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Mechanical watches back in vogue, says Omega chief

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Mr Stephen Urquhart, President, Omega, with actress Nameetha at the launch of the `Omegamania' range in Chennai on Tuesday. - Bijoy Ghosh

Chennai , Nov. 8

MECHANICAL watches are coming back into fashion in a big way; it's no longer the day of the fashion and sports watches, says Mr Stephen Urquhart, President, Omega.

Speaking to Business Line here ahead of the launch of Omega's exclusive boutique, Mr Urquhart said that this trend was tied up with the phenomenon of watches now being a lifestyle statement. In today's hi-tech world, "The need for a watch is gone — we're selling a dream, craftsmanship ... A watch is a lifestyle statement with a unique technical aspect — there's movement there, there's a heart there," he said. The proof — even in technologically advanced countries such as Japan and Korea, many want a mechanical watch because it's a lifestyle accessory, he said. People, old or young, are looking for watches with history, he said, adding that Swiss watches like Omega fulfilled that need.

Swiss watch makers had gone through a phase of indecision when they did not know whether to go the quartz watch way or the mechanical way. But once that was resolved and they decided to plump for the latter, it became clear that mechanical watches saved the Swiss watch industry, he said.

Their size makes them "a bit of an obstacle" when it comes to making women's watches but all the same, they account for two-thirds of Omega's own product mix, he said.

On brand ambassadors, he said that Omega associates itself with sports and lifestyle icons the world over.

In India, "it has to be either Bollywood or cricket," he said, adding that the brand was considering a few personalities. Shah Rukh Khan was the brand ambassador earlier, and Sonali Bendre is the spokesperson for the brand in India.

Mr Urquhart is cautiously upbeat about India. He hopes to double sales in the country this year but finds it a "slow process" though "everyone says India, India," he said.

The growth rate is keeping pace with China but the figures are much lower, he added. Omega retails in around 150 outlets in China and about 50 in India.

China, which contributes 20 per cent to Omega's total revenues, is the biggest market, and Japan is a close second. India contributes between five and 10 per cent, he said.

The premium watch market (above Rs 25,000 per watch) is estimated at Rs 600 crore and Omega has a third of that, he claimed.

The exclusive boutique will also retail Omega jewellery for women, he said.

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