Festina is making a comeback to the UK


After some years out Unique Jewelry is bringing back the watch brand.

After several years’ absence watch brand Festina is back in the UK with new collections and a determined outlook, writes Kathryn Bishop.

Watch brand Festina has been enjoying a successful few years with watch sales hitting 4.5 million pieces a year, but despite its commercial wins it has failed to win over the UK market. In fact, it hasn’t even been trying.

The brand was founded in Switzerland in 1902 and was bought by Spain’s Lotus Brand in 1980, with the Festina brand name fully acquired in 1984. Today the Festina Group owns six brands including Jaguar and Lotus watches and has operated successfully in France, Italy, the US and Switzerland since the mid-90s.

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Despite widespread international success, the brand has been absent from the UK market for several years. The brand’s motto festina lente translates as hasten slowly. With a 109-year history it certainly has been slow to crack the UK market, but plans are afoot to change this in 2011.

Unique Jewelry, which to date has specialised in the wholesale of jewellery, has broadened its scope to watches and has started by taking on the UK distribution of Festina.

“They’re a great brand,” says Unique’s Daniel Ozel. “Very sporty, fresh and young, but with a wide spectrum of watches from very classic pieces to ceramic fashion watches and sportier men’s watches.”

Ozel describes Festina as offering original designs and materials at competitive prices, with a commitment to current trends. Its timepieces retail from £59 for a simple everyday watch, to £299 for the sportier gents’ timepieces, with an average retail price for a Festina watch about £150.

The brand has succeeded in markets outside of the UK and sells its wares in 75 countries. Especially popular in Europe, Festina not only has a developed stockist network, it also has standalone stores in France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, to name just a few.

The UK marketplace is currently crowded with fashion watches in Festina’s bracket but Ozel says that Festina will stand out with a sportier offer in that price range. The brand sponsors a number of sporting events including the Tour de France – of which it is official timekeeper – and the Berlin and Hamburg marathons.

“The popular ChronoBike watches are Festina’s official Tour de France watch”, says Ozel. “Festina design a new one each year for each tour, so the 2011 watch will be unveiled soon.”

The details on the ChronoBike watches play on the cycling theme, with subdials designed to look like bike cranksets and a bicycle chain engraved on the back of the watch case. It’s these details which have no doubt popularised the brand across Europe, especially within France where the brand’s sponsorship of the Tour de France dates back more than 15 years.
Festina insists it has a strict focus on quality and craftsmanship, something it says is evident in its Special Collections, which include the ChronoBike watches and a range of modern, sporty ceramic timepieces.

This is a re-entry, not an entry into the market; Festina has entered and exited the UK before. While it has evidently found it tough here before, Unique is determined to make 2011 the year Festina flourishes in the UK.

Festina’s development under Lotus ownership


1980 – Festina watches, founded in Switzerland in 1902, are taken over by Spain’s Lotus Brand.

1994 – Festina becomes the official sponsor of the Tour de France.

1995 – Festina’s first titanium watch is launched, bringing the then exclusive metal within the general public’s reach.

1996 – The brand first appears in the US and opens a subsidiary in Switzerland.

1999 – Festina launches its first gold watch line, called Festina Oro.

2002 – The brand name celebrates 100 years and launches the Century Edition watch combining both modern and traditional watchmaking skills.

2009 – The brand unveils its Ceramic collection of fashion-forward watches.

2011 – The brand arrives back in the UK under distributor Unique Jewelry.

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