Yurman’s Swiss Timing

Watches are a red-hot category these days and David Yurman is seizing the moment to build up its timepiece business.

The namesake New York jewelry and watch firm today plans to cut the ribbon on the 2,100-square-foot headquarters of its new subsidiary in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, which will facilitate the development, production and distribution of David Yurman timepieces.

“When we first started watches in 1999, we initially wanted the watches to mix in with our cable jewelry collection,” designer David Yurman said in an interview with WWD. “Now, we have really evolved this part of our business and we are making a real commitment to it.”

Yurman’s watch business now racks up about $20 million in retail sales, while the company’s overall business has sales of about $450 million at retail.

The opening of the new firm, called David Yurman SA, comes at the start of the Basel World Watch & Jewellery Show, the watch industry’s largest and most important trade fair, which begins in Basel, Switzerland this Thursday. The creation of the new firm marks the first time Yurman has established a separate company outside the U.S.

David Yurman SA is headed by watch executive Jean-Marie Constantin, who had represented Yurman along with other brands. Now, Constantin is working exclusively for Yurman.

“He lives there and will work with suppliers,” Yurman said. “We believe we will be able to get a much better quality product and have better deliveries.”

At the same time, Yurman also is building its watch team in the U.S. The company has hired Michael Miarecki, the former marketing director at Michele Watches, to oversee sales and marketing forwatches, a new position in the company. The David Yurman watch line is now sold in about 250 doors, however, Yurman said the company plans to scale back its distribution to about 175 doors.

“These are not mass-market watches,” Yurman noted. “We want to take it more exclusive.”

Yurman said he doesn’t think scaling back will affect watch sales, since the company plans to build up its business in each location, and also will be doing more advertising and marketing for its timepieces to grow sales.

Prices for the company’s watches start at about $1,450 and go up to about $24,000 for styles in gold, with the bulk falling in the range of $3,000 to $5,000. Most of the watches are automatic, although some quartz styles are available. New styles being introduced in Basel include a titanium and steel chronograph and a new women’s collection called Madison, which includes an attachable case that can be paired with a cable chain or leather strap.

Yurman jewelry is now sold in about 450 doors, including Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

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