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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Some of the Best Luxury Watches from SIHH

Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Rising Hours

The recently concluded Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) tradeshow in Geneva, featured only 16 luxury brands but their output of quality timepieces provided a showcase for innovation, craftsmanship and design that remain the hallmarks of the Swiss watch industry. Below are a few examples of some of the timepieces that were on display.

Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Calibre MB R220

Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Rising Hours
The hour display of this watch (top and above photos) is made possible by Montblanc’s new Calibre MB R220, which has a patented mechanism consisting of two rotating discs positioned one atop the other, to show not only the individual 12 hours, but to also indicate whether its day or night. The Arabic numerals 1 to 12 are on the upper disc, which is situated above the bicolor day/night disc. The 12-hour disc rotates continually, while the day/night disc turns in intervals and at variable speeds to produce the desired color change (blue for the night, black for the day) in the cut-out numerals. This motion is controlled with the aid of a Maltese cross-shaped mechanism consisting of two cam-like wheels. In addition to this double-disc mechanism, four other disc displays rotate. The day of the week is shown in a window at the 9 o’clock and the date appears in an aperture at the 3 o’clock. This is the latest version of the collection named after the inventor of the chronograph.  


A. Lange & Söhne Grand Complication
The German watch brand has developed a timepiece with a host of complications that include chiming mechanism with grand and small strikes; minute repeater; a monopusher type split-seconds chronograph, with minute counter and rattrapante function and jumping seconds accurate to a fifth of a second; perpetual calendar with date, day of week, month in four-year cycle; and moon phases. The movement is a Lange manufacture Calibre L1902, manually wound. The white enamel dial reveals a railway-track minute scale and the four characteristic, symmetrically arranged subsidiary dials. This exclusive collectors' item is housed in a 50mm pink gold case comes. It is available in a limited edition of six watches.


Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Grand Complication
The mechanical heart of this 44mm timepiece is its three advanced functions, forming what is considered in the industry as the basis of a Grande Complication movement. Its traditional selfwinding movement combines minute repeater, split-second chronograph and perpetual calendar functions. It’s also equipped with a minute repeater mechanism, enabling it to sound the hours, quarters and minutes on demand. And it houses a perpetual calendar complication that also displays lunar cycles. It affords the possibility of performing timing operations and reading off intermediate or “split” times due to the split-second complication, which is an Audemars Piguet signature in its Grande Complication models. The selfwinding Calibre 2885 has 648 parts. It is available in a titanium case (pictured) or an 18K pink gold case. Both models are limited to three pieces each.


Richard Mille RM58-01 Tourbillon World Timer
The 12-year-old watch brand is an infant when it comes to the venerable world of the Swiss watch industry, but it has grown up at lightning speed with technical innovations and partnerships with athletes in sports ranging from track and field to soccer to auto racing. This manually winding movement has hours, minutes and a 10-day power reserve shown on an indicator at 2 o’clock. The caliber RM58-01, 34mm in diameter, is supported on a baseplate of grade 5 titanium, a material also utilized for the bridges. The tourbillon, positioned at 9 o’clock and oscillating at a frequency of 3Hz, is accommodated in a four-part case made from titanium and red gold. The shot-blasted, satin-brushed and polished rotating bezel bears the names of 24 world cities, symbols of the international 24 time zones on its brown upper flange. The RM 58-01 does not need any adjusting push-piece to change from one time zone to another. The time is set by rotating the bezel anticlockwise, making adjustment a quick operation. All the traveler needs to do is position the name of the city where he or she has just landed at 12 o’clock, which automatically sets local time and the time in the other 23 world cities due to the 24-hour scale engraved on the flange. The black and white disc distinguishes day from night for the user automatically, so there is no possibility of confusion. The timepiece, produced as a limited edition of 35 timepieces, was made in partnership with Jean Todt, a French motor sport executive, who wanted a watch to travel the world with. Profits from the sale of this watch will be transferred to two key initiatives close to Todt’s charities: the Global Campaign for Road Safety and the ICM Brain and Spine Institute, which he co-founded.


Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor
This deep grey watch is made of silicon, chosen for its low weight and its incomparable hardness. It is half the weight of titanium, which is half the weight of steel, yet it is four times harder. Silicon has a similar atomic structure to diamond and working with it requires just as much skilled expertise. The brand also boasts a technological advancement in which four carefully positioned sprung balances work in pairs to compensate immediately for the rate variations caused by the changes in position of the watch when worn. “What the tourbillon achieves during the course of a minute, the Excalibur Quatuor achieves instantly,” the brand says. A classic watch operating at a frequency of 4 Hz is considered to be highly precise. But the Excalibur Quatuor operates at a frequency of 16 Hz. As each balance oscillates four times per second, the frequency of the watch is multiplied by four as the balances do not oscillate simultaneously. The ticking of a classic watch is replaced by what which the brand describes as “the gentler sound of truly high precision.” The timepiece is limited to a production of three pieces. There is a pink gold version of the watch that has a run of 88 pieces.


Cartier Montre Rotonde Double Mystery Tourbillon
Cartier unveiled its new movement at SIHH: the 9454 MC Double Mystery Tourbillon, certified by the Geneva Seal. The flying tourbillon, which turns once on its own axis every 60 seconds, appears to be floating completely free in space, with no visible connection to any gear train. The illusion is complete when the same tourbillon cage performs a second rotation at a rate of one turn every five minutes. The slate-colored dial is made of galvanised, guilloché, silvered open-work grill. The watch hands are sword-shaped in blued steel. It’s all contained in a 45mm platinum case with the crown set with a sapphire cabochon.


Baume & Mercier Clifton Complete Calendar – Moon Phase, Blue Dial
This is one of a series of Clifton watches released by the Swiss watch brand at SIHH This version of the line, the 43 mm Clifton Complete Calendar, has a blue, sun satin-finished dial. The case back has been opened up to allow lovers of fine mechanics to observe the components of its automatic movement (Dubois Dépraz 9000). Its calendar display is mounted upon an alligator strap, which is closed by a triple folding clasp with security push-pieces.


Parmigiani Tonda Woodstock
In order to project a colorful and musical dynamism, the Swiss watch brand turned for the first time to the refined and delicate art of marquetry. This ancient process consists of cutting out and assembling veneers—wooden veneers in this case—on a flat surface in order to create a decoration for the timepiece. The Tonda Woodstock’s special dial is designed with a Gibson guitar motif with an American flag in wood marquetry.


Piaget Emperador Coussin Ultra-Thin Minute Repeater
Thin is in at Piaget and Emperador Coussin unveiled at SIHH shows it continues to set standards in its development of ultra-thin complications housed in ultra-thin cases. This 48mm 18k pink gold watch boasts the Piaget 1290P, which the brand says is world’s thinnest mechanical self-winding minute repeater movement (4.8 mm). The case itself is also considered the world’s thinnest at 9.4 mm. Details of the movement finishes include sunburst guilloché bridges, bridges hand-beveled and hand-drawn with a file, blackened and polished screws.

Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes Web site.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sotheby’s Hits a Record-Setting $460.5 Million for 2012 Jewelry Sales

Beau Sancy diamond, one of the most important royal diamonds ever to come to auction, was one the Sotheby's biggest sales for 2012, fetching $9.7 million.

Sotheby’s marked its highest-ever total for a year of jewelry sales in 2012, achieving $460.5 million. Statement diamonds and private jewelry collections fetched the strongest results for the year. Auction locations throughout the world posted strong results.

Among the 2012 highlights:

* Sotheby’s Geneva set a new world auction record for any various-owner jewelry sale in May at $108.4 million.

* Across its worldwide salesrooms, Sotheby’s jewelry auctions sold an average of 84 percent by lot.

* 72 lots sold for more than $1 million, with six of those lots selling above $5 million.

* Sotheby’s saw its highest-ever total for a day of jewelry sales in the Americas, when its December auctions in New York reached $64.8 million

* Sotheby’s annual total of $114.5 million in Hong Kong marked the company’s second-biggest year of jewelry and jadeite sales in Asia.

* Prominent private collections fueled strong sale results, including jewels owned by Brooke Astor, Estée Lauder, Evelyn H. Lauder, Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, Suzanne Belperron and Michael Wellby.

* Two rare “white glove” auctions—“Jewels from the Personal Collection of Suzanne Belperron” in Geneva in May, and “The Jewellery Collection of the Late Michael Wellby” in London in December—sold 100 percent by lot.

Among the individual sale highlights:


* A 10.48-carat fancy deep blue diamond (pictured left) sold for more than $10.8 million—establishing a new world record price per carat for any deep blue diamond at auction ($1.03 million per carat) and a world record price for any briolette diamond at auction. The diamond was purchased by Laurence Graff.

The Beau Sancy, the property of the royal house of Prussia, sold for $9.7 million. The 34.98 carat modified pear double rose cut diamond—with its 400 years of royal history—was one of the most important royal diamonds ever to come to auction. 


* A fancy intense 6.54-carat flawless pink diamond and diamond ring by Oscar Heyman & Brothers from the Collection of Evelyn H. Lauder (left), sold for $8.6 million to benefit The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. It was the top lot in a December sale from the collections of Estée Lauder and Evelyn H. Lauder that benefitted the foundation founded by Evelyn Lauder. The collections together sold for more than $22. 2 million, well above its overall high estimate of $18 million.


* An 8.01-carat square emerald-cut fancy vivid blue diamond (left) set on a diamond ring sold for $12.7 million—the second-highest price per carat for any fancy vivid blue diamond at auction.

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Fabergé and Gemfields Finalize Merger

Gemfields has already started promoting its emeralds through an advertising campaign.

The iconic luxury brand, Fabergé, has completed its merger with colored gemstone miner and distributor, Gemfields. The merger, first announced in November, creates what has been planned all along for Gemfields since its founding fewer than 10 years ago: a way to produce a mine-to-market template for its colored gemstones.

Gemfields owns a majority stake of the Kagem mine in Zambia, which produces emeralds and amethysts, a mine in Mozambique for rubies, and prospecting licenses for other gemstones in Madagascar. Emeralds from Kagem are by far the company’s biggest product.

The plan is that Gemfields will provide an ethical and traceable source of providing its gemstones to consumers, thus fueling demand for its product. To help create this demand, Gemfields already begun an advertising and marketing campaign for its Kagem emeralds.

The merger was managed by private equity mining giant, Pallinghurst, which owned indirect equity interests of 33 percent in Gemfields and 49 percent in Fabergé and also held certain loan interests in Fabergé. After the transaction, Pallinghurst now owns 48 percent of the enlarged Gemfields. The deal reportedly values Fabergé at $142 million and was funded with 214 million shares in Gemfields.

Arne H. Frandsen, Pallinghurst chief executive, previously said that the merged company is the “next step in realizing our vision and strategy for our gemstones and luxury platform…. Once consummated, we will be well on the way to creating the colored gemstone equivalent of what De Beers has created for diamonds.”

“This transaction creates the world’s number one colored gemstone company, operating at both critical ends of the value chain,” Brian Gilbertson, Pallinghurst chairman, said Wednesday. “Gemfields can now take its vision for colored gemstones to the next level and Fabergé becomes the obvious consumer choice for high‐end, ethically supplied colored gemstone jewelry.”

Gemfields previously articulated a number of benefits of the transaction. They include:

* Positioning U.K.-based Gemfields with Fabergé’s heritage operating in the two most profitable segments within the gemstone supply chain;

* Advancing Gemfields’ “Mine and Market” strategy;

* Positioning Fabergé as the colored gemstone retailer of choice within the hard luxury retail sector, a sector with an estimated turnover of $54 billion in 2011 according to the Bain Luxury Market Study;

* Creating marketing, communication, management and supply synergies to deliver operational efficiencies; and

* Creating a platform to further increase Gemfields’ market share within the colored gemstone sector, while gaining exposure to luxury sector multiples and greater influence over product positioning and consumer awareness.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Inside the World's Most Exclusive Watch Show

Montblanc, which added Swiss watches to its diverse luxury portfolio in 1997, used its showroom to display many of the contemporary art pieces that are on permanent display at its headquarters in Hamburg. All of the work includes an interpretation of the iconic Momntblanc star. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

GENEVA — The big news last week in this small country with a mighty economy and far-reaching global influence was the annual World Economic Forum held in Davos. Although overshadowed, another important annual event was being held: the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), arguably the most exclusive watch show in the world. 

By far the youngest and arguably the most innovative of watch brands today, Richard Mille displayed some of this innovation not only in the materials and concepts of its watches, but in its 3D presentation to the press during SIHH. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

The most recent installment of SIHH ended with the 16 watch brands, among the most prestigious in the world, introducing their latest timepieces, often the result of years of intensive research. It’s an invitation only event held each year at the Palexpo exhibition center. This year I was among the more than 13,000 invited guests (which included international retailers, journalists and brand representatives) to attend. 

Roger Dubuis introduced its Excalibur line of watches with a Bird of Prey as the centerpiece of its showroom. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Twelve of the watch brands exhibiting are owned by Richemont, the Geneva-based luxury holdings company, which is why the event (held Jan. 21 – 25) is often referred to as the Richemont show. 

Decked out for racing the IWC Schaffhausen showroom was one of the most popular during SIHH. the display was used to introduce its Ingenieur Chronograph Racer and Ingenieur Silberpfeil, the second watch dedicated to the famous Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow racing car. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

There’s been talk about a slowdown in the luxury business, (particularly watches). The growth is slower than the astronomical rise in sales of the past few years, led by China. In fact, one could say that the growth in sales is now at a more normal pace. Richemont numbers point to this as the company reported that third quarter sales increased 5 percent, year-over-year, to 2.86 billion Swiss francs. Its “Specialist Watchmakers” group saw even more growth at 9 percent to 784 million Swiss francs. In addition, annual Swiss watch sales, which are expected soon, are expected to surpass 20 billion Swiss francs for the time ever. 

Butterflies were used tomillustrate the delicate intricacies of Van Cleef & Arpels' new watch and jewelry lines. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

There was some caution among the brand officials when talking sales, but overall, life remains good in the Swiss watch industry. 

The main gathering area at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

A giant replica of its new Grand Complication timepiece was the major design element of the A. Lange & Söhne showroom. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

A look inside Baume & Mercier's summer-in-the Hamptons themed showroom. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Report: 7% Increase in Interest for Haute Horlogerie, Led by BRIC and Asian Markets

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak,
such as this 'City of Sails' piece,
is the most sought-after
haute horlogerie
watch model in the world.
Is there a slowdown in the luxury watch market? Maybe. But global interest in luxury timepieces (haute horlogerie) not only remains strong but actually increased by 7 percent in 2012, according to the preliminary results of a global report.

Luxury industry market intelligence firm, Digital Luxury Group, recently released the results of the haute horlogerie category (18 brands) of the WorldWatchReport, based on an analysis of watch-related search queries typed into major global search engines. Among the findings:

1. Compared to the previous year, the highest-end category of luxury watches, haute horlogerie, experienced a 7% increase in brand interest. “This marks the third year in a row that the online interest of this highest-end segment of luxury watches has increased, showing the continued strength of haute horlogerie within the overall market,” said Florent Bondoux, DLG head of Strategy & Intelligence.

2. Of the 20 markets analyzed in the study, nearly half (47%) of global interest for haute horlogerie stems from Brazil, Russia, India, China, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Mainland China on its own compromises 31 percent of the global demand or twice as much as the U.S. market.

3. There’s a downward trend in mature luxury watch markets with the U.S. down by 10.6 percent and Japan down by 11.7 percent in its share of global demand. While relative share of demand has progressively shrank in the past three years in most established markets, for the first time since the report’s launch in 2004, there was an absolute decline in domestic demand in the U.S. and Japan.

4. Patek Philippe remains by far the leading haute horlogerie watch brand with 23.6 percent of brand interest share. Jaeger-LeCoultre takes the second spot with 12.7 percent, closely followed by Vacheron Constantin at 12.6 percent, Audemars Piguet at 9.2 percent and Breguet at 7.7 percent.

5. Along with Richard Mille, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe also record the highest growth rates in brand interest year-over-year, with 26 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively. Founded in 2001, the Richard Mille brand is the fastest growing haute horlogerie brand (61% over last year), followed by Vacheron Constantin (26%), and Patek Philippe (10.2%).

6. Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, reinforcing its leading position of last year, continues its reign as the most sought-after haute horlogerie watch model, increasing its online interest by 5 percent over the last year, likely an effect of the increased communications surrounding the icon’s 40th anniversary. Though the Royal Oak leads globally, local preferences arise for other models in markets such as Japan (Girard-Perregaux’s 1945), China (Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas), and Russia (Blancpain’s Leman).

Haute horlogerie brands tracked in this preview report were: A. Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piguet, Blancpain, Bovet, Breguet, De Bethune, Frank Muller, Girard-Perregaux, Glashütte Original, Greubel Forsey, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Jaquet Droz, Parmigiani, Patek Philippe, Richard Mille, Roger Dubuis, Ulysse Nardin and Vacheron Constantin.

The full edition of the WorldWatchReport, which this year will cover more than 60 watch brands in 20 markets worldwide, will be available in April.


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Alexandra Mor Receives Fashion Group International Rising Star Award

Alexandra Mor
Fine jewelry designer, Alexandra Mor, received the Fashion Group International Rising Star Award in the fine jewelry category. The award was presented by Marion Fasel, InStyle editor and one of the nation’s top fine jewelry experts, who announced Mor’s win with these words, “To the designer of the emerald earrings of my dreams.”

“We believe the award will reflect positively on Alexandra’s talent and will help her as her business expands. Her creativity and craftsmanship are exemplary, and the beauty of her product certainly reflects all that Rising Star represents,” added Margaret Hayes, FGI president.

FGI presented the 16th Annual Rising Star Awards on Jan. 24 during a luncheon at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York. The awards recognize emerging talents in the fashion and design industries in the following categories: Accessories, Beauty/Fragrance Entrepreneur, Beauty/Fragrance Corporate, Home/Interior Design, Fine Jewelry; Men’s Apparel, Retail and Women’s Ready-to-Wear.

“There's nothing more reassuring to an artist than being recognized for what you do,” Mor said. “I happen to love what I do. And I will continue to work hard and follow my dreams.”

Alexandra Mor Sugarloaf emerald and diamond ring.

Those who regularly read the Jewelry News Network are certainly aware of Mor and her skill as a fine jewelry designer. Her work reflects a style that originates from her family of French-Israeli fashion couturiers. Her limited-edition, one-of-a-kind and signature jewelry collections combine old-world craftsmanship with contemporary styles. Designed and hand-crafted in her New York studio, she has established herself as a private jeweler and artist with a commitment to timelessness and perfection.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Sotheby’s 2012 Watch and Clock Auction Sales Increased 43%

Patek Philippe tonneau minute repeating wristwatch engraved with the Graves family coat-of-arms.

Sotheby’s global watch and clock auctions in 2012 saw a year-over-year growth rate of 43 percent to total $85 million in sales, the highest-ever annual total for this category at the international auction house. 

The Hong Kong sales brought in $28.3 million, well above pre-sale total estimate of $20.6 million and a 20 percent, year-over-year increase. Europe sales in Geneva and London totaled $30.3 million, while New York achieved $26.48 million—an 83 percent increase from 2011.

“With the reconstruction of the department we have seen tremendous and unprecedented growth in the company’s watch and clock auction and private sale business, with record-breaking results in Hong Kong, New York and London, and clients participating from nearly 70 countries around the world,” said Tim Bourne, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Watches.

In the U.S., the New York June auctions of watches from the Collection of The Late Reginald H. Fullerton, Jr. and His Grandfather Henry Graves, Jr., offered in a dedicated sale, was 100 percent sold by lot and achieved $8.3 million, almost tripling its estimate, Sotheby’s said. The auction was led by The Henry Graves, Jr. Yellow Gold Minute Repeating Wristwatch by Patek Philippe (pictured) that sold for nearly $3 million, soaring above its $800,000 high estimate to achieve the highest-ever price for a wristwatch at Sotheby’s.

In December, Sotheby’s set a new auction record for any clock and the second-highest price for any timepiece at auction when the Duc d’Orléans Breguet Sympathique sold for $6.8 million. In addition, a Patek Philippe Ref. 2512/1 wristwatch sold for $962,000, more than nine times its pre-sale low estimate.

In Hong Kong, the April auction saw world records achieved for a Patek Philippe Dufour wristwatch ($617,949), as well as Patek Philippe Ref. 5079 ($510,256). In October, a Patek Philippe Ref. 5104 wristwatch sold for $633,333, while a Patek Philippe Ref. 5002P Sky Moon Tourbillon fetched $1.35 million.

Sotheby’s watch sales in Europe were highlighted by the landmark London auction of The George Daniels Horological Collection in November which achieved a total of $13.2 million with a remarkable 98.5 percent of the 137 lots belonging to the great British horologist sold. All of the nine watches made by George Daniels saw strong demand, selling above their high estimates. The top lot of the sale was George Daniels’ Space Traveller’s Watch, which fetched more than $2.1 million—establishing not only a new record for Daniels at auction, but also a record For an English watch and for an independent watchmaker at auction.

Sotheby’s Geneva spring and autumn auctions were led by rare models of vintage and modern wristwatches, including a most probably unique example of Patek Philippe Ref. 2524/1 retailed by Tiffany & Co, which doubled pre-sale expectations by selling for $571,328 in November. A further highlight was the sale in May of a 1825 carriage clock by the celebrated watch and clockmaker, Breguet, which was bought for $452,202 by the Breguet Museum, Paris.


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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Breguet Tourbillon Exhibit Opens in Geneva and will Tour the World

A modern-day Breguet tourbillon timepiece

Swiss luxury watch brand, Breguet, is celebrating the invention of the tourbillion through an exhibition titled, “Breguet, the innovator. Inventor of the Tourbillon,” at the Cité du Temps exhibition space in Geneva.

The exhibition will run till February 24 and then will tour cities in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the United States.

On June 26, 1801 (or rather on 7 Messidor Year 9, since the Republic calendar was still in force at the time), the French Minister of the Interior awarded Abraham-Louis Breguet, the founder of Breguet, a patent for the invention of the tourbillon. This new type of regulator was developed in response to a longstanding problem: the detrimental effects of gravity on the regularity of a movement by generating variations in rate. Breguet understood that in order to reduce such errors, he would need to install the entire escapement within a mobile carriage that would perform a complete rotation, generally in one, four or six minutes. The regular repetition of the variations would allow them to compensate for each other.

This invention turned out to be difficult for Breguet to produce and implement. One reason is because the tourbillon must not weigh more than one gram, and yet be robust enough to avoid inducing rating errors rather than eliminating them. This inherent difficulty was compounded by the delicate work of finishing more than70 tiny parts that must fit and mesh together with absolute precision. Making a tourbillon was not within reach of all watchmakers, and only the finest proved capable of producing one after the 10-year patent had expired.

La Cité du Temps

La Cité du Temps, owned by the Swatch Group, is a public exhibition center focusing on the world of time. It hosts a variety of exhibitions and activities. It’s the only place in the world where you can find a permanent exhibition of Swatch watches.

The Swatch Group, the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of finished watches, acquired Montres Breguet in 1999.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Samuels Jewelers Holiday Comps Up 8.4%


Samuels Jewelers retail chain said same store jewelry sales for the nine-week holiday season were up 8.4 percent, driven by an 11.2 percent increase in December. The season kicked off with a record breaking Black Friday. 

The Austin, Texas-based jewelry retailer operates approximately 104 stores in 22 states primarily in the Southwestern U.S. It is owned by Gitanjali Group, the Mumbai, India-based international diamond and jewelry manufacturer and jewelry retailer. 

“Samuels' strong holiday season sales demonstrate that it has struck the right chord with USA customers yet again,” said Mehul Choksi, Gitanjali Group chairman and managing director. “Customers seeking added value were enchanted by the fresh bouquet of Italian jewelry brands like Giantti and Porrati introduced in stores. The new 97-facet ‘Brilliant Fire’ diamond also found popularity with customers.” 

He added, “With the US market showing signs of stabilizing, we are confident of this trend continuing through the upcoming Valentine season.” 

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NRF: Holiday Retail Sales Up 3% to $579.8 Billion


Total holiday retail sales increased 3 percent to $579.8 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Meanwhile, online sales for the holiday season increased 11.1 percent. Both results were below forecasts.

NRF, the retail trade association projected growth to be 4.1 percent for the two-month holiday period. Shop.org, the multi-channel retail trade association, forecasted a 12 percent growth in online sales for the months of November and December.

Solid consumer spending in the month of December helped retailers finish the year with a healthy holiday shopping season, NRF said. However economic uncertainties sent a cautious consumer to the stores. December retail sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from November and increased 2.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“For over six months, we’ve been saying that the fiscal cliff and economic uncertainty could impact holiday sales. As the number shows, these issues had a visible impact on consumer spending this holiday season,” said Matthew Shay, NRF President and CEO.

December retail sales, released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, showed that retail and food services sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants) increased 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 4.7 percent adjusted year-over-year.

Other findings from the NRF’s December retail sales report include:

• Clothing and clothing accessories stores' sales increased 1 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 2.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

• Electronics and appliance stores’ sales decreased 0.6 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 0.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

• Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales increased 1.4 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 3.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

• General merchandise stores’ sales were unchanged seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 3.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

• Health and personal care stores’ sales increased 1.4 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 0.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

• Nonstore retailers’ sales increased 0.5 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 9.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

• Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 0.6 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

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D.E.F. Presents Its GOOD Awards

Members of the DEF board pose with five students who graduated from two of three DEF-beneficiary schools (the Botwsana Top Achievers Program or African Leadership Academy) and who now are enrolled in various universities in the United States.

The Diamond Empowerment Fund, a non-profit organization that raises money to fund education initiatives in African diamond-producing nations, presented its GOOD Awards to Tiffany & Co. and Leo Schachter Diamonds, and international model and humanitarian, Noella Coursaris Musunka, during a recent event at LAVO nightclub.

 Five students who directly benefited from scholarships funded by DEF at two of its three beneficiary schools in Africa were presented with checks at the event.

Russell Simmons, entertainer/entrepreneur and DEF co-founder, emphasized the importance of the diamond industry to give back and empower the communities where their precious resources are found. “A strong Africa is an educated Africa. For the diamond industry to be sustainable in the future, empowerment of youth through education is essential.”  

Celebrities at the event included Estelle, Jeffrey Wright, and Selita Ebanks. Jewelry global industry leaders in attendance included Varda Shine and Stephen Lussier of De Beers, Mike Kowalski of Tiffany & Co., Mark Light and Mike Barnes of Signet Jewelers, and African ambassadors from the diamond producing countries of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. 

The event began with an African ceremonial dance by native Batswana dancers. After the Awards presentation, Grammy Award-winning artist, Estelle, performed. 

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Luxury Consultant With Mass Appeal And Exclusive Clientele

Lorre White

Lorre White lives and works in a special place in the world of luxury that she created for herself. To most people she is the “The Luxury Guru,” an international media personality who shares her expertise on the luxury lifestyle and luxury marketing.

However, White also works as a marketing consultant for companies who target Ultra High Net Worth consumers—the 2 percent of the population that controls half of the world’s wealth. Through her company, White Light Consulting, she provides a range of services that include branding, strategic planning and executive training.

It’s a combination that has worked for White for a number of years. As attitudes about luxury become more democratic and social media brings people closer to the brands, her formula for reaching UHNW individuals, luxury marketers and aspirational luxury consumers becomes even more powerful.

“My unique niche is reaching the world’s wealthiest demographic,” she says of her work as a luxury marketing consultant. “My clients are luxury brands that have products and services to sell that require a certain level of wealth to purchase them. Things like a $60 million yacht, or a $120 million private jet. In my consulting work it is not the buyer that I am working with; it is the companies that need to know how to reach and maintain this small and difficult demographic.”

This is also a changing demographic. White says that 92 percent of the world’s wealthiest individuals are self-made and 80 percent of them have had their substantial wealth only 10 years or less. “This means that the ones controlling most of the wealth globally are not brand aware,” she says.

This new reality requires a change in how companies market to these new wealthy consumers.

“Luxury brands that used to just be able to ride on their reputation must now aggressively educate these individuals about their brand,” she says. “These individual did not grow up with the old luxury brands.”

For companies that have an exceptional and valuable product or service, it’s a demographic that is worth pursuing.

“The combined Net Worth of the UHNW could pay off the United States deficit ($14 trillion) and still have Net Worth higher than the GDP of the U.S. and China combined and this amount is controlled by less than 200,000 people,” she said.

White’s interest in luxury marketing began more than 20 years ago at Simmons College in Boston when, on her own, she began studying the specific motivations of the wealthy. At the time it was an unknown field of study. She continued to pursue this market by first forming an events marketing and planning agency for wealthy clients that included the NFL and American Express.

White soon found even more success in the private aviation business, first with SeaGate Travel, helping it to become the 10th largest travel company in the U.S. with a private charter division. She followed this by becoming head of global marketing for private aviation partnership, NetJets/Marquis Jets BBJ program, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. This is a short list of her experience and accomplishments.

As “The Luxury Guru,” she spreads the world of luxury to a much broader audience through broadcast media, online videos, a number of social media platforms, magazine columns and articles in publications throughout the world, and on her blog (www.LuxGuru.Typepad.com). Primarily through social media her popularity has grown organically from the U.S. to Europe to the U.A.E.

The way luxury is viewed has changed greatly over the past few years and White, in her dual roles, is able to benefit. The snobbish appeal has largely disappeared and White says that’s a good thing. “Snobbery by definition is not being luxurious.” In addition, digital media has redefined how consumers and luxury brands communicate with one another. 


White knows that most low price point luxuries like fashion, perfumes, skin care, cosmetics and candles rely on 80 percent of their sales from aspirational consumers. So
when presenting to general audiences, she often talks about these more affordable items.

“My information to the consumer is free. If people cannot afford a yacht, they can still watch a video or read an article I wrote on it,” she says. “It does not hurt anyone to share in the education, the advertisers and sponsors of low price-point luxuries like fashion…. I supply positive educational entertainment.”

For luxury professionals, she provides free research and tips for companies on attracting and marketing to luxury consumers.

“The articles I write and share for free help many small companies that cannot afford to hire an expert,” she says. “I get letters of gratitude all the time from small companies that say they turned their businesses around by following my advice and articles. I think it is great that I have been able to help so many.”

Finally, for those who have made it and are inexperienced at enjoying their wealth to the fullest, White's blog and other online activities provide a safe, secure source of inside information about luxury. Her followers are predominantly UHNW (private jet owning) individuals that sign up to get information from her blog daily. They include royals, billionaires and other very noteworthy names. White says there are very few media sources that have this reach. "This is why companies like Rolls-Royce had me do the very first personal (not about cars) interview with their global CEO. Because they want to reach my audience. This is something very rare."

She added, “I offer ego friendly ways to learn about the best luxury brands from private jets, to yachts, to watches, to fashion designers, to wines. Most UHNWs grew up in poor or middle class homes and are more likely to know mass brands like Nike than luxury brands like Brioni. This is a group of people that do not have to pick and choose what luxury they can partake in. They can do it all and they are thirsty for trustworthy information. Trust plays a very key role. This group does not respond to traditional advertising. The power of the personality (my brand) brings trust. There is accountability as to who is saying it.”

However, there is another reason she is so ubiquitous.

“I am a marketer. To ask me to not market is like asking me not to breath.”


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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Angelina Jolie’s Jewelry Design Partner Talks About Precious Gems and New Book

Robert Procop

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. —Robert Procop has become known to most people as the jewelry design partner of Angelina Jolie. The two are creating high jewelry pieces using statement gemstones under the Style of Jolie brand. It’s a charitable undertaking where all proceeds from the sales are used to build schools for girls in impoverished countries through the Education Partnerships for Children of Conflicts, co-founded by Jolie.

However, Procop’s involvement in the upper tiers of the jewelry and gemstone industry runs a course that has immense depth and breadth. He currently owns and operates, Robert Procop Exceptional Jewels, where he sells his own jewelry creations, and buys and sells statement gemstones in a confidential and secure environment to well-heeled buyers. Before this venture, he was the CEO of the famed jewelry house, Asprey & Garrard, where he led the organization through a difficult period by returning it into the two separate entities they originally were. He then led Garrard for a while. The remarkable thing about this is he had no prior experience running a luxury jewelry house. He has also owned retail stores on Rodeo Drive.


Robert Procop 63.27-ct. cushion blue sapphire ring

But his true skill is being one of the best and most knowledgeable diamond and gemstone dealers in the world. It is something he has done successfully since he was a teenager and is the foundation of his long and varied career as a business leader, retailer, wholesaler and jewelry designer. His contacts range from the workers in remote mines in countries like Colombia and Sri Lanka, to the leaders of haute joaillerie houses in Paris and London. His ultimate skill is buying superb, statement gemstones at less than what it costs to mine them. It’s the result of his network that he is able to discover sources of great “material,” buy it when the price is right and then resell the items as an investment.

“I only buy for value,” he said in the Beverly Hills showroom and studio. “I never buy something where I’m going to make a design. I buy it if I could make an offer competitively and it can be sold in the trade.”

This means he doesn’t get involved with auctions or other competitive bidding situations. He also tends to avoid white diamonds, turning instead toward rarer and more valuable fancy colored diamonds.


Robert Procop Exceptional Jewels Long Emerald Earrings

He says he only deals with gemstones that haven’t undergone heat-treatment or has had very little treatment. Almost all gems these days undergo some kind of heat treatment, which enhances clarity and color. Large, recently mined gems with the most sought after colors (“pigeon-blood” rubies; luminous emeralds; deep, rich blue sapphires) are rare enough. Being able to purchase them without heat enhancements is even more difficult. But Procop says these stones exist if you know where to look.

“It’s just buying them at the right price,” he said. “Since I need to sell them to the wholesale trade and there are customers looking for an investment, you have to buy below the market. So they know you are buying at a competitive market price.”


View pieces from the Style of Jolie Collection.

His knowledge of gemstones and diamonds is so great and he is so respected, that he has become the editor-in-chief for the next edition of Famous Diamonds, considered by many to be the world’s most important book about diamonds. It was first published by Lord Ian Balfour, a noted diamond historian and a longtime employee of diamond mining giant, De Beers.

Procop, who refers to the book as “the bible,” explains that after five editions, Balfour, in his late 80s, can’t continue updating the coffee-table-sized tome—with its lush images and vibrant stories about the world’s most famous diamonds. Balfour personally chose Procop.

“I had been honored by Ian Balfour to pass on his legacy,” Procop said. “(Balfour) is very good at finding these romantic stories. He always says the diamond business is not only full of trading but full of everything from emperors to smugglers.”

With his expertise in colored diamonds, Procop said he will update the book with some of the rarest colored diamonds in the world and will provide explanations of how diamonds get their unusual colors.

“Pumpkin orange, unusual greens … diamonds that come from the Argyle mine (in Australia, famous for its pink diamonds) that are a deep violet, then they get brighter blue,” he said. “We’re going to try to come up with a rainbow of colors because people have never seen some of these.”

Procop’s studio and workshop is well organized and immaculately clean. Walls are painted white and a row of windows fills the room with light. It’s here where his small staff designs jewelry based on his sketches and specifications that are then sent to master craftsmen to build. It is also where his customers can come to look at his jewelry creations and gems. His clients, which he never reveals, include every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan, other notable politicians and, considering its location, the best known and most powerful names in Hollywood.

On this day several Style of Jolie pieces, including an emerald necklace, bracelet and ring set in rose gold (his metal and color preference) were among the jewelry pieces on a white table. All of the emeralds are cut in the tablet shape (which resembles a cushion cut) created by Jolie and Procop, and a signature part of the Style of Jolie collection. Procop said Jolie wanted something with an historical message. She spent a great deal of time studying how a tablet is held and together they designed the shape.

As mentioned before the idea behind the jewelry is to build girls schools in impoverished areas. The business model is rather simple. They design the jewelry together. She wears the pieces. Then they are sold.

Procop pointed to the ring. “This is a 27-carat emerald,” he said. “When the stone is sold we give the money to the charity and then we build another school.”


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Monday, January 14, 2013

Swatch Group Acquires Harry Winston’s Luxury Retail Division for $1 Billion


The Swatch Group has acquired the famed Harry Winston luxury diamond jewelry and timepiece retail business for $750 million plus their assumption of up to $250 million of pro forma net debt. When this transaction is completed the company, Harry Winston Diamond Corp., will be solely in the diamond mining and distribution business.

The U.S. based division (Harry Winston Inc.) is a premier diamond jeweler and luxury timepiece retailer with salons in key locations—including New York, Paris, London, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Beverly Hills. The possible sale of the retail division was the subject of rumors for months, which the company denied in a statement issued in October.

The company’s namesake (Harry Winston, March 1, 1896 – December 28, 1978) founded the company in 1932. He was among the most famous jewelers in the world and the first jeweler to lend jewels to an actress for the Oscars red carpet in 1944. He was also famous for donating the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

The jeweler was bought by Canadian diamond mining group, Aber Corp., in 2006 to create the Harry Winston Diamond Corp., with divisions in luxury retail and diamond mining, which was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2007.

The transaction does not include the Canadian-based diamond mining activities of Harry Winston Diamond Corp., which has a 40 percent ownership interest in the Diavik Diamond Mine and is finalizing the purchase of the Ekati Diamond Mine, including its diamond sorting and sales facilities. Both mines are in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

When the transaction with Swatch is completed, this diamond business will operate under the name: Dominion Diamond Corporation.

Robert Gannicott, Harry Winston chairman and CEO, said changes in both luxury retail and the diamond markets, as well as the need for cash, led to the decision to sell its luxury retail operation.

“At the time that we purchased the Harry Winston brand, resource investment opportunities for diamonds were rare and expensive following the euphoria of the Canadian diamond discoveries, and the involvement of the large international mining companies,” Gannicott said in a statement. “The Harry Winston brand was competitively priced compared with its peers and we could bring diamond expertise and strategic connections to enhance value. Today there is a range of diamond resource opportunities while the value of heritage luxury brands has increased dramatically. This transaction represents a sound return on our original investment. It will leave us well equipped to realize upstream opportunities in an environment where cash has become a strategic resource while preserving and expanding our relationship with the downstream diamond business.”

The Swatch Group, based in Biel, Switzerland, is the world’s leading supplier of finished watches and watch movements and one of the world’s largest buyers of polished diamonds. The two companies said that they will also explore the opportunities for a joint diamond polishing venture bringing together the manufacturing and diamond expertise of the two companies.

“Harry Winston does brilliantly complement the prestige segment of the Group,” said Nayla Hayek, chairwoman of The Swatch Group Ltd. in a separate statement. “We are proud and happy to welcome Harry Winston to the Swatch Group family—diamonds are still a girl’s best friend.”

The transaction is subject to the approval of the different regulatory authorities.


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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jewelry Fashion at the Golden Globe Awards

The 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards are currently being held in Beverly Hills, Calif., and here are among the first jewelry-related fashion items worn by some of the stars. I will be updating this page as more becomes available.


Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez wearing Le Vian 18K Strawberry Gold earrings with Vanilla Diamonds  (Retail: $30,248),


Actress Halle Berry wearing Madstone 18k gold and diamond earrings.


Actress Debra Messing in $200,000 worth of stackable Amrapali Victorian diamond bangles. The Jaipur, India-based firm is one of the premier jewelry houses in India, known for its modern interpretations of the best classical Indian jewelry. 


TV personality Giuliana Rancic wearing Norman Silverman earrings and ring, valued at a combimed $400,000. Norman Silverman offers a prestigious selection of large and rare white diamonds, as well as impressive fancy yellows, pinks and blues. 


Actress Carla Gugino in Bavna 18k gold multicolored rose cut diamond earrings (retail: $28,000) and a Demarco diamond flower ring (retail $41,235).

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jewelry Fashion at the People’s and Critics’ Choice Awards

Sandra Bullock in an Amrapali bracelet

To everything there is a season and this is the awards season where the stars shine on red carpets and bright stages wearing the latest fashion creations, including jewelry. This year is no different and what follows is a small sampling of some of the jewelry on display at the 39th annual People's Choice Awards, held in Los Angeles, January 9; .and the 18th annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards held in Santa Monica, Calif., January 10.

Sunday is the Golden Globe Awards.

Sandra Bullock (top photo) wearing an Amrapali bracelet onstage to accept the Favorite Humanitarian award at the People's Choice Awards. The 14k gold and diamond chain link bracelet retails for $6,300; www.AmrapaliJewels.com.


Actress Morena Baccarin (above) wearing 20.76-carat Norman Silverman diamond ear cuffs to the People's Choice Awards. They retail for $121,000; www.NormanSilverman.com.


Actress Shay Mitchell wearing an EFFY “Caviar” ring at the People’s Choice Awards.
 

The EFFY “Caviar” cognac, black and white diamond ring in 14k rose gold retails for $3,995; www.effyjewelry.com.


Actress Brittany Snow wearing Norman Silverman diamond cluster earrings to the People's Choice Awards. 

 
The18k white gold 6.33 carat diamond clusters earrings retail for $55,000; NormanSilvermanDiamonds.com.


Actress Clea Duvall in Norman Silverman earrings at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards. The 6.08 carat diamond studs, retail: $93,000; www.NormanSilvermanDiamonds.net.


Actress Gloria Reuben in Bavna earrings with a Katerina Maxine bracelet to the Critics' Choice Movie Awards. 

 
The Bavna 18k white gold, ruby and diamond Earrings retail for $11,550; www.Bavna.com. 

 
The Katerina Maxine 18k white gold and diamond bracelet with rubies, Retail retails for $35,600; www.KaterinaMaxine.com.

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