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Q&A: Emma Cole, Zeon

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In the March 2013 issue of the magazine WatchPro presented an in-depth report on the licensed watch brand market. Here Emma Cole, assistant product developer at watch manufacturer and distributor Zeon, talks us through the process of building watch brands for fashion houses.

WatchPro: Tell us a little about the licensed brands you work with at Zeon.
Emma Cole: At Zeon we work with a really diverse range of watch brands. Our key licences are Ingersoll, Braun, Paul’s Boutique, Bench and Vivienne Westwood, which was signed in 2011 and we are now onto our fourth collection for the Time Machine range.

WP: Licensed watch brands appear to be growing in strength in the UK market – why do you think this is?
EC: Like accessories and perfume, a watch is a simple way for aspirational customers to buy into their favourite brands without committing to a high-cost purchase. For brands such as Michael Kors, Vivienne Westwood, DKNY and Marc Jacobs, a beautiful watch priced under £500 that captures the essence of the brand will appeal to a customer over an £800 handbag. With high street fashion retailers looking more and more to the high-end catwalks to inspire their clothing collections, it is no wonder that savvy shoppers see appeal in a mid-price-point product and high-end fashion watches.

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WP: How does Zeon work with the brands to design, build and market the collections?
EC: For brands with a distinctive handwriting, such as Vivienne Westwood, it’s all about collaboration with the in-house creative teams. We work together to determine the direction the brand wants the collection to go in and to ensure that new ranges complement the brand’s main collection. From there, Zeon’s in-house design team and product developers work together to create designs and source samples. The brand is involved each step of the way, ensuring a design-led yet commercial product will find its way to market. Once the range is ready to go into stores Zeon will focus on marketing our new key lines with fashion publications, including Tatler and Vogue, depending on the brand and their marketing strategy. The whole process is a collaboration between Zeon and the brand which is why our partnerships are so important to us.

WP: Is it up to Zeon or the licensed brand to promote the watches?
EC: The marketing is handled by Zeon, as we distribute the ranges ourselves. However it is in both ours and the licensors’ interest to make sure our ranges are placed in the right publications in order to have the highest possible rate of visibility to both retailers and the consumer. We also work closely with brands’ PR departments when organising press days and events.

WP: How are the collections marketed in the UK?
EC: The main focus is print advertising in mainstream fashion magazines, whichever are most appropriate for our brands’ target customer. However, as there is a growing lean towards utilising social media as a means of creating brand awareness and direct consumer contact, this is something Zeon are working on for future marketing campaigns for our brands.

WP: What does a fashion brand need to be successful in the watch industry?
EC: When looking to take on new licences, Zeon always look for a brand that has a distinct USP and strong brand identity. As this segment of the market is currently going through such a period of growth, it will be interesting to see which brands wish to add a timepiece collection to their product stable in 2013.

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