Market Watch: Get smart

Having a limited budget doesn’t rule out the possibility of a little smart luxury in the watch market.

April 12, 2012 08:57
4 minute read.
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In the pre-cell phone era, if you wanted to know the time, you either had to wear a watch or spend your days with someone who did. This essential accessory was an integral part of any outfit, either sharpening it up or adding a hair of flair. And though the necessity has become less acute, a nice watch is as much a status symbol today as is it was in the days of the telegraph.

The luxury-watch market is filled with names like Patek Philippe, Cartier and Panerai – brands whose price tags often resemble down payments on a mortgage.

For most timepiece shoppers, price plays an important role in the decision-making process. After all, not everyone can afford a Rolex. However, having a limited budget doesn’t rule out the possibility of a little smart luxury. In fact, “smart luxury” is the motto for Swiss watchmaker GC.

Originally part of the Guess lifestyle brand, GC offers beautifully made watches for realistic prices.

Last month, GC made Israel a stop on its new international campaign trail.

Though GC watches are available in Israel through a variety of local distributors, this happening marked a new level of engagement in the local market on the company’s part. In each city visited along their path, GC hosted a party filled with local spokespeople. These faces represent the profile of a GC customer.

“We have up-and-coming artists in their own professions,” said Cindy Livingston, president and CEO of GC Watches. “We like to catch these people in their own moment of smart luxury.”

For Livingston and GC, smart luxury describes the specific moment in a person’s career when they transition from starting out to established. “We focus on young people who have grown out of fashion and are ready to have a luxury piece of product, but can’t necessarily afford it yet,” said Livingston. “We want our customers to be able to move up to high-end watches.

But for now, we offer them beautifully made watches that follow the trends of the high-end market.”

It is during these pivotal periods in life that style and status are key elements for success. “A watch is a finishing touch,” explained Livingston. “In this day and age, we’ve taken away pretty much all forms of expression from men’s clothes; their suits and ties. All they have left in terms of accessories are their watches, cars and cell phones. A watch is a statement about personality.”

Livingston has been an integral member of the GC crew since its first days. “I was the vice president of a department store and I was in charge of all women’s accessories,” she said. “In 1981, Swatch launched the plastic watch. They invented the category of fashion watches.

Before then it didn’t exist. Nobody could get enough Swatch watches. A man I knew left a jewelry company to start a watch company. He went to Guess in 1984, got licensed, and made fashion watches in metal cases. That’s how the company started.”

That man was Paul Marciano, founder of the Guess brand.

At the time, Livingston was skeptical.

She decided to forgo Marciano’s offer to join forces.

“I waited,” she said. “He called me that one time and told me that was the last time he would offer. I left a very big job to go work with him. In the beginning, we wore t-shirts and shorts to work. It was a little-bitty company.

For a while I thought maybe I had made the wrong decision.”

Now, 15 years later, the proof of Livingston’s decision is in the pudding, or the wheels and springs, as it were. As the developer of GC’s international business, Livingston has been around the world many times over. “It is absolutely fascinating to go into all of these countries and find partners, figure out how the brand was positioned. To figure out how to expand the company and maintain a brand image at the same time,” she said.

As the company grew, Livingston and her peers recognized a need to further distinguish GC from its Guess counterparts.

“We initially called it Guess Collection.

Seven years later, we converted it to a Swiss brand. We decided to drop the Guess name from the brand and now it is GC.”

The move to Switzerland was a definitive moment for GC, placing the brand in the center of the international watch market.

In the coming years, GC will complete its goal of opening 70 boutiques around the world, which will offer a vast array of GC products, from simple day-to-day watches to diamond-encrusted timepieces.

Israel, Livingston assured, is in line to receive one of these shops. In fact, her stay in Israel included visits to potential venues for the store.

Like most great ideas, GC was thought up during a brainstorming session over sandwiches and coffee. “Fifteen years ago, we were sitting around a room one day wondering what all the young people were going to wear when they grew up. It was a conversation over lunch with a couple of people who worked with the brands.

That’s how it all started,” Livingston said, as she smiled.

For more information about GC, visit

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