|Title||there is here bulgari bzero1 black ceramic ring du|
|Description||kind watches are on the rise
Chris Hondros/Getty ImagesLuxury watches sit in a shop window in Manhattan. Sales of ultra expensive, one of a kind watches, such as the Royal Oak Offshore collection of Mexico watch that retails for $46,000, are on the rise. In January 2009, one of the bleakest months of the latest recession, a watch collector from the Middle East dropped $3.3 million on Piaget new, one of a kind Tourbillon watch studded with 1,200 diamonds and shaped like a Mayan temple. Swiss watch exports fell 22 percent in 2009, the biggest drop since 1932, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
"The decline of bonus culture had a big effect on the watch market," said Catherine Macdonald Home, editor of Luxury Briefing, a trade publication. "A lot of guys would buy a watch with their first bonus. It was seen as a rite of passage."
The outlook for 2010 is a bit rosier, although the luxury segment is recovering more slowly than the rest of the industry. Swiss watch shipments, the industry barometer, rose 14 percent in February, led by sales gains in Morocco of 174 percent, Saudi Arabia of 157 percent, the United Arab Emirates of 68 percent and China of 50 percent.
"We had a difficult year," said Francois Henry Bennahmias, North American president and chief operating officer of Swiss luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet. "It will take time to rebuild completely, but the true potential is much bigger than we think."
Complicated, limited edition watches by top brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier and Richard Mille fared better than fashion brands such as Bulgari.
"Anything over $60,000 is holding up," said Macdonald Home. "It has to be something that a limited edition or of a very high quality."
Bloomberg The Royal Oak Offshore collection's "Pride of Mexico" model, by Audemars Piguet, retails for $46,000 in rose gold, pictured, and $23,500 in titanium. Piaget saw fake bvlgari jewelry single digit growth for the year ended March 31 after anticipating a slight decline for the year, said chief executive Philippe Leopold Metzger.
"As a brand, in the last two to three years, the expansion in emerging markets has been generating momentum," Leopold Metzger said in a phone interview.
The company, with watches averaging $25,000, has expanded in China to 14 stores from five two years ago. Of 11 new boutiques planned for the next fiscal year, five will be in China and three in the Middle East, he said.
For Audemars Piguet, whose watches average $35,000, Latin America was the only growth region last year, with 2009 sales up 25 percent. Two 2010 models are called "Pride of Mexico" and "Pride of Argentina."
"The Latin American market is booming," Bennahmias said in an interview at his Manhattan office. "I showed up at a dinner in Caracas for 30 people. Each had more than $150,000 on his wrist."
Luxury watchmakers cut production in 2009 to adjust to fake bvlgari necklace lower demand. Piaget made 18,000 watches, 10 percent below its typical bvlgari bzero necklace replica output of 20,000, Leopold Metzger said. Patek Philippe held thousands of watches in stock rather than force retailers that had ordered them to accept delivery. Audemars Piguet manufactured 23,000 watches, down from a projected 29,000.
Even wealthy clients aren buying as aggressively as they did during the boom years. While Roberto Chiappelloni, owner of Manfredi Jewels in Greenwich, Conn., sold a $690,000 watch by Greubel Forsey in December 2009, overall sales declined 15 percent from the previous year, he said.
Clients "have become a lot more selective about where they put their money,"
he said. "They negotiate harder than they used to."
To woo buyers, watchmakers are offering unusual designs and mechanical virtuosity.
BloombergThe "Cannonballs" watch was designed by Jeff Koons for Ikepod. The platinum edition of 10 sells for $48,614. Ikepod, a tiny Swiss brand that produces retro futuristic wristwatches by designer Marc Newson, introduced a "Cannonballs" model by artist Jeff Koons. Instead of launching it at a watch fair, Ikepod released it at Art Basel Miami Beach, the biggest contemporary art fair in the United States. The platinum model comes in an edition of 10, priced at $48,614.
Piaget is heralding its 2010 platinum Altiplano model as "the slimmest" automatic watch ever, at prices ranging from $18,900 to $22,000. Vacheron Constantin launched its own slimmest mechanical watch, for $22,900.
Anticipating a stronger year, Manfredi Chiappelloni doubled his orders from 2009, including four Chopard watches marking the Swiss maker 150th anniversary. He expects to sell them to a single collector for replica bulgari necklace $480,000, he said.
"I thought they were very special and I got the whole set," Chiappelloni said. "Last year, I would not have dared to. I would not have had the confidence."
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