by Andrea Doyle | June 22, 2018
"Traditionally, watches are one of the most used products in the incentive world," says Rick Low, vice president, special markets, Citizen Watch. And right now, there is a return to traditional timepieces, he adds, noting, "A watch is the single most looked at accessory a person has. For gentlemen, a watch is their main piece of jewelry."

At Citizen Watch Company of America, 85 percent of the watches bought come from the Eco-Drive line, powered by light, which is why "the Citizen DNA is different than everyone else's."

For Adrienne Forrest, vice president of corporate sales for Bulova, "what makes watches special is they are an accessory that tells time that also have an heirloom quality to them, so that you can pass them on to a child or family member," she says. "Plus, they can be personalized with a special message."

Bulova offers classic and contemporary lines, with the classic epitomized by Rubaiyat, a name with poetic significance that was chosen by Bulova in 1917 for its first-ever timepiece for women. The reinvented Rubaiyat line is adorned with individually hand-set diamonds, and echoing the original design is a unique cabochon-crown placement at the focal 12 o'clock position, with stainless, gold-tone, and rose-gold-tone cases and bracelets as well as elegant leather straps lined with color accents.

"Watches continue to be one of the true aspirational wearable rewards. There are few customizable ways to announce that you are a winner than showing off your award on your wrist that easily goes everywhere you go," says Kevin Dougherty, director of special markets at Seiko Corporation of America.

Seiko has built pillars that define its business in its Coutura, Prospex and Tressia collections. With an identifiable brand ambassador -- NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson -- the Seiko Coutura is leading the company's watch business and "capitalizes on many of the latest trends of style and function meeting in one collection for men," says Dougherty. The Prospex, short for "professional specifications," are made for the true adventurer, while the female-focused Tressia line is powered by light and its watches are rich in sport and retro-inspired style with diamond accents.

If there's one overarching trend in watches right now, it's a return to classic styles and colors, says Joe Zanone, vice president of Movado Group.

"Lately, in the Swiss world, the higher end, there's a demand for two-tone gold and steel that's not been around for 10 years," he says. "Another thing that's happening is very clean, very simple, very elegant design  very thin watches so that they fit underneath dress shirts. Again, the dials are crisp, white, very clean. It's very classic. It's almost like we stepped back into the fifties and have a very basic, utilitarian watch. No subdials, very few numbers, just clean." 

That doesn't mean that colored dials are not popular, he adds, noting that navy is also big with steel and yellow and rose gold, as are blush tones like pink. And in the fashion watch world, yellow gold, rose gold and steel are about neck-and-neck right now in terms of popularity. 

Leo Jakobson contributed reporting to this story.