Feature Article - July/August 2015

Time Marches On…

…And Timekeepers Are Still Timeless Rewards

By Emily Tipping

Time marches on, and with it come new innovations and technological developments. The world of timekeeping is no exception. The introduction of the Apple Watch is a dramatic new development, but while everything changes and new products will always be coming onto the market, some things will never lose their appeal or go out of style. And while all the early adopters are checking out what smartwatches can do, many more style-conscious consumers will still want a watch that's, well, a watch.

Why? Because a watch is much more than a timekeeper. When you choose a watch, you are choosing to express your personal style. In fact, it's the personal expression and style of a well-crafted, functional and aesthetically pleasing timepiece that keep watches near the top of the incentive marketplace.

"The Apple Watch is still a gadget, not a timepiece," explained Richard L. Low, vice president, Special Markets, Citizen Watch Company and president of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA). "At some point, the technologies will converge," and watchmakers will begin adding in some of the functionality of a smartwatch. "I'm excited about that idea. But if you look at the Apple Watch, it's just not a fashion statement. And for men especially, a watch might be their only fashion statement. Early adopters are going to love the Apple Watch, but the rest of us want something that looks good."

Kevin Dougherty, director, Special Markets, Seiko Corporation of America, said he's been asked a lot if he feels the impact of the influx of smartwatches. The answer? An emphatic no.

"Wristwatches and smartwatches are as different as iPhones and TVs: You can use both to watch your favorite show, but you'd rather be in front of the TV and leave the iPhone to making calls and texting," he said. "Wristwatches are an extension of your personality, a part of your fashion statement. They are the ultimate functional piece of jewelry. You can't accessorize a nice business suit or little black dress with anything but the right watch. The wristwatch is formal or casual depending on your wardrobe. Going to a wedding, graduation, business meeting or the club—the wristwatch fits in everywhere. You also don't need your phone to be in proximity of your wristwatch to use all of its functions. Many Apple Watch apps are really just displays for things running on your iPhone, and some key features aren't available if you aren't paired to an iOS device. For example, the Apple Watch doesn't have a GPS receiver, so if your phone isn't around, you can't track the distance you've traveled beyond measuring steps. The Seiko Astron has a GPS receiver and can automatically set itself to the exact second anywhere in the world—and it looks so cool. Don't get me wrong; I'm a big fan of Apple. Heck, I'm a big fan of gadgets, but we need to draw the line on how connected we need to be. Aren't we all trying to tune out for just a little while?"

Watch companies have long harnessed technology to improve the precision of their timepieces and to provide other functions, and one new gadget is not going to sink an industry built on hundreds of years of innovation, technological advancement and creative expression. People will always want to express a personal style, and a watch will always give them a way to do so, while also serving an important function.

"I always say that watches are jewelry that tells time," said Adrienne Forrest, Bulova's vice president of Corporate Sales.

"Watches continue to be an iconic reward for several reasons, including the fact that it is an accessory, such as shoes, that is basically required in the workforce," said Joe Zanone, Movado Group Inc. authorized sales agent. "When you present yourself, you must present the image of your company, and shoes, belts, watches and so forth are just part of the 'uniform.'" What's more, when you earn a watch received as an award or incentive, "… it represents a wearable outward sign of your accomplishment within the company—a badge of honor, so to say," he added. "Everyone in the company understands what that watch means and why you have it."