice president, Corporate Sales, Tourneau LLC. "Studies show that people look at their watch 40 times a day, so it's a constant reminder to the recipient of where the watch came from. It's something you wear every day, you look at constantly, and other people notice it."

Watches also enjoy near-universal appeal. Man or woman, young or old—the right watch is sure to please just about anyone.

Jim Keenan, senior vice president, Special Markets, Citizen Watch Company, also lauded the marriage of functionality and the high perceived value of a watch. "It has more than just a utilitarian purpose," he said. "It has an intrinsic value or worth far beyond the utilitarian product."

In addition, he said, "A watch is one of the few pieces of jewelry that a man will wear. So you have an item that is very important in the incentive and award business, but it's one that appeals to men and women."

And, getting back to the "high perceived value," it's important to note that if you're in the market for an award or gift, the margins in watches are a huge selling point, Keenan said. That means that when your recipients see their watch in a department store or jewelry store, they're going to be impressed by the value of what they've received.

And while time can run out on us, many watches are forever. "A watch is something that has heirloom quality, which you can't say about cash or a gift card," said Adrienne Forrest, vice president, Special Markets, Bulova Corporation. "If you receive it as a gift, you can pass it down to someone else in your family. You can't engrave a gift card or cash. A watch is in an entirely different category."