On the dial

A Guess Girl

Kaci Brown is just your average 17-year-old teenager from Sulphur Spring, Tex. She loves fashion, hanging with friends and, of course, shopping. She does, however, have something that a lot of teens crave: a record deal. Her album, “Instigator,” just hit stores last month, and Brown is already getting rave reviews. But it’s Guess that’s given her the best review so far.

Guess Watches just launched its latest worldwide campaign, Faces to Watch, a follow-up to its Timeless Beauty effort. As part of the campaign, Guess Watches has teamed up with Universal Music Group, Brown’s label, to release the limited-edition Instigator watch. Named for the title track of her first album, the watch will be featured in her music video for the song.

For Guess Watches, Brown was a natural choice for the campaign. Her self-written lyrics and funky beats complement the image of the brand. Here, WWD gets the inside scoop from Brown, who is the first of the up-and-coming artists to be featured in the promotion.

WWD: How does it feel to inspire a fashion house?

Kaci Brown: I knew Guess was teaming up with Universal Music on this project. When I heard that I was going to be one of the first, I was so excited. I’ve been a Guess lover for a really long time, so it was a thrill for me.

WWD: How does it feel to be a Guess girl?

K.B.: I really don’t consider myself one. I can’t compete with those girls!

WWD: Your friends must be pretty impressed.

K.B.: They are in awe. They are most impressed that I got to meet Paul Marciano [Guess’ co-chairman and chief executive officer]. When we first met, he came up to me. We just started talking about our favorite restaurant in Nashville, where I lived after Texas. It’s called The Pancake Pantry and it’s this world-famous place with the best food. So we were just sitting there talking about it, and about models and what they eat and don’t eat. Then someone came up and asked him a question and said, ‘Paul…?’ I must have turned the brightest shade of red! I didn’t know I was actually talking to Paul Marciano. I just thought he was someone else from the company. I was so embarrassed.

WWD: What is your favorite accessory right now?

K.B.: It’s funny because I’ve never really been into watches. I’m never on time, and a watch never really seemed to help. But now I wear a Guess watch all the time. My outfit isn’t complete without it. I look at it as an accessory, not really as a way to keep time. In fact, I don’t even think the time is set on it, so I’m still always late.

WWD: How does your song relate to the Guess watch?

K.B.: Well, my song, “Instigator,” is bold and alluring. It’s about being a girl and having a good time. I would say the watch is also bold and alluring.

WWD: Did you have a hand in the design of the watch?

K.B.: I gave them input on which watches I liked the most from the line and I saw the mock-up of the Instigator watch before it was made. That was pretty cool.

WWD: Are you really into fashion?

K.B.: What girl isn’t? I’ve always loved fashion. Being from a small town, though, there wasn’t a lot available. But I’ve always loved getting dressed up.

Julee Greenberg

A Wristed Development

Music and fashion impresario Jay-Z is bringing his sensibility to a new Rocawear watch line. A timepiece collector himself, Jay-Z was heavily involved with the creation of both the women’s and men’s styles, adding on all the touches one might expect, from leathers stamped in croc patterns to Swarovski crystals galore.

“It stands on its own as a watch line, and isn’t just something to wear with the pants,” says Rudy Theale, president of licensing for the Vestal Group, the Anaheim, Calif.-based company producing the collection.

The collection of 63 stockkeeping units, of which 60 percent are designed for women, is being targeted toward department stores and specialty boutiques and begins shipping this month. Retail prices range from $95 to $295.

The Breil Thing

Come September there will be a new Italian watch in town.

Breil Milano, a 64-year-old brand manufactured by the Binda Group of Milan, is making its first serious foray into the U.S., beginning with the opening of a flagship store in Manhattan’s SoHo district, according to Marcello Binda, chief executive officer. It is also seeking distribution in department and select jewelry stores.

Known in Europe for its “Take everything, but not my Breil” and “Don’t touch my Breil” advertising campaigns, the brand will use similar messages to bond with its target 18- to 30-year-old market here. Steel silhouettes and chronographs in unique shapes and colors, as well as Swarovski crystal embellishments, define the unisex collection, which is priced at retail between $200 and $500.

“It is a brand of style, braveness and boldness,” says Binda.

Now a $200 million business, Breil hopes to double in size within seven years.

An Easy Reader

Matthew Waldman thinks telling time should be child’s play.

The president and designer of New York-based watch line Nooka conceived of graphic and linear time representation, rather than traditional analog or digital methods, after recalling the difficulty some of his grade school classmates experienced learning how to tell time. His signature designs use minimalist bars or dots to explain time increments. The designs were patented and licensed by Seiko in the late Nineties, and then improved upon after Waldman, who also runs the graphic design studio Berrymatch, went out on his own in 2004.

“The first versions were more like fine art pieces. These new models are more practical and wearable, because they stay clean and legible,” he says of replacing the watches‘ LCD faces with covers in mineral crystal that have cutouts through which the wearer views the necessary information. Collections with futuristic names like Zoo, Zot and Zen retail from $250 to $275.

For spring 2006, Waldman is enhancing his line with a collection of analog watches. Also retailing from $250 to $275, the Zan collection has mirrored stainless steel faces and straps in black Italian leather, stainless steel mesh or silver satin.

“I want my pieces to be more like fashion accessories than watches,” he says. Nooka is carried at museum shops, such as the one at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, but plans are already under way to add department store accounts such as Barneys New York this spring and Selfridges & Co. in London this summer. Waldman is also working on plans to introduce Nooka wallets, bags and belts in 2007.

The Big Time

Clearly not content to have the most massive watch store in the world, Tourneau had to go and beat its own record. The chain retailer, whose 16,000-square-foot Manhattan flagship was named the world’s largest watch store by Guinness World Records in 1998, topped itself with the newer Las Vegas store, which is 17,000 square feet. The Tourneau Time Dome, open since February in the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace, carries its own private label brand, as well as styles from Tag Heuer, Omega and Cartier.

For now, Tourneau has no plans to try and outdo itself again, but it has just announced that it will expand beyond U.S. borders for the first time, with 30 new locations in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, to be opened within five years.