Croton Watches History

by Gail Cohen

If the Croton Watch Co. were human, there's a good chance it would complain of suffering from a regional identity crisis. Since the 19th century---when this popular watch brand was established---the Swiss have claimed the line's heart, soul and timing mechanism. The Italians took credit for the fashionable, classic designs that distinguish Croton watches from all others. Regardless of the school of thought to which you ascribe, the amalgamation of two such formidable heritages are likely the reason dyed-in-the-wool aficionados of the Croton brand have refused to wear anything else on their arms since 1878. While a fairly recent acquisition of the brand by an American conglomerate has shifted the company's headquarters from Europe to the U.S., the continued popularity of Croton Watches hasn't abated, so expect to find the company relying on its old-world reputation and new-world innovation as it marks the company's 150th jubilee in 2028.

History

Originating on the workbenches of a small shop on the border between Italy and Switzerland, the Croton Watch Co. survived the marking of the turn-of-the-20th century and World Wars I and II without skipping a beat. By the mid-1900s, the respected brand had attained an international following, and in 1991, it was acquired by Nationwide Time, a multi-generational concern also specializing in the creation and wholesaling of timepieces since the 1960s. Under the leadership of President David Mermelstein, the acquisition meant that a more contemporary firm would spearhead the future of the brand, including such modernizations as lifetime warranties on every movement. Future design is expected to follow in the footsteps of the past, while 21st-century marketing will continue to mark the progression of the line, which, in 2007 alone, produced and sold more than 1 million Croton watches.

Expansion

When Nationwide took Croton into its timepiece network, designers announced a Herculean move: From that time forward, the company committed to introducing a minimum of 250 new styles every year. This challenge continues to be met by paying attention to "quality, precision, style and design," according to Croton advertisements. Rather than being sold at limited numbers of shops and stores, the Nationwide network now makes the Croton brand available to more than 5,000 locations around the globe. To enhance its market presence, Nationwide also took Croton designs to TV shopping networks, thereby increasing potential brand awareness by what is estimated by the company to be 67 million homes on ShopNBC alone each month.

Diversification

To celebrate the 130th anniversary of the company's inception in 2008, Croton was re-branded as not just one watch line but a collection of individual watch-making entities, each of which would focus on designs for unique groups of consumers. After determining the demographics of purchasers the company hoped to reach, it launched these imprints: Nicolet, Andre Girroud, Manhattan and Paul DuPree. Spanning a wide range of prices and materials that would include everything from synthetics to exotic leathers, Croton also became a first-time producer and marketer of handbags and accessories under the Nina Raye brand.

Significance

Finding celebrities to endorse products without remuneration is the difficult job of public relations and advertising professionals, but in some cases, a celebrity may purchase something on his own before being photographed wearing or using it. That happy confluence of events is part of Croton's brand history. The company is not reticent to announce that its watches are owned and worn by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Natalie Cole, Quincy Jones, Joe Mantegna and Josh Groban. You'll find the newest Croton styles on the pages of Harper's Bazaar magazine and other fashion industry publications.

Infamy

Given its lengthy history, you would think the Croton Watch Co. had plumbed the depths of its PR options, but a high-publicized murder trial managed to dwarf news made by vintage Croton watches being sold as collectible art or bringing high bids at auction. During the Scott Peterson murder trial, the man now convicted of murdering his wife and unborn son listened to testimony on Dec. 31, 2002, about fingerprints found on a pawned Croton watch and the pawn ticket. The heirloom gift was part of an inheritance Lacy Peterson received from an aunt. While attorney Mark Geragos prevented the name of the person who pawned the watch from being revealed during the 11th day of the trial, the implication that Peterson's thumb print had been tied to the ticket and the watch added the latest bit of fame that will forever be attached to the Croton name.

Photo Credits

  • Croton Watch Company/Nationwide Time

About the Author

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.