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Articles from WATCHES (689 Articles), FASHION JEWELLERY (266 Articles)


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The trend for fashion watches looks likely to take a more subtle approach this year, but that doesn't mean 2008 timepieces will fade into the background. TALI BOROWSKI reports.

When talking about recent success stories in the fashion watch industry, it's hard to look past last year's craze for gemstones, according to Storm Australia director John Rose: "Last year, it was super-bling; it was everything from the watch strap to the watch face being covered in diamonds."

A strong sell-through of the timepieces during the Christmas period indicates the adornment of watches with precious gemstones will continue into 2008.

"I still believe that there are a lot of people out there that do want stone-set watches," says Fabrizio Manerba, sales manager, Instyle Watches. "Whether it's bracelet-encased or just on the dial, we've still got a lot of watches coming out that are stone-set."

At South Australian retailer Shiel's, stone-set watches are also still a big hit with customers, despite indications that the trend may be dying-off overseas.

"It's glitz at the moment and while it might stabilise to a few stones on the dial, I think bling will be here for a while," says Shiel's executive buyer Toby Bensimon.

But all that glitters may not be gold. Anita Jensen, Asian Pacific sales and marketing director of Skagen Design Watches, warns of a possible downturn in interest for gem watches as the shifting overseas trend catches up. With a deluge of stone-set products in the marketplace, Jensen believes timepieces will need to be innovative in their use of adornments to keep consumers interested.

"I think the glam look will continue into 2008," she says, "but the brands that can fit the glam into their watch assortment in a rather subtle, delicate way will be the ones running-off with the customers."

A move away from the all-encompassing adornment of fashion watches might indicate that subtle style will be the next trend du jour for fashion watches, perhaps breaking through in the later part of 2008.

As Manerba sees it, last year's tendency towards large-size watches for women is in slow decline, being replaced by slimmer, smaller watches not only reflecting a desire for comfort but also keeping in line with a return to elegance in global apparel trends.

"Clothing has become more classic, and manufacturers are trying to blend those fashion elements with watch styles," Manerba says. "It wasn't a watch before; it was a bracelet, a piece of jewellery that happened to tell the time. Now, we're producing smaller watches that are more feminine in style and size."

Nils Rasmussen from Jarass, the Australian distributor of Skagen and Alfex, goes one step further - attributing the onset of slimmer timepieces to an overall design fascination with simplicity.

"It's part of this whole de-cluttering of our lives," he says, "that goes through into our interior design, our clothing design, into our consumer product design and our watch design. I think the classic design is certainly something that's here to stay."

Technology surely plays a role in the simplification of watch forms, according to Bensimon who points out the use of new materials such as carbon fibre, which is growing in popularity behind stainless steel in men's watches.

"Racing cars are made from carbon fibre and I think that's really appealing to guys," he says.

Rasmussen agrees, adding that technological advancement now permits the manufacture of previously unavailable colours also: "What's being commonly used in watch manufacture now is the advancement in plating technology. It's allowing watch design to take on a whole range of otherwise unknown colours."

Indeed, 2007 saw the introduction of a range of colour combinations and technological advancements that are opening the consumer's eyes to new fashion combinations.

"People are not concerned about wearing gold jewellery and a white watch now," John Temelli, Temelli Jewellers, says. "If someone wore gold jewellery in the past, they had to wear a gold watch. Now they don't mind mixing and matching."

In an interesting adjunct to the gold market, rose gold has proved to be immensely popular, allowing consumers traditionally interested in yellow gold jewellery to step out of their comfort zone and attempt something new. And it seems the rose gold craze is not just restricted to the ladies.


"A big trend that is emerging in guy's watches at the moment is rose-coloured gold with black," Bensimon says.

Along with innovative materials, new and unusual features are also on-trend, namely wood inlay, brown steel and the use of ceramics or ceramic-coating. The onset of mixed materials and metals in watches has seen black and white step forward as leading colours.

"We're already seeing now, in the forecast for our different countries that this trend is going on in 2008," Jensen says. "It's back to basics and less is more."

Few watch suppliers seem ready to give up on large sizes just yet, despite a growing sentiment that the market is slowly shifting to smaller timepieces. Rasmussen believes that watches of appeal in 2008 will remain "large without being chunky". The recent trend of selling men's watches to women remains appealing for now, but is expected to give way to hybrid styles that offer the best of both worlds as the year continues.

Storm has interpreted this shift as a desire for a big face with a comfortable fit.

"Even though it's a large-style watch, it can still be dainty at the same time," John Rose says of the style he expects to do well in 2008.

There's some disagreement about whether this desire for practicality is because of a global fashion shift towards classicism or the opposite - a by-product of this market's conservative preferences.

"Australians are not as trendy," says Helen Matar, Australian distributor of French watch brand Freelook. She explains that what is often a big seller in France seldom succeeds on Australian soil.

Manerba agrees, adding, "The majority of Australians tend to take things on that have already happened overseas six months or a year ago; we're very much behind in trends.

Bensimon sees Australia's lagging response to the rest of the world as an advantage for retailers, stating, "We're lucky here in that we can see the trends emerging overseas and then capitalise on them. We're behind a season so we can gauge a bit more easily what's going to be hot."

Contrary to the underlying ethos propelling fashion watches, Robert Nakkan from watch distributor Atlantic Trading Company attributes Australia's watch-purchasing conservatism to a loss of functionality in modern European and American designs. In short, fashion has gone too far. Australian women are shifting towards simpler watches because they just want to tell the time.

"It's a silly thing to say, but some of the watch designs don't seem to cater for people who want to read them; they're just out to impress," Nakkan says.

While cutting-edge designs are popular in the Asian market, Nakkan argues that Australian shoppers could be misleadingly labelled conservative simply because "they like numbers on the dial and they like the numbers to be of reasonable size."

Certainly, watches continue to sell in vastly improved volumes, compared to just a few short years ago. "Instead of one watch lasting six or seven years, people are now changing their watches a lot more frequently," Temelli says, "and adopting new styles quicker."

In fact, Jensen considers Australian consumers to be quite pioneering - an attribute reflected in the speed with which they picked up on last year's rose-gold craze: "We had huge success with our rose gold collection," she says, "and Australia was one of the countries that picked up on it quite fast."

Jensen believes that Australians' tendency to travel more ultimately resulting in them being much more ground-breaking than expected people tend to give them credit for.

It's one thing to be in-sync with international styles and celebrity fashion, yet it's another to see the designs walking off the shelves. To pinpoint what's going to work across the wide spectrum of Australian consumerism is a challenging and difficult task.

"It's really hard to say that there's one market for everyone," Nakkan says. "There are city areas and regional areas and the backblocks as well. We're a big country and people in Sydney are going to be different from people in Darwin, just as people in city areas are going to be different from people living in the bush."


But as Rose explains, the very nature of being a fashion watch designer means one is looking very closely at what's happening in the fashion industry as a whole.

"I think that a fashion watch, by its own definition, needs to be ahead of anything that's happened before, otherwise it just becomes an ordinary item," he says.

So turning attention once more to the styles that should emerge this year, it seems that the sparkle of 2007 will be complimented with a dose of classic chic. Ostentatious layers of gems will begin to give way to delicate use of colour as rose gold continues to surge in popularity. On the back of this, expect two-tone to have considerable impact in the ladies market particularly, while steel will remain the steady seller for the men.

Bigger may no longer be better, but an underlying current of boldness will stop styles getting too delicate as smaller faces make their move.

Ultimately, however, no one trend will provide a magic sales solution, and so the key to maximising watch sales will be to stock a spread of styles. "You have to cater for all tastes," Temelli says, "because consumers are more alert and savvy to what they want."

Rasmussen agrees, adding, "It's about the quality; it's about the design. You can have a nicely-designed watch but if it's poor quality, it's never going to last".

And as Rose sees it, to be described as a fashion watch, a timepiece must embody forwardness in thought and an understanding of the market for which it was created: "In order to be successful in fashion watches, you need to be constantly evolving the styles. And even if you're taking inspiration from what may have been on-trend a number of years ago, you need to re-invent that style into something that's ahead of today."

It sounds like a daunting task, but just leave it to Australia's foreward-thinking watch suppliers to deliver something new and fresh for the coming season, and one is sure to see some interesting and innovative designs emerge. This, combined with the retailers' own judgement and insight with ensure watch sales run like clockwork.

The making of a trend.

How does a watch, which starts as a fad among just a few, become a country-wide sensation?

"When the public takes on a new style, they grasp it and want to take it to the highest level possible," says Storm Australia director John Rose, "then the trend becomes popular because the trendy people have taken on that style and brought it over to the masses."

However, the masses aren't necessarily keen to adopt the trend to the extreme, preferring to embrace the style in its more subtle form. And from there, what started as a fad among the minority becomes a more widely-accepted and much sought-after trend for all to enjoy.

Many also argue that along with word-of-mouth and public persistence, it's a combination of media, marketing and good old-fashioned customer service that helps make a timepiece a sought-after item.

"I think for the younger generation, they're influenced by their favourite band," Fabrizio Manerba, sales manager, Instyle Watches says. "Having that look is very important, whereas an older person will say, 'I'm not influenced by anybody. I buy what I like'."

"A lot of what people see on TV and in magazines, that's got to be a pretty big influence," John Temelli of Temelli Jewellers adds, "but it's a mixture of what they see in print and media and what they see in store available to them."

Anita Jensen, Asian Pacific sales and marketing director of Skagen Design Watches, credits fashion magazines with helping to pioneer rose gold to a global audience, arguing it "wouldn't be as popular today if it hadn't been for the fashion magazines repeatedly having features on it".

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Thursday, 17 October, 2019 09:20am
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