Calvin Klein: The “godmother” of watch fashion brands


February 2019

Calvin Klein: The “godmother” of watch fashion brands

We sat down with Carlo Giordanetti*, president of the Swatch Group’s joint venture, a long-time actor in the volatile fashion watch market, filled today with emerging Kickstarter players. We talked new collections, gender, Americana and e-commerce.


e sat down with Carlo Giordanetti*, president of the Swatch Group’s joint venture, a long-time actor in the volatile fashion watch market, filled today with emerging Kickstarter players. We talked new collections, gender, Americana and e-commerce.

Carlo Giordanetti, President of Calvin Klein watches + jewelry
Carlo Giordanetti, President of Calvin Klein watches + jewelry
*Carlo Giordanetti is also creative director for Swatch. See the brand’s recent and surprising collaboration with Damien Hirst for Mickey Mouse’s 90th anniversary, in our Gallery section.

Europa Star: You seem to have put a particular emphasis on men’s watches in your latest collection. Was that what you had in mind when you equipped the Swing timepiece with an automatic ETA 2841-1 movement?

Carlo Giordanetti: As a brand, we have always had a very successful business in the ladies segment – essentially because we are known as Calvin Klein watches + jewelry, which naturally leads you to a more feminine world. This sensitivity is reinforced by the fact that we are one of the few real Swiss made brands with a “fashion” touch. This time, we decided to invest as much energy into our men’s watch collection as we did for women.

Calvin Klein minimal extension
Calvin Klein minimal extension

Another strong evolution we have seen is in terms of your style. The new timepieces are less minimalistic than previous collections. You have even introduced some vintage features.

The brand is indeed taking an evolutionary step away from this very minimalist language; we are now becoming a little bit more architectural. We are not abandoning minimalism but we are speaking about more interesting volumes and textures, so it’s a truly modernist approach. And we are reinterpreting the vintage trend in a very unique way.

Historically, however, your watches have been labelled as “unisex”. Is this a new departure from your beginnings in 1997?

I actually don’t believe in the concept of “unisex” watches! Maybe that was our label in the past. But today our focus is on strong and powerful styles. They can appeal to both men and women, but we don’t draw our sketches thinking of a “unisex” style. We work on different declinations in a variety of sizes. Interestingly, smaller diameters are very popular among men now!

We also try to attract new generations with a message of simplicity that resonates with them. Many are looking for a purer kind of watch, which often means a smaller diameter, fewer functions and a focus on style.

Calvin Klein rebel
Calvin Klein rebel

What are your key markets today?

China is undoubtedly our number one market. We are quite successful in south-east Asia. South Korea is an interesting growing market today; it is a bellwether for the fashion world in Asia. We are also seeing strong sales in Europe, especially in Switzerland, France and Spain. Basically, all markets that are highly attuned to fashion are easier for us.

Still, the roots of the brand are American. What’s happening in the US market?

Indeed, our communication is focused on American lifestyle and icons. Our images often represent a certain view of Americana, with extended families and friends, and a sense of community. However, the US market is not as strong as it could be for our timepieces and jewellery. We are obviously hoping for significant growth there, and we are confident that will happen when we launch our e-commerce platform in the USA in the second half of 2019.

Where do you stand now in terms of online sales?

It’s already a success story in Europe, especially for jewellery. We are just starting now in Asia with a few partners. America will come next. We still strongly believe in the sensual experience of touching and feeling products. I don’t think e-commerce can replace this experience. A physical presence is the pivot of our strategy.

The fashion watch segment is highly competitive, and newcomers are arriving every week through channels like Kickstarter. How do you defend your territory in such conditions?

The competition is really fierce, but I agree with Mr Hayek when he says that competition is actually good, and that it’s a disaster when there is none. In this sense, you could say we are in a rather healthy segment! In the face of such strong competition, a key asset is our commitment to quality and the Swiss made label. We are proud flag-bearers! This is the core reason for Calvin Klein’s presence within the Swatch Group’s portfolio. Customers respect that.

Calvin Klein Swing
Calvin Klein Swing

What is your personal assessment of the state of the fashion watch industry?

Fashion is by nature a changing and volatile market. A few years ago, the trend was more in the direction of “natural” motifs, such as flowers and animals, and everyone was following it. Today I see more self-affirmation by the fashion brands. It’s all about “authentic stories”. As a result, some opportunistic actors who simply followed the trend are disappearing. In the fashion world, the most difficult thing is longevity! The most authentic brands are now growing in a very healthy way.

What is your biggest challenge today?

I actually think there are two big challenges. The first is linked to our name, Calvin Klein watches + jewelry: I would like to grow our jewellery side, because this business has a very high potential. And the second challenge is to embrace the new “virtual” languages, without losing the sensuality that is part of our DNA… in the real world!