Gc Watches Joins London’s Westfield Mall

Gc Watches has chosen London’s newly minted Westfield mall as the location for its first European store.

In February, the watch house, which is operated by the Swiss company Sequel AG, a division of Timex, unveiled a 340-square-foot boutique in the sprawling mall. The store is on the edge of the center’s upscale Village area and nearby stores such as Tag Heuer, Tiffany, Dior and Louis Vuitton.

“I think Westfield is the only shopping center in Europe like this, especially in the middle of the city,” said Virginie Riot-Billet, vice president of Gc Watches, which is a registered trademark of Guess Inc. “There’s the best of the high street, plus premium fashion and lifestyle. It’s the perfect fit for the Gc brand.”

Sequel holds the license for Guess and Gc watches.

The store carries Gc’s entire collection of Swiss-made watches, which range in price from 270 euros, or $364 at current exchange, for a stainless steel watch from Gc’s Diver’s Chic collection to 3,000 euros, or $4,050, for a Gc-1 Automatic 7750 watch that incorporates a Valjoux Swiss movement. The store also carries the Gc jewelry collection that includes pieces made from sterling silver, mother-of-pearl and diamonds, and retails for up to 600 euros, or $809.

Riot-Billet expects the boutique to achieve sales of 1 million pounds, or about $1.4 million, in its first year.

Gc now has seven boutiques worldwide, with stores in India, Malaysia, South Korea and Panama, alongside the new London unit. Riot-Billet said the Gc brand had been “growing,” in the U.K. over the past two years through wholesale distribution and now the company is looking at opening more British units.

“We’re looking at different locations right now,” said Riot-Billet. “Our wish list for the U.K. [are the cities] Manchester, Birmingham and probably Dublin and Glasgow.”

The company plans to open 25 more boutiques worldwide this year in places such as Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Paris, Geneva and Barcelona.

We want to offer an environment to present the full [Gc] range,” said Riot-Billet.

The brand is distributed in the U.S. through Macy’s, Torneau and Guess stores, and Riot-Billet said the company is discussing opening stand-alone stores in America. Riot-Billet added she believes Gc’s positioning as an “accessible luxury” brand has insulated it somewhat from the economic downturn.

“I think, yes, the situation is a concern, but at the same time…we are not too worried, we are in a strong position right now,” said Riot-Billet. “I think this year can be really strong, thanks to our position.”

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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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