Look at the Time!
From Smart Tech to Functional Retro & Beyond, Watches Continue to Inspire
By Emily Tipping
Recently, I attended a rather socially awkward gathering. It was important to me to be there, and important to me to stay to the end, but I won't lie. I checked my watch. Often. And every time I did, I was grateful to have it.
You see, my watch, a beautiful, light-powered stainless-steel piece, mostly sits atop my dresser with my other neglected jewelry, waiting for just these moments. It was a gift received early on in my time with Premium Incentive Products, and a perfect showcase of just how to select just the right thing. Light-powered is good, since I'm the sort to stick a watch in a drawer and forget about it if the battery dies. It's also good because I don't often wear a watch, but when I want or need one, I want it to be working. It's not overtly feminine, which suits my style, but with the diamonds around the mother-of-pearl dial, it's just feminine enough.
That makes me the classic case of a gift recipient who comprehends the value and meaning behind that gift every time I use it. But more importantly in this case, it gave me the ability to tactfully check the time without being rude to the other attendees at the gathering. I might be firmly ensconced in generation X, but I still believe pulling out a phone in the middle of a conversation is the height of bad manners. I may not wear my watch all the time, but when I do, I always realize its value.
"Watches are a universally accepted accessory for both men and women," explained Joe Zanone, Movado Group Inc. authorized sales agent. "Watches also are a fashion accessory and carry a different story with each piece, from casual elegance to sport to evening wear and smart business attire. Today's dynamic, on-the-go person usually travels with an estimated three watches for a three- to five-day business trip, according to JCK Magazine."
"It's hard to find an item that has the universal appeal and daily wearability of a watch," added Rick Low, CPIM, vice president, Special Markets, Citizen. "A watch can be considered a fashion item to enhance a wardrobe selection and, more importantly, a business necessity. A watch is something personal that oftentimes becomes an heirloom passed on to family members. Gift cards have little lasting memorability. For merchandise, a well-crafted timepiece can be worn daily, providing constant reinforcement of a mission accomplished or job well done."
Adrienne Forrest, vice president, Corporate Sales, Bulova, agreed that watches make ideal heirlooms, which is just one of the reasons they make such a valuable incentive or reward. "They are lasting, as opposed to gift cards or cash that can be spent and gone—or even electronics, which can quickly become obsolete," she added.
Jeffrey Brenner, director, special markets, Seiko U.S.A., and president of the board of directors, IMRA, also emphasized the timeless and lasting value of a watch. "No pun intended," he said, "but a watch is timeless and holds long-lasting personal value. Today's workforce is multigenerational, which provides a variety of options for the recipients in this category. An older recipient will use a watch to pass down to younger family members, especially if the caseback is engraved with the reason for the recognition, such as years-of-service anniversary, corporate milestone or promotion."
Kevin Dougherty, director, National Brands, Harco Incentives, added that nowadays, it's not just traditional watches that are having an impact. Smartwatches are raising the bar and expanding the category as well. "What better way to reward someone for their time than with the gift of time?" he asked. "An employee's loyalty of service should not go unnoticed, and nothing shows appreciation for their devotion more than an award they can proudly wear and show off, wherever they go.
"Traditionally, wristwatches fit that bill," he added. "And now smartwatches bring it to a whole new and contemporary level. A smartwatch as a reward or incentive not only becomes the plaque you can wear on your wrist, it is functional and more appealing to a slew of the younger, tech-savvy generations in the workforce. And after all, this is to whom we want to start reciprocating loyalty, isn't it?"
As with any item that can be worn, watch trends come and go, with some materials, colors and styles rising and falling in popularity over time. The range of what's available is impressive, so knowing what's trending, and for whom, is important if you want to reward and inspire.
"Trends in watches are varied by brand and lifestyle choice itself," Zanone said. "Overall, the trend is still in smart technology for the millennials, and for the boomers it is all about the lifestyle, be it casual, sport or elegant. The color of the day is blue, and the composition selections are still metal first with leather or fabric second.
"Another very interesting trend in women's is the demand for ceramic once again," he added. "Ceramics in cool pastels or blush tones are the hottest. Blush tones and neutrals dominate women's in a fabric or leather strap. Watch dials and cases are thinner, larger and more clean than we have seen in a while."
That sums it up nicely, but what do these trends look like?
"It's tough to finally admit after all these years in the watch industry, but desire for traditional analog watches seems to be declining, and wearables—a category of electronic devices that can be worn as accessories—are exploding," Dougherty said. "The smartwatch is where it's at. Style, functionality and technology is what everyone wants, old and young."
He cites NPD research, which showed that in 2018, non-tech traditional watch sales fell by 5.7% as tech watch sales increased by 63.5%. "If that doesn't tell you what consumers want, nothing will. And recipients in incentive, recognition and loyalty programs want the same thing."
Want an example? Sleek, stylish and packed with features, the iTouch Air 2, available through Harco, is the go-to smartwatch for those aiming to kick their activity up a notch to reach fitness goals while also keeping up with life's other demands. The watch features a sleep tracker, heart-rate monitor, messaging app, music remote and more. Constructed from lightweight and durable material, the iTouch Air 2 will stand the test of time. Plus, with a sleek, glass square face and all metal case, the smartwatch will match perfectly with any outfit, whether you're in the office or the gym. The silicon strap and watch face are also available in a variety of colors.
Zanone agrees that smartwatches are still making an impact. "The trend in smart is still ongoing and most prevalent in the millennial age group, but now being seen in more upscale brands and Swiss brands as a 'must have' accessory," he said. "The traditional Movado customer demands a 'smart' offering from Movado to remain a loyalist. Swiss brands offering smartwatches include Tag, Breitling, Movado, and even Dior and Gucci!"
Of course, the impressive rise of smartwatches has not eliminated the desire for less tech-influenced watches, only balanced it.
"Authenticity continues to be a strong trend among today's discerning consumers," Forrest said. "The desire for real, quality timepieces that are not disposable, that have high perceived styling and value-for-money is a very strong watch industry trend."
The Joseph Bulova Collection pays homage to the brand's visionary founder. The Breton features a silver-tone stainless-steel case with a blush sandblasted dial and painted Arabic markers, and fine Swiss-made automatic movement. The caseback is engraved with the "Joseph Bulova" signature, "1875" and a custom rotor. It has a black leather strap with the "Joseph Bulova" signature on the interior lining and a deployant closure with pushers.
The Movado Women's Sapphire watch features a 30-millimeter stainless-steel bezel-free case with flat edge-to-edge sapphire crystal, round silver mirror dial with 11 diamond markers (0.042 t.c.w.), silver-toned dot and hands, and stainless-steel quilted link bracelet with push-button deployment clasp.
A winner for any occasion, the Everytime Large timepiece from Tissot, available through Rymax, stays true to its name. With a classic, timeless design, this watch features a sleek, clean face, making it stand out with modern flair. Featuring a round, 42-millimeter stainless-steel case, white dial with silver hands and indices, black leather strap and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, this water-resistant watch is sure to become your next go-to.
The Ferrari Men's Redrev, available through Movado, features a 46-millimeter, 5 ATM, multi-function dial with brushed stainless-steel case and polished black IP bezel. Other features include polished lugs, and a red subeye on the black dial, along with a stainless-steel bracelet.
The Bering Women's Classic Polished Silver watch features a silver colored stainless-steel case made of pure, high-quality, medical-grade stainless steel, in combination with the modern, blue-colored Milanese strap. The fine workmanship of the Milanese strap gives the watch a refined, almost noble touch. A mother-of-pearl dial embellished with Swarovski elements and protected by crystal-clear, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal perfectly completes the classic look.
The Bering Men's Titanium Brushed Silver watch combined a gray colored Sunray dial, integrated date window and brushed, nonallergenic titanium case, making for a unique timepiece. The watch is protected by an especially hard, crystal-clear and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. Paired with a simple, elegant titanium band, a linear modern look is achieved.
Look Retro, Look Functional—or Both
"'No one wears watches anymore' is an urban myth, much like 'the world is flat.' Sure, we see plenty of people across all demographics wearing connected gadgets," Low said. "Timepieces are still a top-five category within the rewards and recognition channel. Retailers develop an astounding amount of square footage to watches of all types. Timepieces are fashion, and we continue to see redemptions for multiple less-expensive watches rather than the purchase of one watch for all occasions. Many customers want to change their watch based on mood or occasion, whether it is business, sport or casual."
He added that there's also a growing number of consumers who are searching for eco-friendly products, a bill fit perfectly by Citizen's Eco-Drive watches, which are powered by light, reducing the number of watch batteries discarded into landfills.
Combine that with Brenner's emphasis on a resurgence of vintage models updated with more modern technology, and you have the Citizen Promaster Aqualand, an iconic name with a reinvented construction. It's ISO compliant and has maximum depth memory, rapid ascent alarm, auto-start dive mode and power reserve indicator with divers 200M, so you won't need anything else when headed to the ocean. The stainless-steel case complements the ocean-blue polyurethane strap and blue dial with blue and red bezel. And it features Citizen's Eco-Drive technology, so it never needs a battery.
Infusing some of Bulova's most iconic and nostalgic timepieces with modern elements, the Archive Series continues with the digital LED Computron. The sleek, gold-tone stainless-steel design features a red LED display, expanded digital functionality now with dual time zone capabilities, and a distinct retro design that is as relevant today as it was in the 1970s.
A tribute to Bulova's acclaimed '70s Oceanographer diver watch powered by a self-winding mechanical movement, the Bulova Oceanographer features a silver-tone stainless-steel screw-back case with screw-down crown, black/green unidirectional bezel, green three-hand dial with luminescent markers and date feature, box sapphire crystal with blue anti-reflective coating, silver-tone stainless-steel bracelet with double-press fold-over buckle closure, safety bar and extender, and water resistance to 200 meters.
Brenner added that individuals who are 25 to 39 "gravitate to quality—a product that has unique and mechanical features."
From Seiko's Crystal Collection, the watches pictured here rest on the dazzling edge of both fashion and technology, with a vibrant crystal design that combines sparkling Swarovski crystals with a silver glitter-patterned dial and two-tone stainless-steel case and bracelet. The energy-efficient solar cell, powered by any light source with no battery change required, provides a 12-month power reserve when fully charged.
The Citizen Satellite Wave GPS Freedom is bolder and brighter with enhanced technical and architectural design. It leads with the world's fastest timekeeping signal reception speed from GPS navigation. With a sleek black ion-plated stainless-steel case and bracelet, black dial and brilliant green accents, it features satellite GPS timekeeping technology with worldwide reception and time adjustment in 40 time zones.
The Tommy Hilfiger Chase, available through Movado, features modern multifunction, with a 44-millimeter case crafted of stainless steel, gold-toned, gray IP and black IP finishes and paired with link or mesh bracelets or embossed leather straps. The dial features a vertical brush finish and the Tommy flag at 3 o'clock.
Soar to new heights with the modernized Citizen Promaster Navihawk timepiece. A chronograph with all the tools for professional use, featuring world time in 43 cities, radio control, tachymeter, perpetual calendar, alarm and power reserve indicator, it's showcased here in a stainless-steel case and mesh bracelet with black dial and red accents, with the added value of anti-magnetism and shock resistance.
The Movado Men's Museum Sport Chronograph watch features a 43-millimeter gunmetal PVD-finished case with black PVD-finished bezel, round black three-hand dial with matching subdials, black minute reflector ring, black dot and luminescent hands, date window, and a smooth cognac leather strap with gunmetal PVD-finished buckle.
When it comes to color and materials, Brenner said, "Blue continues to be a strong dial color, but emerald green is making an entrance into the industry." He added that metal accents, such as rose gold, are featured on bezels and dial markings.
From Seiko's Crystal Collection, this vibrant design combines Swarovski crystals with a deep blue glitter-patterned dial and stainless-steel case and bracelet. The energy-efficient solar cell means no battery change is required.
"As for fabrication in metals, yellow gold and rose gold continue to dominate, with steel and white gold/platinum still in demand," Zanone said. "Estimates from most of our fashion brands indicate that steel, rose and yellow are all about a third of the business each, showing a great diversity in how watches are being bought and worn."
The polished rose-gold-colored stainless-steel case, made of pure, high-quality, medical-grade stainless steel in combination with the modern blue milanese strap, provides the classic Bering look in this Women's Classic Polished Rose Gold Watch. With colors that match the strap, the square mother-of-pearl dial with rose-gold-colored indices and hands adds a further touch of flawlessness and glamour. An especially hard, crystal-clear and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal ensures a clear view of the dial.
"I feel a watch tells a story," Brenner said. "It may be its history within a specific brand or a reimagined design from another era. When someone asks about your watch, what comes next is a personal connection."
"Watches are consistently in the top 5 percent of all redemptions in most programs because of the versatility and the mere fact that everyone can always use a second or fifth watch in their collection."