Fall watch ads: image and big spending

Suppliers are counting on image advertising to make their products stand out in the increasingly crowded watch market

One word dominates much of watch suppliers’ all-important fourth-quarter consumer advertising this year: image.

Many major vendors and several lesser-known ones have created TV and print ad campaigns that sharply define their products and what they mean to consumers. Use of such image ads will continue into 1991, say watch vendors.

To support these campaigns, suppliers have significantly increased ad dollars (some by more than 50%), the frequency of ads and the media they use.

Television  –  national, regional and cable  –  will get much more watch ad money than ever before. There also will be greater use of regional publications, inserts, radio, in-store product information and dealer-tagged ads than in past holiday seasons.

Attitude: Classic image advertising sells an attitude about a product. The approach focuses on stylish visuals with minimal copy rather than a hard-sell of the product.

One example is an Alfex ad with the face of an exotic model in red and the watch in the foreground. Another is Baume & Mercier’s Riviera ad, which shows shadowy, watch-wearing wrists with hands “walking” on their fingers, led by one well-lighted wrist wearing a Riviera. At the top is the phrase “Followers or Leader” and below, “Beyond Perfection.”

Such ads are in the mainstream of image advertising for various products, ranging from Infiniti car ads that don’t show the car to Gitano clothing ads that define the life-style of the targeted consumer. Most new image watch ads really are hybrids of life-style advertising of the late ’80s and more recent “watch-as-hero” ads. They show people or situations that underscore attributes of the stuhrling watches reviews, toss in some descriptive copy and add an unobtrusive close-up of the watch, often at the side or bottom of the ad.

This modified image ad uses “one-on-one storytelling [and] is more relevant [than ’80s ads] because it features real people, not models, in real situations,” says Ron Sok, manager of advertising and public relations for Timex. This type of ad is in line with predicted consumer attitudes of the ’90s: “less conspicuous consumption, less glitz and glamour, more down to earth,” he says.

Even so, the ads use some eye-catching photography. Timex’s new ads, for example, were shot by world-famous lensman Hiro, whose work appears in such forums as Rolling Stone and Lear’s magazines. Gritty, black-and-white photo close-ups highlight TAG-Heuer’s ads. Juvenia incorporates elegant black-and white photos from the ’30s.

Image building: Here are a few examples of new image-building watch ads.

* Timex applies its famous “Takes a licking, keeps on ticking” theme to a major print campaign for the first time. The ads feature eight ordinary people, each wearing a Timex, “who experienced something extraordinary and survived,” says Sok. One man, for example, regained sight and speech after being struck by lightning. His message: he wears a Timex fashion watch that “stands up to all kinds of weather.”

Sok says the ads show that Timex is a “good value for the money, durable and a classic that’s been around 38 years.”

* TAG-Heuer’s sport-watch campaign uses close-ups of sports pros (but not celebrities) in archery, diving, skiing, car racing, golf and tennis. It shows them in deep concentration a split second before a crucial move; the slogan is “Don’t crack under pressure.” The ads say the “resistance, precision and endurance” of the watches are the same qualities found in those who “thrive on pressure.”

The purpose is to show that TAG-Heuer “creates watches that help you reach beyond your limits,” says a company spokesman.

* Bulova’s campaign also uses professionals, from an artist to a Broadway star. But it only shows close-ups of their wrists, wearing a Bulova watch and doing something job-related. The accompanying slogan says: “Bulova is [the person’s] time.”

“Each life-style pursuit has a different set of circumstances, and the virtues of each watch are underscored by that,” says Robert Ryan, marketing vice president. The photographer’s hand, for example, holds a slide and wears a dual-time watch. The artist’s paint-splattered hand holds a dripping brush and wears a day/date watch.

* Pulsar’s new TV spot features a new logo  –  “Pulsar  –  There’s No Time Like It”  –  and shows a sophisticated, happy couple on an empty dance floor and close-ups of their Pulsar watches. The voice-over emphasizes the watches’ “flawless design” and the “luxury of fine jewelry.”

The ad underlines “Pulsar’s worldwide status [and] that there is nothing else like it under $200,” says Dean Sauder, executive vice president.

* Hamilton’s ad for its Classic reproductions shows twentysomething Timothy Fellman, son and grandson of Hamilton craftsmen and the owner of a vintage Hamilton made by his grandfather.

The ad urges readers to “enjoy the contradictory pleasures of owning a watch that’s brand new, yet preceded by generations of history.”

* Sector, the mid-priced Swiss sports watch of Artime U.S.A., has a new TV, print and outdoor ad campaign that caught the attention of Advertising Age magazine. The campaign stresses Sector’s eagle logo, with close-ups of an eagle, the slogan “If you’re lucky, it will land on your arm” and a picture of the akribos watch review.

* Luxury Swiss brand Juvenia’s first national U.S. print campaign is part of a global effort by Juvenia S.A. Aimed at consumers who can afford a more

expensive 18k watch, it uses authentic black-and-white American photos from the 1930s. One shows a couple about to embrace passionately; another shows slinky movie star Jean Harlow in a chair with a feathered cape around her. The slogan: “When the world is at your feet, Juvenia is on your wrist.”

* Zodiac is a leading Swiss sports watch brought back to the U.S. this year by Verlaine & Cie. It’s also the official watch of the elite U.S. Navy Seals. The new ads show real people who wear Zodiac watches in everyday life, says John Marshall, marketing director for Verlaine & Cie. They include the first female Swiss mountain guide, a skin diver and an explorer.

Diverse: Not all watch vendors use image ads. Product-as-hero remains the primary strategy of campaigns by Seiko, Pulsar, Jaz Paris, Citizen, Longines-Wittnauer and Lorus, among others. In fact, Jaz Paris switched to product-only this season after some retailers last fall rejected its image ads of a couple in a passionate embrace. However, it has kept the slogan “Paris when it sizzles.”

Whether the focus is image or product, most campaigns this season have one of two goals: stressing diversity or building brand awareness.

Several well-established brands are reminding consumers of their diversity. Bulova and Timex, for example, created different ads for different watches. Pulsar features different watches on successive pages in some magazines. “It shows these are a collection, not one watch alone,” says Cherie McKenzie, Pulsar’s general manager of advertising. Gucci, well-known for women’s watches, plans to spend more on ads for its men’s watch styles.

Seiko Time, which built its name and position as a technical brand for men, designed four different campaigns to broaden its appeal, says Jonathan Nettelfield, general manager of marketing for Seiko of America. In addition to technology ads for the Flight Computer watch, Seiko has campaigns aimed at the Hispanic market and for the classic Age of Discovery watches and avant-garde Future Wrist fashion watches for women. “We’re trying to bring people ever-so-gently into the 1990s,” says Nettelfield. “We need to touch more nerves than just technology.”

Bulova’s campaigns for fall and 1991 are designed to “give definition again to Bulova,” says Rob Ryan, vice president of marketing. High public awareness of the Bulova name (well over 90%) has overshadowed its other brands, including Caravelle and Marine Star. Expanded campaigns using more cable TV and forums such as Rolling Stone magazine aim to make people “recognize the variety and strength of all Bulova lines,” he says.

Brand awareness: Many watch firms will concentrate on building public awareness of a brand  –  especially among more affluent consumers  –  this fall. Among them are new watch arrivals  –  including Sector, Ricoh, Zodiac and Carrera y Carrera  –  as well as long-established names  –  including Juvenia, Lorus and Longines-Wittnauer. For example, Ricoh Elemex Corp., which introduced Ricoh watches in 1989, has boosted retailer support programs with more consumer ads, an ad positioning the mid-price watches as “the new faces of Time” and more use of billboards and radio.

Longines-Wittnauer, meanwhile, has made more use of ads in upscale magazines and The Wall Street Journal, placing more stress on the Longines name than on product, says president Jack Davis. “We want to enhance the image of Longines at a time when consumers are looking for a quality watch,” he says. “We’ve made tremendous improvements in quality and service in recent years, and we have a lot of good products. Now we want to make the name better known.”

Big spenders: Nixon watch vendors have boosted fourth-quarter ad budgets much more than in the past. Pulsar, a leader in $50-$200 watches, raised its multi-million-dollar fall ad budget 60% over 1989. Omega is up 50%, TAG-Heuer 30% and Baume & Mercier 35%. Armitron plans to saturate the marketplace with what one executive calls “our strongest generic advertising campaign ever in national magazines and television.”

Rising ad costs contribute to the higher budgets, but there are other reasons. The uncertain economy and sluggish retail sales are two. Though watches in general have sold well this year, overall sales for many retailers, including jewelers, have been sluggish. Additionally, many state economies are in recession and some areas, such as New England, have high unemployment.

“The [retail jewelry] industry can’t take two dismal Christmases in a row,” says a major watch vendor. “So we’re supporting customers by increasing ad dollars when they can’t to create customer traffic not only for watches but for other products in their stores.”

Competition: Hot competition also has raised the degree of ad spending. There are literally hundreds of brands at all price levels  –  the U.S. now sells 163 million or a fourth of the world’s watches  –  and the number keeps growing. In the first half of 1990 alone, four French brands, a Canadian brand and two new lines owned by a leading Hong Kong firm entered the U.S.

“With all the competition, you have to make a lot of noise to keep attention, and that means more advertising,” says Janet Cerutti, advertising director for the upscale Swiss Omega line.

Some of the fiercest competition is in $125 + watches, whose sales grew 17% in the past two years. The market for expensive, stylish watches is becoming the most active growth area, said Laurence R. Grunstein, president of Citizen Watch Co., at a recent American Watch Association panel meeting. According to AWA estimates, $125 + watches comprise a $2 billion market that will grow to $2.5 billion by 1995 and to more than $3 billion by 2000.

“If we add watches in the $75 to $125 category,” said Grunstein, “we are talking about a market of over $4 billion retail. Clearly, it’s a market worth fighting for!”

This aggressiveness is reflected in many fall ad campaigns for upscale watches. Among them are campaigns for Citizen’s Elegance and upscale Noblia lines and for Seiko Time, whose ads feature $500 watches for the first time. A number of other campaigns  –  including those for TAG-Heuer (the 4000 series), Juvenia, Jean Lassale (Thalassa II) and Raymond Weil (Parsifal)  –  focus on new lines of $500-$2,000 watches.

Most of this season’s ad budgets are being spent closer to Christmas rather than spread throughout the quarter. Pulsar, for example, will fire much of its ad ammunition in the four weeks before Christmas, including a new TV spot in prime time, 20 million four-color, four-page color inserts and extensive advertising in national magazines.

“More and more people are waiting until the final days before Christmas to buy watches and other gifts,” says Grunstein. Timex’s Ron Sok adds that 45% of all U.S. watch sales occur between mid-November and Dec. 24. “So it makes sense to focus more of our efforts then,” he says.


Television will claim its biggest-ever share of watch suppliers’ advertising budgets in fourth-quarter 1990. That is due partly to the rising cost of network TV time (“10% more each year for less audience,” laments one watch executive). But a bigger reason is a new or expanded emphasis on TV ads by several watch firms.

Lorus and Bulova, for example, have planned their first national TV campaigns in many years. Timex will spend half its multi-million-dollar ad budget to run three award-winning TV spots that debuted last year. Citizen, which dropped TV last fall in favor of an intensive print campaign, will introduce five TV spots this fall. Spots will run on late-night news shows in major markets and weekend sports programs, including National Football League games in November and December. And Armitron has one of the strongest fall print and TV campaigns in its history, including commercials and prize offerings on game shows.

The biggest network TV spender probably is Seiko Corp. of America, the leading U.S. watch advertiser according to the Arbitron rating service. Following are ad plans for the firm’s Seiko Time, Pulsar and Lorus divisions:

* Seiko Time will spend more than 90% of its ad budget on TV. “The image of a watch is one of the most important things you sell, and there’s no vehicle like TV to create mood and build name,” says Jonathan Nettelfield, general manager of advertising.

Seiko will run four TV campaigns simultaneously: one for the hi-tech Intelligent Quartz watches featuring the Flight Computer model; one for the classic Age of Discovery collection, set against Old World maps; one for the avant-garde Future Wrist watches for women, with ads sporting shocks of color and dancing light; and one in Spanish for the Hispanic market.

* Much of Pulsar’s 60% boost in fourth-quarter ad spending is designated to put a new 30-second spot and a new slogan  –  “Pulsar  –  There’s No Time like It”  –  in some 50 major markets. The TV spot will run on all major networks in prime time between Wednesdays and Sundays from Thanksgiving to Christmas, “the heaviest retail shopping days,” says a Pulsar spokesperson. The TV spot is supported by a major print campaign in newspapers and magazines.

* Lorus’s new “Time Control” commercial uses watch close-ups, computer graphics and animation to show the versatility of its new analog chronograph, Race Pro and Sports Mickey watches. The spot will run on news and weekend sport shows and prime-time family shows in 10 major markets between late November and Christmas. Three magazine ads will run in the same period, similar to the TV spot but featuring the Marine Tech watch. Overall, Lorus expects 250 million adult impressions.

Cable TV: More than 60% of U.S. households have cable TV, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by watch suppliers. Juvenia (already active on Telemondo and Univision, both Hispanic networks), Seiko and Bulova are among the firms that plan some cable ads this fall.

The biggest watch advertiser on cable TV this season probably is Citizen, the second biggest watchadvertiser in the U.S., according to Arbitron. Its three 15-second TV spots for the hi-tech Promaster Wingman, Windsurfer and Aqualand watches and two for its Elegance lines will run frequently on ESPN, CNN, USA, TBS, Lifetime and VH-1.

“The time is right for cable television, and Citizen plans to be part of it this fall,” says Stuart Zuckerman, vice president of merchandising. A Citizen report says cable viewers fit the demographic mold for its best customers and are “more inclined to purchase a mid-priced watch.”

Radio: TV isn’t for everyone. Ricoh, Longines-Wittnauer, Omega and Gruen are among the watch suppliers that like radio advertising.

Radio is “excellent for building brand name identification and recognition,” says Max Beschloss, advertising manager for Longines-Wittnauer. The firm dropped TV in 1988 in favor of print and radio.

Longines-Wittnauer and Omega, which began to use radio in 1989, are spending big on expanded campaigns this fall. Longines-Wittnauer will run three dealer-tagged ads on 150 stations in 50 markets, almost twice as many markets and stations as in fourth quarter 1989. Omega has five ads in 11 markets. Both firms’ ads cite historic landmarks they set in watch history.

Print: A number of vendors will place ads more frequently in more national magazines.

Juvenia, for example, has arranged a full-scale campaign in national magazines after many years of only regional campaigns. Bulova expanded the number and type of publications it uses. Armitron has designed a fourth-quarter print campaign of full-page ads for its All Sport, Looney Tunes, Deauville and Now lines in national magazines as varied as Time and Glamour.

One of the most elaborate efforts belongs to Timex. Ron Sok, advertising manager, calls it the most significant print campaign in Timex history. The firm upped its ad budget to spend half on print, concentrating on November and December.

Eight ads, each for a different Timex watch, will run three ways. Plans call for gatefolds in 10 major magazines, a several-page insert in several magazines and various combinations (such as two one-page ads in succession in an issue). Altogether, the firm plans 98 pages of advertising (about 30% more than last year) in 19 publications and 31 issues, from GQ and Vanity Fair to Rolling Stone and Time.

More print promotion: There’s a strong trend this year toward more watch ads in regional and city publications such as New York Times Magazine, Chicago, LA and Dallas, as well as in regional newspapers and magazines. Baume & Mercier, Tag-Heuer, Omega, Tissot and Cyma are among the watch vendors using more of these publications. “It’s a matter of skimming [the consumer audience with national publications] vs. in-depth penetration,” says James Klein, president of Tissot. Regional publications also are easier to dealer tag, say vendors.

Also apparent this season:

* The Wall Street Journal will get more ads aimed at upscale customers from firms such as Omega, Longines-Wittnauer and Baume & Mercier.

* In-flight magazines are becoming a popular forum. The Swiss Rado line has been showcased in these magazines with success. Now Seiko will start to run ads in magazines of domestic U.S. carriers.

* Booklets, gift guides and inserts are popular. Seiko has 8 million copies of a gift guide to its collections with space for dealer listing. The booklet is part of a Newsweek ad scheduled for late November and will be distributed to retailers for insertion in local newspapers. Pulsar will produce more than 20 million four-page color newspaper inserts. Raymond Weil will promote its new Swiss 18k and steel Parsifal line with an eight-page, stitched-in catalog in the November issues of fashion magazines such as Mirabella and Esquire. Tissot will produce up to 5 million copies of a six-page gift guide to its Classic collection for newspaper insertions and direct mail between September and December.

* Several vendors offer new product-knowledge materials for retailers. Citizen Watch’s gatefold-style booklet describes its upscale Noblia brand. Baume & Mercier distributes hardcover copies of its history  –  Hours and Years  –  to retail clients and will provide softcover copies for distribution in the store later in the year. Cyma has introduced Communique, a newsletter that previews new products, describes sales-training aids, gives tips on selling Cyma and offers cash prizes to salespeople with new sales techniques. Others offering new in-store aids include Gucci, Lorus and Seiko.

* Sector, TAG-Heuer, Bulova, Seiko and Ricoh have joined the trend toward outdoor advertising. Artime’s Sector billboards on the West Coast, for example, grandly display a large functioning Sector sports watch and offer timely reminders to passersby. One near an airport asks, “What time does your flight leave?”

* Noticeable, too, is the spreading use of dealer tagging and/or 800 numbers on ads, which readers or viewers can call to find the name of local stores that handle specific merchandise. Such devices support dealers, help consumers and give vendors some idea of reaction to the ads, says Ron Sok of Timex. Armitron, for one, expects great response to its 800-tagged ads. It received more than 1,000 calls a day in the second quarter from its Looney Tunes watch ad campaign. “Imagine the response during the busiest season of the year,” says a statement announcing its holiday campaign.

Other forums: A number of firms have scheduled promotions that tie into their consumer marketing.

A painting by pop artist Peter Max of Rado’s new DiaStar Ceramica watch is touring the U.S.

Jaz Paris will provide jazz musicians for in-store parties promoting the high-fashion French line.

TAG-Heuer, Zodiac and Breitling all will sponsor athletic events. TAG-Heuer also plans to use more mall directory-kiosk transparencies.

Tissot, designated the “official watch of the U.S. National Parks,” runs ads for its Jewels of Nature series (rock, pearl and wood watches) in official park guides.

Zodiac, which dubs itself the ultimate sports watch, contributes to the Save the Dolphin Fund for every Zodiac watch that retailers buy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *